A few mornings ago, my toddler hugged my leg tightly when I was leaving for work. We were looking at 2 beautiful yellow birds chirping on the neighbour’s flowers. The birds flew away and came back a few times. We watched happily and the toddler could speak in clear sentences to me about the birds were chirping away. I put him down so that he could wear his little slippers to walk about. While he was wearing his slippers, I told him I had to leave for work. So, I began to walk away. He took some time to put on his slippers and with the half dragging of the slippers and half hopping over, he caught up with me who had deliberately walked slowly for him to catch up. He hugged on tightly and chanted “Mama.. Mama..” Argh…. to hell with work. I can’t be bothered if I was late anymore. But I knew I had to leave and briefly stopped and kissed him again. The helper took him away to watch the birds once more. At this moment, I envied the helper.

The SAHM (Stay At Home Mum) thought floats again on my mind. I seriously envied the helper being able to see my children more than I do. She gets to play with them more than I do. I am bringing back income to pay her to be with my children more than I do. What is this???

It is 6 months into my new job and also 6 months of having a helper at home. But, why do I still feel that I am not spending enough time with my family?

Somehow the extra time that I free myself of doing house chores and time saved in travelling to an office near my house, get eaten up by the extra hours that I spend on work.

The new job is starting to take a toll on me. Many times, I feel so stressed in the challenging deadlines to meet, I start to think of the extreme. I can feel my health being compromised. On days of extreme busyness, I forget to breathe for some seconds. Just last Friday, I was so stressed from the minute I started my computer that till late afternoon, I began to feel some chest pains. Over the weekends, because I needed to send that one very important email out upon receipt of an important information, the nagging and unease kept biting into me for the entire day until I opened my laptop and sent out that all important mail. If this goes on, I think I will collapse very soon.

Then, I resume the thought of staying home for the kids.

I work because of the kids and family. I want to stay home because of the kids and family. I cannot have best of both worlds. I can only choose one. After all, family is the most important thing in life and that’s what keeps me going.

As working mums, we look forward to getting home on time to our family and leave work behind in the office. The kids are proud to have a mum who looks professional out the door with her heels and smart suit for work and still comes home on time to play with them. There are many times my girl was upset that I had to work late that day and the disappointment in her voice could have killed me instantly. But the moment I was home, the 3 kids screamed out in excitement and one would have thought I had been travelling for months. Such a moment is true happiness.

“Mummy, I hope you can stay home like 婶婶 (Aunt). Why do you have to work?” my girl said this one day.

“I wish to stay home too. If Mummy does not work, it will be hard on Papa to bring home all the income. We have 5 mouths to feed here.”

As if resigned to her fate, the 10 yo kept quiet and the silence broke my heart.

It seems a wish too hard to fulfill. I know I will be missing out on my children’s growing up years. I know in the foreseeable future, I will not be a SAHM any moment. And once these golden years of childhood are gone, I may not be so welcomed at home anymore. This may be my greatest regret in life.

I love my job and despite such demanding nature and challenges, I am still loving it. I need to re-adjust my mindset at work and not seek for perfection. I am just an ordinary person and could only do so much in limited time. I cannot sell my life away at work because I still need to be in one healthy piece to go back to my family at the end of the day. I need to pull myself out of the office and leave all work behind. I am a mum and wife and daughter and sister. My well-being is important to the happiness of my close ones.

It’s hard to balance work and family but it can be done. To start off, I got to sleep by 1030pm daily and alternate waking up at 550am with my hubby to prepare my gal for school so that I have enough sleep and energy for the next day.

Then, I have to be persistent to exercise at least twice a week not to slim down but to keep healthy for the sake of my loved ones.

Like what I had shared before, I needed to walk slower, talk slower and breathe deeper.

In work, I need to take things easy, breathe regularly, take deep breaths. I have to know my limits and raise the white flag to my superior and admit I can no longer take on so much on my plate. I cannot seek for perfection and think I can handle beyond what a normal person can do. I need to learn to embrace imperfections.

At home, I strive not to bring back my work and I will just focus on my family. We will aim to go to places of nature, like parks, reservoirs, greenery, picnic, and breathe fresh air once every week. Somehow, nature has the power to refresh a person.

For those who are struggling like me over work and family, how do you manage? I would love to know. And to those who are working very hard and finding the work life detrimental to health and well-being, I hope you will take things at your own pace and think of your family. Just like the cab drivers take home the message of “Drive safely. Your loved ones are waiting for you.“, the office workers should also take home a similar message of

“Work within your means. Go home. Your loved ones are waiting for you.”