MUM SAYS Accept help for better work-life balance

Mum of two Jayme Shing is thrilled that the government’s pro-family policies and financial grants benefit working parents like her.

Jayme-Shing
“Becoming a mum is a life-changing experience ― there’ve been many times in my motherhood journey when I’ve felt overwhelmed by the different responsibilities and decisions that are being thrown at me to make for my family. So, I shall share several of Singapore’s parenthood policies in Singapore that have helped me as a working mother tremendously. Hopefully something that you can explore as well to cope with work-life balance.

Maternity/Paternity Leave

This is probably the most well-known parenthood policy that all parents know and are thankful for! For both my pregnancies, besides looking forward to seeing my baby, this was one of the reason why I couldn’t wait to pop! Hahaha, I am sure I’m not the only one feeling this way! Having that 16 weeks of maternity leave, being away from work, so that I could ease myself into motherhood is something every mother would smile about! You can either take it continuously or stagger your last eight weeks of leave flexibly over 12 months from the birth of your child.

I took the 16 weeks in one go as I preferred not to interrupt my work responsibilities once I had already settled back in. There are definitely pros and cons to this, but it was pure bliss to be able to spend every day of those 16 weeks with my baby!

Having him [my husband] around during that week to help me settle into the routine of caring for the baby alone definitely made it less stressful for me!”

From 1 January 2017, all daddies are also eligible for two weeks of paternity leave! Hurray! Like most daddies out there, my husband took his first week of paternity leave at the beginning to be around at home for offer whatever help that was needed. He was basically my extra hands and feet as he helped to buy groceries for my confinement meals, run endless errands to pick up items for the baby that we’d missed on our list.

He even brought our baby out on his own for his jaundice checkups while I stayed home to catch up on some sleep. His physical presence during that first week helped make the transition for both baby and me a lot easier. My husband then utilised his remaining week of paternity leave after my confinement lady had left. This was extremely crucial for me as well because it was the start of the real deal of parenting! Having him around during that week to help me settle into the routine of caring for the baby alone definitely made it less stressful for me!

Subsidies for centre-based infantcare and childcare

When I was pregnant with my second child, Coen, one of our main concerns was making appropriate childcare arrangements for our firstborn Zoe after I delivered. At the time, she was being cared for by my mother-in-law and myself as I have flexible working arrangements. But given that we were going to have a new baby in the house, we knew that we had to send her to school, so that things wouldn’t get overwhelming for us at home during the day.

We found a childcare centre we were comfortable with and Zoe started school about four months before I delivered Coen. This gave us both ample time to settle into the new routine ― most importantly, she did not feel that we had ‘abandoned’ her when the new baby came along. Though our pockets felt the pinch when we enrolled her in full-day childcare, we were extremely glad to know that, as a working mother, I am entitled to a basic subsidy of $300 a month, which is a lot of savings for us! If you are looking to put your baby in infantcare, working mothers are eligible to get up to $600 per month. You’ll get an additional subsidy if your monthly household income is below $7,500.

Find out how hiring a helper helped Jayme reclaim some work-life balance…

Foreign Maid Levy Relief & Grandparent Caregiver Relief

Besides my in-laws’ tremendous help, we are also blessed with a really capable foreign domestic helper who has been a great help to us. To be honest, I was initially hesitant about hiring a live-in helper because of common reasons like ‘I do not want to sacrifice my privacy’, ‘Can I trust her with my kids?’. My husband and I seriously weighed the pros and cons of getting a helper when I returned to work after my maternity leave. I then decided that my concerns could take a backseat, since all of our lives would be so much easier if we did have extra help.

In any case, our top reason to hire a domestic helper was to ensure that my in-laws would not be exhausted from caring for our baby daily, especially since my mother-in-law was still doing shift work every day while helping us out. We wanted to make sure she had all the help she needs while she kindly cared for our kids.

“At the end of the day, being happy and emotionally balanced is one of the best gifts you can give to your kids and your husband.”

Add to that, as my husband and I hold full-time jobs, we really wanted to be able to come home every evening and spend those precious one to two hours with the kids before their bedtime. We didn’t want to worry about scrambling in the kitchen cooking dinner or being overloaded with household chores. Let’s not forget that the presence of a helper does eliminate any potential tension of marital squabbles over dirty laundry and unwashed dishes (#truestory)!

Do you know? As a working mother, you can claim twice the total foreign domestic worker levy paid in the previous year on one foreign domestic worker? And if your parents/parents-in-law are not employed, live in Singapore and care for your child, you can also claim the Grandparent Caregiver Relief when you file your taxes!

Recently, I have been working really late in the office, so I didn’t see my kids for more than half an hour each day. Besides missing the kids terribly, it has also made me reflect how fortunate I am to have strong family support like my husband, in-laws and also my domestic helper (who is very much part of our family!) who help care for my kids, so that I can work in peace. I am no superwoman, and one thing I learnt about motherhood is to never be afraid to admit that you need help.

If you are struggling with your work-life balance as a working mother, you are definitely not alone! It took me a long while to finally feel a little on top of things when I returned to work. Consider opening up to the help options that are available for you, or simply try to work out feasible routines that may help you have better control with things at home. At the end of the day, being happy and emotionally balanced is one of the best gifts you can give to your kids and your husband. Hang in there!”

Jayme Shing is mum to Coen, 11 months, and Zoe, 3. She blogs at jaymeshing.(Instagram handle: @JaymeShing)

Photo: Ealbert Ho

This article is in collaboration with HeyBaby

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