Working Mums Speak: Juggling a Family and Career
The most successful career moms have found ways to be efficient in both worlds — and that requires being able to come to terms with choices and focus on the priorities that are in the moment.~ Lisa Pierson Weinberger, a lawyer and the founder of Mom, Esq.
“A sacrifice like no other” – Hasniza Ibrahim, 31, School Teacher
It’s one thing to be a mom, but when you have to balance a family and a career, and you happen to do it well, it deserves a mention. It’s not easy ignoring the monotony that’s bound to set in and finding ways to keep going through good days and bad.
Working moms will have to accept and deal with the fact that incidents at the workplace may easily affect the remaining of the day at home and vice versa. It takes pure wits and strength to keep up with the various scenarios of both worlds whilst hiding away issues to be sorted out later, so as to not compromise the quality of the time spent at home or at work.
When there are little children in the picture, it becomes even more challenging, as little ones need bonding time and a whole lot of caring… and who’s to say that they too might not have had a rough day without mommy to comfort them?
There are many aspects of being a working mom and no two have the same experiences and challenges. So this month, BabyTalk cornered three career moms and asked them how they do it.
Being a wife, mom and secondary school teacher has presented Hasniza with a somewhat hectic lifestyle and time constraints only working moms would be able to identify with. She began her teaching career in 2008 before settling down with her sweetheart in 2011. She had her first child in 2013 and is expecting her second at the moment.
“There are a few factors which made me decide to continue to work after having a child,” said Hasniza. “The economical factor was the main one. With today’s high costs of living, it’s tough to survive with just one income, especially when there’s a child in the picture. Well, we might probably get by, but only just so, with a very basic lifestyle.”
Like most other working moms, Hasniza wanted more for her family. Her own family home, furnished with more than just the basics and being able to go on nice holidays with her hubby and child were some of the things she wanted and staying in the workforce was the only way to achieve that. “It would have been unfair for me to want all these things when we’re depending on just one income,” she added.
In regards to her career as a teacher, Hasniza confides that although her official working hours are from 7.15am to 2.30pm, she works way beyond that, for as we all know, a teacher’s work is never finished! “Time and time again, teachers have to stay back after their official working hours to monitor co-curriculum activities such as 1M1S, sports activities, cross country runs, school club meetings and so on and so forth. We also have to stay back for extra classes if necessary,” she said.
Teachers are also known to bring home their work and Hasniza is no exception. It’s become a norm to spend her nights updating teaching material, lesson plans and also updating information online. During exams, teachers spend a considerable amount of time marking test papers and answer sheets.
When asked if motherhood has had any impact on her career, Hasniza replied, “Very much so, for my commitments have increased! Before marriage, it can be said that I gave no less than 90% of my time for work and I managed to give about the same after marriage too, thanks to my supportive and loving hubby. After the birth of my child however, everything in my life, including my work, had to be scheduled around the needs of my child and that is no easy feat,” she explained.
“There are times when on one hand I have a sick child to tend to and on the other hand, work is piling up at school. Taking one too many leave days from work may leave a mark on my working record where else not being there for my child is absolutely out of the question,” Hasniza reveals.
“I do feel overwhelmed at times and the occasional breakdown is inevitable, especially when choices are difficult to make and I’m cornered by circumstances. This is when I’d like to stress that the welfare of working moms in many cases such as mine can be improved on if only authorities took the trouble to see to it and come up with solutions that work both ways.”
On a brighter note, Hasniza expressed gratitude for her babysitter who is in her 50’s and who takes such good care of her daughter. “Sometimes, I feel that she takes better care of my child than I do!”, she laughed. “She fully supports my decision to breastfeed my baby and is very efficient in handling my expressed breast milk,” Hasniza said, in praise of her trustworthy babysitter.
“When it comes to juggling between work life and family life, I must say too that I am endlessly grateful and happy to have a helpful and understanding husband, for without his constant help and reassurance, I would not be able to pull this off,” Hasniza said of her loving hubby. “Without so much as complaining, he is ever willing to help me out in my housework and in entertaining our kid whenever my work takes up time meant to be spent at home, sometimes even during weekends,” she said, expressing her deep appreciation for her man.
Another individual Hasniza credits for helping her to be a successful career mom is her own mom. “My mother, who is a naturally diligent and practical woman, has helped me immensely with tips on how to manage almost everything more efficiently, from my household laundry to the planning of my family’s daily menu,” Hasniza shared about her mom. “With her help, I’m able to shop smart for weekly ingredients and in turn, am able to offer simple home-cooked meals for my little family everyday,” she continued.
On what keeps her going during the many challenging phases of her life, Hasniza affirmed that gratitude towards God and everything that He has provided for her is her main driving force.
“I have my husband, a loving family, a good job and competency with friends at work and these are more than I can ask for as a working mom,” she said. Like every other working mom, Hasniza always yearns for the best things in life for her family and is ready to work hard for them.
“I’d do it all over again!” – Sheena Anne Ignatius, 30, Founder & Director of The Montessori Place Child Care Centre
She may not have known it then, but Sheena Anne Ignatius had a career path paved out for her when she became a preschool teacher at Taska Montel, Bukit Mertajam, straight after high school, for that was where she learned to appreciate the Montessori method of teaching and was inspired by her Principal, Mrs Lai, to one day open up her own school. After a year, she moved to Kuala Lumpur to pursue her studies in Child Development and Montessori methods of teaching.
Sheena’s love for teaching brought her to Sabah, where she started a program for toddlers called Reading Room, which she held in her apartment. In 2008, Sheena moved back to Kuala Lumpur and set up her award-winning preschool, The Montessori Place.
Sheena spent years of hard work to set her school up from scratch. Her dedication and passion inevitably served to help her remain as a career woman to supplement her family’s income now that she’s a wife and mom.
Sheena married Arvin Mahendran, 32, on May 2015 @ Hard Rock Hotel, Penang. “He is my go-to person and he challenges me when I feel I can’t achieve something. He gives me great business advice since he has an extensive background in Business Development. He’s also the calmer one between us two,” explains Sheena of her sweetheart. “Arvin is very loving, respectful and also full of sweet surprises. Although he works very hard for our family but even with the late hours he always finds time for date nights. I’m one lucky girl,” Sheena expressed with much gratitude.
The start of Sheena’s pregnancy was tough as she experienced bouts of extreme morning sickness. She threw up at the sight of meat and certain smells. Smells that she found fragrant before suddenly disgusted her. “I only ate vegetables and fruits for the first 4 to 5 months of my pregnancy. I could not even look at any meat, chicken or fish. Once, I threw up once when I saw someone stuffing a turkey on an episode of Modern Family. For some reason, it disgusted me!” she exclaimed.
“I don’t know why they even call it morning sickness, for mine always seemed to start after 5.00pm,” the young mom recalled.
The initial stage of motherhood was overwhelming, as Sheena put it, with emotions she never knew she had. “The first thing that went flying out the window was my sleep, and I am yet to sleep for four hours straight, because of my breastfeeding. However, my life suddenly became more meaningful and valuable. I had to start living for my little one, Ozzy, and make better decisions in everything because my hubby and I are responsible for him,” she said of the initial stages of her motherhood.
Getting used to her post-pregnancy body was a little tough for Sheena in the beginning, but as months went by, she began to get accustomed to her new figure. “I’m still hoping to shed more weight in due time, but I’m not going to be harsh on myself,” said the wise young mom.
Having no time for herself for the first three months or so was one of the toughest challenges Sheena has had to face, for she was previously accustomed to self-pampering sessions at the hair salon, nail spas, etc. She also missed her nights out and even meeting up with friends for coffee.
“It wasn’t easy but as days went by and Ozzy grew, I started to go out a little more. Lucky for us, we have a good support system. My mom moved in with us and that was such a blessing! She looked after us and we could see how much she sacrificed for us. I don’t know how will I ever repay her,” Sheena said in appreciation of her mother.
“My in-laws are just as amazing, for they are always ready to help out in any way, be it to pick up groceries or even to drive us for our hospital check ups. My husband and I are blessed to have such loving and helpful parents, and seeing just how much they all love Ozzy….. my heart is full!” Sheena said, counting her blessings.
“Ozzy is almost one now and he is such a joy. Motherhood still has challenges but I think I’m getting the hang of it. I would go through all of it and more again if I had to just to have him.”
On juggling family and career, Sheena said, “I am a mom to my own son now, but I am also a mom to many other children for a portion of their day. Teaching is my passion, and I also have a team of 24 staff that I have to manage. I’m responsible for planning the curriculum and conducting training for teachers to empower them to try new and fun activities in their classrooms. I’ve also recently had my first workshop for parents. I hope to have more in the future. I love working with children, telling them stories and playing with them. It brings me much joy to see how happy the children are and that they love to come to school.”
Sheena’s working hours are from 8.00am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays. Since it’s a preschool, Sheena can bring Ozzy along too. “He will join our Tots Program as soon as he turns 18 months,” she quipped with much enthusiasm.
When queried on how it all works, with that much going on in her life, Sheena explained, “My mom looks after Ozzy every Monday to Friday from 9.00am to 5.00pm. My dad and her picks him up from my work place and brings him back to me in the evenings. As our home is under renovations, we currently got back to my in-laws after work.”
“At my in-laws, we enjoy dinner and family time. My mother-in-law enjoys feeding her grandson his dinner. She dotes on him. My parents-in-law then take him to their room every night for his 10pm feed. My husband and I get to watch movies in our room and have some time alone before Ozzy comes back to our room when he falls asleep,” she explains if the intricate system they have going.
“My husband and I wake up twice every night for Ozzy’s feeds, at around 12.30am and 4.00am. Ozzy wakes up at 7am and my in-laws help to change and feed him breakfast while my hubby and I get ready for work. Sometimes we drive together and sometimes I uber a ride if Arvin has an early meeting. Like I said, we have a great support system, and I’m grateful for that.”
Both Sheena and her hubby don’t work during the weekends, so their parents get a break and the little family gets to spend some together. “We enrolled Ozzy for swim and Gymboree classes on the weekends – we take him for those classes and mix around with other parents. If there’s no classes on, we prefer to stay home,” Sheena said, bringing her interview to a close.
Riding the waves of challenge – Evelyn Ng, 35, Senior Resourcing Manager, Dairy Farm.
Evelyn Ng, 35, begin her career in 2007 as a recruitment executive where she worked herself up to Unit Manager before moving on the Valiram Group as a Recruitment Manager in August 2013. The vivacious young mom, who is currently with Dairy Farm as a Senior Resourcing Manager in Human Resource department is also a part-time model who has graced local publications, TV advertisements as well as catwalks.
“I work from 9am till 6pm Monday till Friday (office hours). Working, I feel, keeps me in the game, career-wise, and helps me stay connected to the larger world. It also satisfies my natural yearning for intellectual stimulation,” Evelyn explained.
On weekends, Evelyn is normally engaged in shooting or attending charity or fashion events as she is also a part time model and a pageant winner of Mrs Indian Cultural Malaysia 2016.
As a working mom, Evelyn finds that the support she gets from her husband increases her freedom to perform to the best of her capabilities in both her day job as well as her modelling jobs. Her husband, Prakash, an engineer, is as passionate about his career as she is about hers, which adds towards his understanding ways when it comes to his glam wife.
Evelyn’s modeling career started in 2000, which was during her university days. Being one who takes to the camera like a ballerina to her tutus, she finds modelling to be second nature to her. “I have always been into modelling and of date, I’ve done dozens of magazines shoots and television commercials,” Evelyn stated of her part-time occupations. She has also acted in local television dramas.
Evelyn became a mom in August 2014 when her daughter Rhea was born. During the first few months back on the job, the young mom came close to quitting many times, especially on days when she felt the burden of having to leave her daughter to go to work.
“I craved the sense of self-worth I get from working, the thrill of solving work-related problems, and the challenge of leading others. At the same time, being back at work and away from Rhea left me feeling empty and incomplete. Simply put, being at work was stomping on my heart, but being at home wasn’t fulfilling enough for me either,” Evelyn explained.
Evelyn recalls her first year as a mom as the time of emotional turmoil which uncovered, as she put it, her ugliest, rawest and most vulnerable self. However, it also uncovered the most selfless, loving side of her she never knew existed!
Motherhood challenged Evelyn like nothing else ever did before. “It requires patience, firstly, and that’s, the one thing I always struggled with. I was obsessed with Rhea’s well being and needed a full report when I returned from work! I also micromanaged everyone involved in her care,” she said.
“I always worry. I worry about my baby and I worry about hubby. I love them so much and want them to always have the best of me. That’s also the reason why I avoided late nights out, for I needed to wake up at night for her and rise early in the morning for her too,” Evelyn continued.
I remember wondering how some mothers make it look all too easy, while I was, struggling to cope. In the early hours of the day, there I was dressing up, putting on my makeup and slipping into my heels while my child is asking for attention. I walk out of the door like a boss, but inside I was a mother who was new to all this and trying not to show it,” said Evelyn.
“During my pregnancy, I put on almost 30 kg, which left me feeling miserable. I participated in the Mrs Indian Cultural Malaysia to motivate myself towards a healthier lifestyle, and I won the title. As proud as I feel about that, I want to be a role model to married woman out there and be their inspiration so that they too will work towards being the best that they can be,” Evelyn said.
Fast forward to the present time, Evelyn is grateful for her hubby, who has always been her rock and pillar of support. She also thanks God for her mom, who takes care of Rhea while she’s at work.
Evelyn feels that her biggest challenge was learning to accept that she simply can’t give 100% to everything all of the time. “I’m not the same employee I was before having my child, and it’s alright by me now. Sure, I’m no longer the first one in the office and the last one to leave anymore but I have become a better leader, co-worker, and employee now because I am a mom,” said Evelyn, convincingly.
“However, I always keep reminding myself that Rhea is more important than anything else in my life, which is why I have to manage my time according to her needs.”