Tuesday 13 August 2013


Finding that Balance...

Before J came along, some people have told me that I am putting in 120% in my work. I took pride in that statement as proof that I didn't steal any of my employer's time. Whatever that I am paid for, I have given back in full - and more. I am also a perfectionist and very proud of my work. Nothing can shame me more than a project poorly executed, and very often that critique is myself. The pressure comes from within. My Significant Other said to me that I have to come to terms that I can no longer be a "lion" at work. It is another phase of my life.

But yet perhaps subconsciously I am still doing the same, even after J was born, and subconsciously, I am also putting in 120% in my family. I may be able to come to terms with not being a "lion" at work, but I could not come to terms with the guilt that lingers on. Something has to give. The price is that I am running my health down.

I have told myself that I will scale down, but each time I hit the office, I could not bring myself home without waiting for the eleventh hour, rushing and coming home late (and lots of takeaway dinners!) I truly admire working moms who can do that.

This National Day, I was reading more about LKY and his late-wife, and it led me to this blog post and I came across a very wise speech that our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made for Singapore National Day 2008. His words, especially those words that I have marked in red and bold, which made me sit up and think:

"...ultimately the woman or the man must make a personal choice. Do you work 110 per cent on your career or do you set aside time for other activities, for a balanced life? I think each person has to decide his or her own point of balance."

"I remember my own experience. I’m a beneficiary of this. My mother was a lawyer. But every day she came home to have lunch with us. So every day we come home from school, three of us, my mother is there, we have lunch. Nowadays you would call it quality time. This was before people invented such big words. All it meant was she had time for us, we had time to talk to her."

"And it was a tremendous help. She avoided going out at night for functions. She had to go for, accompany my father, but business functions, very seldom. What it meant is less takings as a lawyer, less work, less conveyancing, but she decided her children were more important to her. And she acted on that and I think she was happy with that. And we’re definitely very grateful for that."

"Today it’s harder to do this. The office hours are longer, the pace is more intense. People call them “office hours”. You must put quotes there because it starts in the morning but it doesn’t finish after dinner. And at home you are working, on holidays you’re working too on e-mail or Blackberry or whatever."

"But despite this, I think you have to maintain a balanced, fulfilling life and you have to keep a pace which is sustainable not just for one, two years and you burn out, but for a lifetime and you are in balanced equilibrium, and at the end of your life or when you retire you say I’m satisfied, I had a good career, I’ve taken care of my family, I’ve brought up children, this is what life is about."

"Work-life balance also applies to the children. I know a lot of parents complain about stress on their children, and especially complain because they say the education system causes the stress. We’ve trimmed the school syllabi – teach less, learn more."

No one can please everyone, and no one can escape from criticism, especially if one is a Prime Minister, but for me, I am very thankful to God for giving us such a wise, humble and personable Prime Minister, one who has a lot of integrity and compassion, despite having a job that has to please so many different stakeholders.

PM LEE's full National Day Speech can be found here:

I am running at a pace that is perhaps not sustainable in the long run.

I always think whether I have given enough at work. I am slowly learning that it is ok not to give 120% to my work, without feeling guilty. It is really ok. It doesn't matter what others think of me. It is also ok that I no longer choose to be a "lion" at work. I choose to be a mom, and it is ok not to hide this fact at work (I always choose the fastest exit, hoping no one will notice my departing). I am a mom. I don't have to act and pretend that. I will walk proud, when I leave the office.

I think having this said by someone such as our Prime Minister helps me to lessen my guilt towards my job.

Finding that balance, I am still working on it.

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