I’m A Mum, and I Survived Working From Home With Kids

Are you a mum and experienced the circuit breaker (CB) like many others, juggling work from home and helping the kids with their home-based learning (HBL)? It sure was a stressful time but some smart strategies, a little focus on self-care, and family support made the load easier for the two working mothers we spoke to. 

These two CB ‘warrior’ mothers were Lee Chi Yim, 39, an admin specialist in facilities management with three kids, and Carina Chuah, 38, a senior principal editor in publishing with twin boys, who shared their experiences and tactics they used so as not to let stress take over. 

Changes CB brought along

Things were previously smooth for both the mums as they went to their offices and the kids attended school. However, with the CB in place, it was difficult to cope with work and the kids’ studies simultaneously.  

Chi Yim with her husband and 3 children aged 13, 10 and 5
Carina with her mother, husband and 11-year-old twin boys

Challenge 1 — New work and HBL regimes

Each day presented a new challenge to the mums, with them juggling work and ensuring that the kids logged in on time for their lessons, and resolving technical issues (which often added to the frustration). They had to adapt to using online platforms and a new way of doing things. But, having an understanding employer gave them some relief!

Carina’s stress had mounted due to a heavy workload, but her company organised webinars from time to time to share ways to stay connected with colleagues and manage stress. 

“The management was understanding at the beginning regarding slight delays in the work progress, but with time, I had to pick up the pace and increase productivity,” recalled Carina. 

Chi Yim’s employer and colleagues were equally empathetic, especially with her youngest being just a pre-schooler. “I appreciated their support, which made it easier for me to manage work smoothly,” shared Chi Yim. 

How did they combat this challenge?

Carina agreed that the webinars helped her keep her cool when she felt overstretched. Both mothers also followed a schedule to keep things under control.

Challenge 2 — Noisy kids and virtual meetings

Both Carina and Chi Yim agreed that a real problem faced was having numerous virtual meetings and restless noisy kids in the background.  

Carina shared that many a time, she had to mute herself during the teleconferences to answer her sons’ questions on school work, then, continued to participate in her meeting, only to find out she was still on mute! “I had to struggle to maintain a balanced state of mind as moments like these felt like I was going crazy.”

Chi Yim put it simply, “My children were always around, making them heard or seen during the work meetings. I did feel embarrassed at times, but my colleagues were very understanding and I appreciated that. I guess it was a norm seeing how we were all working from home.” 

How did they combat this challenge?

Chi Yim implemented a rule for everyone to go on ‘working’ mode. She said, “The kids were told to clarify any issues with my husband and I, only after their HBL sessions, and were reassured that if both of us were busy, their issues would be addressed at a later time.” 

While Chi Yim’s husband helped coach the kids, Carina’s mother was a big support in managing her kids and the household.  

Challenge 3 — Managing HBL with kids

Carina did not like that her sons were constantly on the Internet and were told by their teachers to watch videos on YouTube. “I felt my sons were not learning anything and got distracted by other videos, yet I wasn’t able to monitor them every second, for I had to work as well.”

Chi Yim’s older kids doing their school work

Chi Yim made the rules very clear by instructing her kids to complete their school work before TV time or playing console games. That helped manage things. 

How did they combat this challenge?

While she’s not proud of it, Chi Yim found herself caving in by letting her kids entertain themselves with devices when she had to attend to her work duties.   

Carina’s sons enjoying the craftwork instead of playing with devices

Carina tried to bring in the ‘fun’ element by occupying her boys with some craftwork instead.

Challenge 4 — Tackling fatigue

Being stuck at home meant lesser time to head out for exercise, and that was Carina’s biggest gripe. She would feel mentally drained from endless work and meetings, on top of supervising the boys on HBL. “I found myself losing my temper especially when my sons got rowdy and boisterous,” she said.

For Chi Yim, entertaining her youngest child proved very challenging as she had the most energy and free time, since she was only a pre-schooler and did not have HBL sessions.  Keeping her youngest one occupied while trying to work took a toll on her and she had to make time to stay relaxed.

How did they combat this challenge?

With a domestic helper, Chi Yim was relieved at not having to deal with the household chores. So, after work, she could focus on spending time with her family. 

With her mother helping with the cooking and taking care of her sons, Carina managed to catch some peaceful and relaxing moments for herself.

Challenge 5 — Staying happy and healthy

Throughout the CB, both Chi Yim and Carina had a lot on their plate. At times when it got overwhelming, trying to find a quiet moment for themselves wasn’t easy. With everyone under one roof, having alone time was just not possible! 

As Chi Yim explained, “ME-time at home for me was non-existent. The kids were always after me for something or the other. So, my husband and I made time to chat or watch TV after the kids went to bed.”

How did they combat this challenge?

Carina followed a philosophy, which worked well for her. “I didn’t let myself get overwhelmed — instead, I took things easy most of the time. When it seemed like things were really bad, I told myself that it would all pass.” She relaxed at night by indulging in a hot cup of mint tea and watching Korean dramas to her heart’s content. 

Since she couldn’t head out to meet her friends or get a nice massage, Chi Yim created a home spa activity with her kids.  Both her daughters relished the pampering experience and enjoyed giving each other facials and painting their nails.

Feeling grateful and looking forward

With schools reopened and offices calling back employees, both the mothers shared that CB has been a blessing in a way as it ‘pushed’ the family closer together. While Chi Yim enjoys being at the office for work, she is grateful for the time spent bonding with her kids during the CB and how it led to better communication among them. In fact, she now makes a concerted effort to have more bonding time with her children, especially after returning to her office.

Carina, however, has realised how much more productive she is working from home. Not only can she accomplish more, she also appreciates the time spent with her sons. As her company still observes the remote working arrangement, she is preparing herself for when the time comes to return to work. If given a choice, she hopes to continue working from home. For now, she is cherishing every moment with her family while fulfilling her work responsibilities.

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