it’s 23.46pm right now and I’m on board a cab. On the way home from the office. I spent the entire night clearing out as much work as I can today because I’m jetting off tomorrow, and tomorrow’s schedule at work is horrid. I only have 30 mins to spend at my desk for the entire day, and would be shuttling in and out of meetings non stop. I reckon I won’t get any work done tmr and want to clear them all out as best as I can before i can go home and pack for my trip tomorrow.

I have a donut in my bag, meant for my donut loving jerry. I won’t be seeing him for days while im away and I had really wanted to go home early today to spend some time with him because tmr would be a mad rush from work to home to the airport. But.. I am going home to my sleeping kids, and I sit in a cab with tears threatening to roll down my face, and feel sorry for being a terrible mum.

And please don’t give me that shit about bringing work home to do because any mother with 2 active toddler boys would know that it’s mission impossible. I have tried and failed so many times. Not even when they are asleep. My toddler will wake up from his sleep, waddle his way into the living room with squinty eyes blinded by the lights but struggle to take each step forward to reach me and tells me he wants to sleep with me. It’s a painful feeling, being torn between your kid and work pending on hand… and I will tell you right now that I would close that damn computer and go with him. Because I meant so much to the kid that he struggled his way out to me despite obviously being blinded by the lights.

And because he matters so much, and I end up with work undone.

Would people think of all that struggles when you didn’t manage to submit the work on time or misses the timeline for something? Would people bother to think about what you have gone through before sending you that email or popping by your desk to ask you for the stuff to be done? Or would people, even consider about your load and wonder if you can really cope with all the load loaded on you when you have 2 young kids at home? No, because in the corporate world, the figures means everything. The sales, the revenue, the yearly targets, the kpis and there is no room in those for stuff like my kid needs me to accompany him to sleep. They won’t understand. They don’t need to. Because it don’t matter to them…

But it matters to me. And that, makes the life of a full time working mum. It’s not about the work. It’s not about the kids. It’s about the constant struggle between the two, knowing very well that you would choose one in a heartbeat, but the other solely because to survive, and maybe to clock in that social interaction or needed boost to the brain to keep it working. I’ll admit, for me it is a necessity. I can’t survive on a single income with 2 kids and all the bills that i have to pay and the commitments that i have. I don’t have a choice so I have to make do.

It does seemed a little too coincidental that this happened a day before my slot for a ftwm blog train that i decided to participate in, offering an insight of how I try to survive as a working mom. I typed the original post in a light hearted matter, meant to encourage the mummies out there but here I am, feeling totally beaten on a cab journey home. And I decided to open up my blog entry and type all these raw thoughts out loud, because.. This is something very true to a full time working mother working in a society where work life balance is not the norm and people usually clock more hours than they are paid for.

Is this really what I want? P.s. I’m feeling a little emotional because I have been really stressed up lately and had a recent change in portfolio (again) and this time round, I didn’t have an option. I don’t typically feel as defeated as i am today, but i guess fatigue and frustrations does weird things to you at times. I just wanted to pen down my thoughts here because I don’t see the need to paint any beautiful picture about how i survive. Because, i am after all, human. Anyhow, the real, original post is right below here. Enjoy.

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This post is all about taking a peek into my life as a ftwm (full-time working mum), and I am going to share how a typical day of my life would look like, while living on our own with no live-in help or part-time help. This isn’t my first post about being a ftwm. Last year, just 2 months after Jerome was born, I wrote about motherhood madness as at ftwm. This time round, things are quite different. The key difference is, I no longer stay with my mum and have a household of my own to manage, on top of the daily logistics of sending the kids to childcare and their care-taker.

Jerome giving all the toys their holy baptism of his saliva.

Jerome giving all the toys their holy baptism of his saliva.

So here’s a peek into my daily schedule:

7.30am – I wake and express milk while the 3 boys continue to sleep.

8.00am – I wake the husband who makes milk for the kiddos, then proceeds to wash the bottles and breast pumps while I head off to the shower. When he is done, he changes Jerry into his uniform and ensures he brushes his teeth.

8.45-9am – Depending on how fast everyone gets ready, we head out of the house. I head to work while the husband drops the kids at my mum’s & childcare and heads off to work himself.

9.30am-8pm – Am at work. This is an average timing, and on most days, I work way beyond those hours, and on very few occasions, I leave earlier. Most of the time, I do try to drop everything at 8pm because I want to try and spend some time with the kids. I DO NOT bring work home unless absolutely necessary.

8.30pm – I get home around this time, depending on traffic conditions or mode of transport. The husband usually isn’t home yet at this time and I try to chill a little and express milk. If the husband and the kids are home, then we’ll get into the mad frenzy mode of gobbling down our dinner and feeding the 2 kiddos who likes to steal our food and wash/clean the house and try to interact with them.

10.30pm-12 midnight – We will attempt to put the kids down for their bedtime, and depending on the amount of struggles we get, we either end up sleeping with them or even before them. On the days where they go down early, we both get a bit of time to do our own things – he watches drama series and I blog. Or we both do housework.

On a typical day, I usually only clock in about 5 hours of sleep, and on a lot of days, I sleep a lot lesser. I know my day sounds kinda horrendous, but I guess I managed by. On the days where I reach home early, I sometimes catch a quick nap before the husband and kids are back.

The kids zooming around the house in their 'bikes'.

The kids zooming around the house in their ‘bikes’.

So how do I do it, managing the household and 2 active toddlers? Here’s some guidelines or tips that I work around with.

1. Just deal with it. 

Honestly, if you don’t focus so much on the thinking and just keep doing, it helps keep the depression at bay. Besides, for someone without much time for herself, the last thing I want to be doing is to be spending my time being depressed. I know there are the bluer than blue days, but I handle them by chatting with my friends. Chatting about the issues that I have (via whatsapp) makes me feel so much better.

I also strongly believe that in situations where you don’t have much options, you grow stronger because of it.

2. Rope in the spouse. 

This, is super, super important to me. My husband is SUPER hand-ons. Well, he isn’t like that in the past, but he has improved so much over the years and constantly getting better that, sometimes, I’m secretly impressed. Honestly, there is no one-man show if you have a spouse staying with you and not outstation in some other country. Technically speaking, I have a spouse who is outstation. My husband works in M’sia and he travels out there every single day and spends at least 2-3 hours in traffic jams daily. He drops the kids off every day on the way to work and picks them up on his way back. Although not ideal that the kids cannot reach home early on the days he works late, but it’s something that we agree that we would have to deal with for now.

Splitting the housework is important too. We don’t really split it down to who do what, but having 2 very young toddler, they aren’t much help except for helping us fetch stuff to the dustbins. We just do what we do best each and whenever we can. We deal with the messes that need our attention first – dishes, laundry etc. We also try to clean on the go so that the house isn’t that tough to maintain. I own a Philips MiniVac HandHeld Vacuum Cleaner and swears by it. I am on my 3rd MiniVac since I made the first purchase 7 years ago and its so convenient. Spot any speck of dirt or stray hair? Just vacuum it in a matter of seconds and the floor is clean. I rely on it a lot and I don’t even own a huge-ass vacuum cleaner at all. I infected both my mum and my mother-in-law with this minivac ‘disease’ that they both also have the minivacs in their houses. My other trick? Wet wipes. Every time the kids spill something or dirty the floor, I wet wipe the area but the brand of wet wipes is important because some do leave a sticky residue.

P.s. My husband is the default laundry man. Ever since I moved into my new place, I never once operated the washing machine. And YES. I am proud to admit that, because it means my husband is doing a superbly good job! He is also the man that mans my money plant daily and changes the water in the fish tank all the time. I know, he’s definitely a keeper right? So glad I bagged him.

3, Accept help if they come along your way. 

I must admit that I am very extremely lucky with my child care arrangements. I am also extremely lucky that my mother and my mother-in-law just stay just a block from each other so coordinating the kids isn’t that hard. My mum helps me take care of Jerome while Jerry goes to childcare. My mother-in-law fetches him after her work and takes care of him till my husband comes home from work to fetch them. Because they are both family, they return the kids fed, clean and in their home clothes, which eases A LOT off our shoulders. We mostly just change out their diapers and put them in PJs to tuck them into bed after we get home. Super convenient.

Also, I used to cook when I first moved in and then there was a period of time where for a whole month, I was putting in 14-16 hours work days and returning home near midnight leaving the husband famished. My mum offered to cook him dinner so he eats before fetching both kids home. Ever since then, I stopped cooking on weekdays because my mum would cook both our share daily and my husband picks up our dinner together with the kids every night. I get to eat home cooked food and I know it totally rocks.

Photographer: Jerry Choo. Titled: The Mess on the Dining Area.

The Mess on the Dining Area. Photographer: Jerry Choo.

4. Pick your battles wisely and maybe close both eyes. 

There are some days where the house is in a literal mess. Ok. When I say literal mess, it simply just means toys strewn on the floor, the dining table filled with all sorts of random rubbish, the floor is littered with shopping bags of stuff that has yet to be packed away.. and that’s about it. Because that’s the threshold that my husband can tolerate before he goes berserk. Yup. He is a neat freak but we both recognize that we only have that amount of time, and we pick our battles wisely. On days like that, he sometimes would make the decision to leave 1 kid or both kids behind with my parents & in-laws so that we can do a massive clean up of the place to make it look decent. That doesn’t happen frequently because I would miss the kids. Otherwise, we would drop the kids with their grandparents during the weekends and spend the day at home doing spring cleaning. My husband sometimes takes leave to spring clean the house to bring it down to below his threshold. Yes, he is extreme in that sense (mostly also because he isn’t very happening and have a lot of leave) but I ain’t complaining. Who doesn’t love clean houses?

Our most frequently thrashed corner of our house is the playroom. The toys… they always only stay in their position for like 2 minutes if the kids are home? We close our eyes on the mess by closing the door of the playroom. Out of sight = out of mind. At least the rest of the house can look tidy enough.

5. Getting the kids to help. 

Frankly, my kids aren’t much help. Jerry can listen to instructions but Jerome pretty much defies them all (or maybe he understands and tries to be funny). We still believe in instilling good habits in the kids. We try to get Jerry to pick up after himself – pack up the toys, bring stuff back into his room, put his shoes properly or keep them in the shoe cabinet etc.

It’s small little acts for now and better than nothing, but I believe in the long run, we should be able to benefit from these.

That’s all I have! I know I had it easy for some parts, but I am extremely thankful for the situation and the supportive family. Without them, we might have to deal with a lot more work. The husband travels frequently to other countries for work as well and on those stretches of period, I pack up my stuff and the kids’ and we all go have a staycation at my mum’s because of the logistical nightmare that I would need to go through since my work place and my mum’s is quite far away and I’ll probably spend 3 hours in jams every morning if I have to drop them before heading off to work. I guess everything takes a bit of planning to see how things work out, and thus far, we have managed to survive and not kill each other or the kids.

Having said all of the above, I have to admit I am no saint. There are days where I feel totally burnt out, superbly stressed up and on the brink of nervous breakdown. This is usually caused by  the deadlines that I have at work and my blogging deadlines (if any) and the lack of time to achieve them all. I have since recognized that it is because there is absolutely no way for my toddler kids to understand that mummy has work to complete (despite me explaining a gazillion times) and not disturb me at all. To them, mummy is the ultimate play date and the go to bed companion, which unfortunately isn’t replaceable by daddy at this point in time and I do feel I stretch myself very thin sometimes. Especially on those days where Jerry refuses to sleep even way past midnight and just wants to glue himself to me. I don’t blame him because our interaction time has been a lot lesser now that I don’t see him the moment I get home and I need to dedicate some bits of time to managing the household.

Am still trying to see how I can improve things around here and potentially make my sanity feel better, and get more sleep. Meanwhile…. Undone housework? Messy house? These don’t bother me as much since I don’t have anyone to answer about them other than the husband and myself.. and we both know its tough. Like I said, pick your battles wisely. Besides, my mantra has always been living a happy life. Messy houses don’t deter me from getting happiness. 🙂

This post is part of a blog train hosted by Christy from Kids ‘R’ Simple on “A Peek into the After Work Hours of a FTWM“. Read about how 21 FTWMs from Singapore Mom Bloggers handle their kids and household everyday from 1 June to 21 June. The aim is to give other working mums motivation, ideas and support to deal with the everyday demands of juggling work and family while keeping sane. We will be happy to hear your story, tips and even an encouraging word will make our day! Share your thoughts in the comments!

Read about Cheryl, the next ftwm on this blogging train and her experience tomorrow.

Cheryl-family-pic

Cheryl is a full time working mum juggling her role as mummy to 3 year old Aiden & 7 month old Ava, founder of PriviKids, a kids apparel and lifestyle retail concept and brand manager of a multi brand beauty retail concept. Thanks to her supportive & super husband as well as support from her parents as caretakers of the kids, she’s able to take on her passion in life. Find out more about their family and experiences at privikids.blogspot.sg.