Work-life balance has long shown to increase one’s happiness. As we have more time for ourselves, we tend to spend it by being more social and creating connections. This, in turn, increases the production of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin— the ‘happy hormones’—created by our brains.
When it comes to family, work-life balance affects how much time we spend with our loved ones. As parents, not only are we responsible for our own work and life balance but that of our children too. We often forget that study-life balance is something we must help our children manage, and the best way to do this is to teach by example!
As the pandemic developments around the globe continue to disrupt our daily lives, we thought it’d be the perfect time to dissect this topic and find out if there is a winning formula that we can all follow.
We caught up with Minister Sun Xueling and asked for her thoughts on the subject. Minister Sun is the MP for Pasir Ris Punggol GRC, a mother of two young daughters, and the Senior Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs and National Development.
How would you define your family’s work-life balance as parents with young children?
“Like all families, we try our best to maintain a work-life balance. Our girls are young—seven and three years old. We do not have a fixed schedule for the girls as we prefer to take a more laissez-faire approach. We only want them to be happy and also for the adults not to feel stressed.
Their day involves a mix of running around the house, drawing, writing, doing some Mathematics, and watching TV. My husband and I take turns to spend time with the girls while the other tends to their own work in the study. At the end of a long day, there is always time for bedtime stories. ”
How do you manage with home-based learning (HBL)?
“Only my oldest has begun HBL as she is in Primary One. It was difficult for the first two weeks as she was not familiar with how the computer and mouse works. Since then, she has gotten a lot better at managing it and can spend half an hour or so of HBL on her own.”
Is there a hobby that is your family’s favourite?
“After dinner, we get together for an hour of Charades or the “animal game” as named by our youngest because the children often choose to act out an animal. I find it important to have an activity that the whole family can enjoy doing together.”
How has the Circuit Breaker impacted family/work-life for you?
“The girls enjoy playing outdoors and we usually have an ice-cream together after visiting the playground. The circuit breaker changed all that. I am looking forward to doing it again when there is less risk for people being outdoors.
My work has always been very ‘engagement-intensive’ and it often requires me to be away from home. The circuit breaker has also changed that, I now spend a lot more time at home. The circuit breaker has given me a chance to re-align my work-life balance.”
What advice would you give to parents?
“Children are very hardy beings. They learn in all sorts of ways—not through school or assignments alone. Teach them the right values so that they can find their way in life.”
Here are our favourite takeaways from Minister Sun:
- Take a more relaxed approach when planning your children’s schedules. The key is for your children to be happy and for you not to get stressed out!
- In addition to family time, you and your spouse can take turns to spend time with the children while the other does their work.
- It is important to find an activity that the whole family enjoys doing together.
- Use the current pandemic situation and circuit breaker to realign your work-life balance.
- Give yourself a break and go easy on yourself! Go with the flow and enjoy the moment.
- Teaching your children, the right values will ensure that they will find their way in life.
“As much as possible, I try to ensure some outdoor time every day for my children as it helps build their resilience. It also teaches them important skills such as problem-solving, being streetwise, being confident, and being aware of what's outside the safe haven they call home.
The circuit breaker allowed our family to build a closer bond. As we worked on HBL with the boys, we as parents became more aware of what they can and cannot do. I have also noticed that the boys are more relaxed and have become much more creative. I believe a consistent routine is important to manage HBL for older children.
Most importantly, as a parent, it is ok to take a break and call off the routine if you or your children get overwhelmed. Don't be too hard on yourself!”
~ Hannah, Mother of three boys, 11, 9, and 4-years-old.
“My idea of study-life balance for my children involves a lot of playing. I believe that they learn best when they can set their imagination free. Of course, they do their school work and revision when needed. We try to get them to complete all schoolwork by Friday so that we can spend the weekend winding down together.
Since the circuit breaker began, my children have become more independent and they have learnt to manage their time well. It is best to have a routine and have fun together. There are some days when they are not in the mood to do any of their schoolwork so I allow them to take a break instead of forcing them to complete their work.
~ Nadine. Mother of a 10-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy
“I find the circuit breaker a blessing in disguise for my family. I’d just returned to work after my maternity leave and had to leave my baby in the care of my helper. Since the circuit breaker began, I got the opportunity to work from home. At the same time, I could better guide my older daughter with HBL while watching my baby hit her milestones. This was something I missed with my oldest daughter.”
~ Joycelin. Mother of two girls, 10-month-old and a 6-year-old.
If you ask us, it’s a little bit of trial and error, mixed with a whole lot of patience and love!