Besides money, time is the other precious commodity that many young couples complain they do not have enough of. With more and more couples putting in longer hours at work, has work-life balance and starting a family become an impossible dream?
Not quite, says Mrs Josephine Teo, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC and Assistant Secretary-General for NTUC.
“They are right to be concerned but wrong to think the challenge is insurmountable,” noted Mrs Teo.
The full-time working mum juggles several portfolios at work; clocks in 12 - 13 working hours per day and still manages to find time for herself, her husband, her 12-year-old son and 10-year-old twin daughters.
But Mrs Teo is quick to point out that she is no super woman. Her secret: a team whom she can turn to for help when necessary.
“My husband is a very reliable person who will take care of bills, all correspondences and the weekly grocery shopping; I tend to be better at organising get-togethers,” said Mrs Teo, whose support network also includes her domestic helper, as well as other family members and friends.
Working couples, especially those with children, should always remember to take time out for each other.
“My domestic helper has been with our family for 12 years. She is resourceful and can be counted on to call the plumber, gas supplier etc when needed. Our parents, siblings and friends also chip in during emergencies.”
A typical workday for Mrs Teo begins at 8 - 9am and may not end until 9 - 10pm. Weekends are busy, sometimes more so than on weekdays. With such a hectic schedule, how does she “steal” time for herself and her husband and children?
“Don't steal at all,” she advised, “Do an honest day's work and plan your leave well in advance. Have good team relations and help each other out. Be disciplined about getting work done so you get proper time-out for yourself, spouse, family and friends.”
In addition, positive thinking can make a tremendous difference in the way a person views and manages his or her time. For instance, waking up earlier to send your children to school can be a sacrifice (getting less sleep) or a priority (spending time with your kids), depending on which side of the coin you choose.
Mrs Teo opts for the latter.
“I don't like to think of it as ‘sacrifice’. That kind of framing saps energy and I make a conscious effort to avoid it. Instead, I try to see it as a challenge to set clear priorities and to use my time more productively,” she explained.
It’s not all work and no play for this multi-tasking lady though. Mrs Teo chills out by the outdoor deck at her home, and makes it a point to squeeze in regular time-outs for herself and her family, because “anything that’s important should be reflected in your diary”.
So as not to miss spending time with family, it is good to mark out important dates and breaks in our diaries
For Mrs Teo, making a concerted effort towards work-life balance ultimately gives one a peace of mind, “When you are at work, you are able to concentrate because you know family matters are well taken care of. Similarly, when with friends and family, your mind is able to put work aside.”