For 25 years, she held two jobs to support her three children - working in an accounting firm during the day and teaching typing at night. Her husband also had two jobs, delivering magazines at night on top of working in a firm.
Madam Rajam Sadanandan's eldest daughter is now a lawyer, her second daughter is a civil servant and her son, the youngest, works with her at self-help group Sinda as a senior social work associate.
The 68-year-old administrative executive was given the Exemplary Mother Award for supporting her family in the face of difficulties. She is also pursuing a degree in general studies at SIM University and volunteers at West Coast Community Centre.
The annual award, first given out in 1993 by Jamiyah Singapore, honours mothers who contribute to society while raising their families in the face of difficulties.
Sixty mothers were nominated for the award this year.
After losing her father to a heart attack at 13, Madam Sadanandan juggled school with several jobs, including tutoring children in her neighbourhood, to help support her mother and five siblings.
"The responsibility fell on my shoulders and at the time, I didn't know whether I could really carry that," she said.
Her husband moved in with her family after marriage.
Though he was uncomfortable with the cramped living conditions, she insisted on taking care of her sisters.
"Until they got married, I could not leave them alone," Madam Sadanandan said.
She said her children understood they were not being neglected, but that their parents had to work constantly to make ends meet.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who presented the award, praised the efforts of mothers in balancing work and family, adding that fathers also had to contribute.
"With the enhanced paternity leave, I hope fathers will be more involved in family life, balance out the roles in the family and help to bring up the children together with mothers," said Mr Teo.