Striving to balance work, life and raising kids

Civil servant Mrs Loh, with husband Melvin Loh, 34, and daughters Beth (left), three and Olivia, one. She hopes that those who take no-pay leave after birth will be able to remain in the same position they were in when they go back to work.
Civil servant Mrs Loh, with husband Melvin Loh, 34, and daughters Beth (left), three and Olivia, one. She hopes that those who take no-pay leave after birth will be able to remain in the same position they were in when they go back to work. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Civil servant Mrs Loh, with husband Melvin Loh, 34, and daughters Beth (left), three and Olivia, one. She hopes that those who take no-pay leave after birth will be able to remain in the same position they were in when they go back to work.
POLYTECHNIC STUDENT FAITH ONG, 19ST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE
Civil servant Mrs Loh, with husband Melvin Loh, 34, and daughters Beth (left), three and Olivia, one. She hopes that those who take no-pay leave after birth will be able to remain in the same position they were in when they go back to work.
MS AMALINA ROZMAN, 25, a creative directorST PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE

When Mrs Lindy Loh had her first child three years ago, she took four months of no-pay leave after four months of maternity leave.

When she had her second child last year, she took seven months of no-pay leave.

Both times, it came at a cost. The first led to an internal transfer while the second caused her position to be made vacant and ultimately led to her decision to move to a new job.

Her former employer had its reasons, she acknowledges. "I think it's fair... because there is work that has to be done. But it will be good to extend the (leeway) period so that mothers can remain in the same jobs if they want to," said Mrs Loh, 32, now a civil servant.

Millennials, from dating teenagers to young mothers such as Mrs Loh, say they face their own set of challenges when it comes to getting married and starting a family.

 

For one thing, expectations are different. Notes Ms Samantha Chin, a young adults specialist from Focus on the Family Singapore: "Millennials tend to want to 'have it all' - to be successful both at home and at work."

And while they are no different from their parents or grandparents in desiring the basics - a home, a job, a pre-school that will take good care of their offspring - what has changed is the nature of these needs.

LET NEW MUMS WORK FROM HOME

When I become a mother, at least that allows me to continue earning an income, and yet be near enough to look after my children.

POLYTECHNIC STUDENT FAITH ONG, 19. She said employers can offer options such as telecommuting or lighter workloads during the gap period.


STRESS FACTOR

Things are so expensive and salaries aren't rising as fast. It's stressful.

MS AMALINA ROZMAN, 25, a creative director.

So, for instance, today's young parents may no longer be satisfied with the run-of-the-mill pre-schools, but instead hanker for more expensive options such as Montessori schools.

And if they cannot meet the cost, homeschooling may even be an option.

Says Ms Nursheila Muez, 24, a research analyst: "Kindergarten education is so expensive now as competitiveness among parents to send their children to the best school increases. I might consider homeschooling as an option."

Millennials whom The Straits Times spoke to are striving to attain some measure of financial security amid the rising cost of living and uncertain economy and employment scene. Even as they struggle to find some form of work-life balance, they also feel pressured to raise children who could succeed as adults.

"Things are so expensive and salaries aren't rising as fast. It's stressful," says Ms Amalina Rozman, 25, a creative director.

But the silver lining is also that millennials are more adept at harnessing the latest technologies for greater convenience. For instance, polytechnic student Faith Ong, 19, says employers can offer options such as telecommuting or lighter workloads during the gap period. "When I become a mother, at least that allows me to continue earning an income, and yet be near enough to look after my children."


Measures being considered to coax couples to marry and have babies

1. Housing

Reduce the wait for Build-To-Order Housing Board flats

2. Childcare

Increase childcare spaces to two for every three children

Look for suitable spaces in buildings, such as underutilised carparks, that can be converted into childcare centres

•Attract childcare teachers through better pay and career planning, and elevate their social status to that of school teachers

3. Caring for babies at home

Match local nannies to those who need them

Train maids to look after babies

4. At the workplace

Get employers to offer flexible work arrangements and promote work-life balance, with the Government taking the lead as an employer

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Striving to balance work, life and raising kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe