By JoBeth Williams, BMSG Staff
Deciding to Work from Home
I’m a work-from-home mom, or WAHM. I quit my job a few years ago because my older daughter was not adjusting well to me going back to work. Truth to tell, I probably wasn’t adjusting well myself, so it seemed like the only option was to stay home with her for a little while. The funny thing is, I quit my job at the end of the year, and unexpectedly found myself pregnant with my second baby by February!
Thankfully, I had always wanted to take a long break to stay home with my kids, so I took the opportunity to fulfill my dream. I’m glad that I have a supportive husband who also thinks that it’s a good idea. I ended up looking for some work to do while at home so that finances wouldn’t be too uncomfortably tight, and was lucky enough to find some great work arrangements. While it has been really wonderful to have that flexibility and freedom to arrange my work/life schedule, it also means that I have to work with my younger one home with me during the day.
The WAHM Schedule
My working day can get quite hectic because with my little one around, she basically doesn’t allow me to work at all! Almost every day I end up working late into the night, sleeping at 1 to 2am, so that I can work uninterrupted. I find it much easier to get into work mode at night when the kids are in bed. I think a lot of working mothers can relate to this especially after COVID-19 when everyone was stuck at home. It’s virtually impossible to do anything when you have a child (or children!) to manage all day long.
Managing Breastfeeding While Working
I nursed my older daughter until she was 3 years old. My younger one will turn 3 in November and doesn’t look like she will stop nursing anytime soon, though we have been trying half-heartedly to night wean. The good thing about online video conferences is that I can nurse discreetly even while in virtual meetings: it’s either I switch off my screen for a little while or I just nurse her out of the scope of the camera. I can also toggle my camera and/or microphone off for a little while. It helps, of course, that I have understanding colleagues but I think after Circuit Breaker (CB), lots of people have become a lot more tolerant about accommodating small interruptions and disturbances since we are all in the same boat.
It’s great that this time, with my second child, I don’t have to bother with bottles because it was really tough with my firstborn. She rejected bottles until she was nearly 11 months old and was happy to go without a single drop of milk the entire time I was away at work during the day. I ended up donating litres of frozen milk, and watered my chilli plant with thawed milk that my daughter simply refused to touch (I couldn’t bear to pour it down the drain). I was a teacher then, and we didn’t have a pumping room in my school. It was really tough for me so I am really thankful for MP Louis Ng’s initiative that has led to more schools installing lactation rooms for nursing mothers over the next three years. Back then, I ran out of options and places to express milk. I was asked to express in the meeting room (which had a window in the door AND full glass wall, by the way), but people kept trying to come in and I felt like I was hogging a work space. In the end, I resorted to simply pumping at my table under a cardigan, in full view of everyone, because it was an open-plan office. Luckily, I had really supportive colleagues, many of whom were parents themselves.
It’s certainly not as easy as it seems, being a WAHM, because it feels like I’m working a double shift every day – my day shift is mothering and my night shift is my work (which of course is also occasionally interrupted by a restless toddler). But this arrangement grants me the freedom to take my kids out during weekdays and enjoy spending time and doing fun things with them. I’m not ready to go back to the office just yet!