Kids as priority doesn’t lower parents’ quality of work

[By Big C]

Kids are my priority, for sure! I mean seriously if they are not THE priority, what else is? Work is my means of giving them a better life, and okay, it’s a bonus for me because I love what I do at work!

Yes, perhaps I cannot be there physically as much as my colleagues because I really needed to be home to care for my sick child. BUT that doesn’t mean that the quality of my work is compromised!

In fact, I dare say that I am more efficient and effective than many others because I know I need to work fast and right in case I had to be away…

Yet life is not as what I hope it would be… here’s how my efforts are being washed down the drain…

Kids-as-priority doesnt-lower-quality-of-work

Since I started working full time at age 20, my entire life revolves around work, work and more work! Part of the reason is because I am a workaholic and I love what I do… but the other part is because I know that I am going to slow down and switch my focus once I have kids.

And I dreamt to be a young mum!

So for the next 8 years, I worked from 9am to 11pm pretty often, stretching to 1am too. I also took part time studying for 2.5 years. My social life was minimal. Thankfully I met my husband at work else I believe I would still be single now – married to my career…

Fast forward to 2012 – My first pregnancy…

I decided to quit my job and take a break to decide what’s next for me. By now, I was married for a year and still no news of baby. Not that we were trying to conceive consciously but by nature without contraception, I thought I would already be pregnant.

Then, something magical happened! Just barely a month after I resigned, I started feeling sick and hey, I AM PREGNANT! And I was supposed to start work like in 2 weeks’ time!

How am I going to tell my boss that I am pregnant on my first day of work?

Thankfully, after a frown and “why didn’t you mention during your interview?”, he smiled and said “welcome onboard”.

This pregnancy has been kind and though I had my tired days, it was considered smooth. I didn’t apply for early maternity leave and planned to work till the day baby decides to come! My colleagues and vendors all commented that I totally don’t seem pregnant and still so energetic and focussed on my work.

I think my focus on work also distracted me from all the pregnancy woes.

Fast forward to 2013 – Returning to work after maternity leave…

I remember checking my emails and trying to tie up loose ends during the first week after Big E’s born. In the end, Boss told me off and forbid from doing work because he felt that I ought to have complete rest and have my mind on my baby.

I felt comforted that I have such a understanding boss and my colleagues were kind too. But things were not quite the same after I returned to work. Staying on our own, without our parents nor any domestic helper, we couldn’t commit any time for work beyond office hours. However, being in retail, there are always situations where we were needed at store set-ups or events.

I just couldn’t commit to those duties anymore. I needed to reach the childcare centre by 7pm everyday and Big E really needed me. There were a few occasions where I had to stay and hubby brought Big E home on his own or to his mum’s place.

I could hear her crying non-stop over the phone…

I discussed with boss about changing my duties to more desk-bound but he said he couldn’t. In fact, he told me that he’s trying to groom me to be his right-hand man and I would be involved in management meetings with the Chairman and CEO. BUT he emphasized that means I would have to attend late evening meetings or even Sunday meetings. He shared with me how he also went through the phase before without any helper and then he said this…

You need to make a choice between your career or your kid.

The decision was clear and I didn’t need time to consider. I told him right there that I will tender my resignation. But I wonder… if he had wanted to put me in such an important role (even though my team mates were much more experienced in the department), doesn’t it mean that he appreciates my competence?

Fast forward to 2015 – My 2nd pregnancy…

Slightly before this, I was doing freelance work. My employer really enjoyed working with me and we were of same frequency. She appreciates my knowledge and skills, so she offered me a full time role.

I asked if I could have flexi-work arrangement, to have some days to work from home instead of office so that I could have time to prepare Big E’s food etc. Besides, there are centre closure days and her sick days that I need to take leave from work for. She readily agreed BUT the pay she offered by not based on my workload / work output.

Instead, the company only agreed to pay me based on my presence hours in the office.

Yes, they agreed to me working from home on some days but in actual fact, they don’t regard those as official working hours. They claimed that the per hour rate is much higher than their regular full time staff.

For income sake, I agreed but eventually I decided that it wasn’t worth it and we reverted to freelance arrangement again. Even when I had major bleeding incidents during this pregnancy and was rushed to the hospital for 5 times in ambulance, I continued to fulfill what I promised to do. I put in my heart and soul in everything I do at work.

Eventually I stopped even the freelance work after Small E arrived because I didn’t want to jeopardize work since newborn will definitely need a lot of my attention and care.

Fast forward to present…

After Small E turned 4 months, I took on a full time job again and I made my limitations very clear. I have no village to support me so if there is centre closure or my kids are ill, I will need to take leave or work from home.

It appears that I was given the flexibility but every time I asked to work from home, boss would give me a long to-do list with loads of ad-hoc work. For the record, I did do my best to fulfill what was expected of me but the team was under-staffed and I had to handle almost everything on my own.

Once again, all my efforts, output and achievement got washed down the drain just because I placed my kids as my top priority (in terms of physical presence).

When Small E was hospitalised, I was still working via my phone during the night.

Right now, I am in a much better situation where work itself is intense but I get flexi-work arrangement. Less stress and more recognition. But I am keeping my fingers crossed as I still feel judged for my absence. I feel that my achievement are also “discounted” because of that.

What I can do is only to work hard and harder to prove my worth!

What would you do if you were in my shoes? Comment below or email me to share!

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