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Why Having Time Freedom Is One Of The Best Gifts We Can Have As Working Mothers

No easy feat

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I have a confession to make. I am in a relationship with my boss.

But before you jump, let me explain.

We were polytechnic classmates and we started dating shortly after graduation, right before he enlisted for National Service. Back then, DollarsAndSense didn’t exist.

I got married in 2014 and joined DollarsAndSense full time in 2016. Today, I lead the commercial team at the company.

One of the few questions I am always asked is, “how is it like working with your husband?”

My answer is that it really is not all that different – I have the same hopes and expectations for my job, as I would with any other company. And these are similar to what most people would want out of their jobs. We want to work for a good company, have great colleagues, earn a decent pay, (ideally) be passionate about our work and for working moms, time freedom.

Why Time Freedom is Important For Working Moms

You would have heard of the adage: ‘We all have the same 24 hours in a day’. Now, this typically suggests that how much you can achieve in a day is a function of good time management and allocation.

But here’s the thing. While we all have 24 hours a day, it may not always be up to us to decide how we choose to spend it. Demands on our time can be relentless and this is perhaps why some mothers decide to leave the workforce to be stay-at-home moms (SAHM).

Read Also: 5 Financial Planning Questions To Consider Before Taking The Plunge To Become A Full-Time Stay-At-Home Parent

To be clear, being time-strapped isn’t just an issue that moms contend with. Dads also have the same problem. But speaking from the perspective of a mom, I think it’s not uncommon to feel maternal guilt whenever we don’t think we are spending as much time with our children as we should, and sometimes, it’s our career that is the trade-off.

How The Pandemic Has Shuffled The Role Of Working Moms Like Myself

Before the pandemic, my jobs always required me to be in the office.

However, since the adoption of work-from-home (WFH), this is no longer the case. With the ability to work from home, I now have more control over my time, allowing me to do some of the things that only SAHM could previously do such as having breakfast with my children at home, sending and picking them up from school and having conversations with them through the day.

By now, most working professionals will know that WFH doesn’t magically solve all the challenges we face at the workplace. These could include heavy workload, last-minute project deadlines and hours spent at meetings that are still part and parcel of working life.

However, while we are still limited by the same 24 hours everyone has, what WFH has given us, working moms, is the ability to choose how we wish to spend our time at certain hours of the day, as opposed to having it being dictated by official office hours.

For example, I now have the flexibility to take my children out for an impromptu swim in the afternoon and continue working later in the night after putting them to bed.

For some, this may seem like no big deal. But for me, and I suspect – many working moms, these little pockets of time with our children mean a lot.

Why I Decided I Was Going To Be A Working Mom

Being financially independent was instilled in me since young. To me, being financially independent doesn’t mean having investments or rental properties so that we don’t have to work anymore and still have passive income. Rather, it’s being independent in being able to provide for my family and me.

I grew up with this mindset and learned from an early age the importance of working hard. My first part-time job, at age 14, was at MOS Burger making burgers, clearing tables and mopping the floor. I stopped taking an allowance from my parents after secondary school and saw myself through polytechnic and university.

And after my older daughter joined us when I was 30, one of the decisions that I made for myself was that I would continue working.

Often, many of my girlfriends who are SAHM make a conscious decision to stop working and look after their children. However, what I think is often overlooked are moms who also make a conscious decision to continue working after having children.

Choosing to be a working mom isn’t an easy decision, just like choosing to be a SAHM isn’t easy either. The stereotype usually falls into two categories – that 1) working mothers prioritise other areas of life over their children and 2) are working because they need the money. Both are untrue.

As parents, our children will always be our top priority over most other things in our lives. Choosing to work hard as a working mom doesn’t equate to prioritising work over them, anymore than a SAHM choosing to spend some time away from her children to do volunteer work or take an upgrading course to improve herself. Fulfilling our responsibility as a mom doesn’t mean having to be physically there all the time for them.

Nobody should be working for free. However, this doesn’t mean that everyone is working only for money. As far as possible, we should enjoy the work we do, the people we work with, and the relationships that we get to build, both professionally and personally, through our job.

My job exposes me to many things around the world, and gives me a natural place to learn, understand my strengths and weaknesses as an individual, and the (paid) opportunity to improve. Like how I make that conscious decision to continue working after having our children, I do also make sure that I cater enough me-time to rebalance my lifestyle, as simple as an extended lunchtime yoga/pole dance class (when I’m not pregnant), teatime dates with close friends or taking annual leave to go on a short solo vacation.

Of course, working comes with its financial advantages. It’s easier to afford luxuries like private transport and impromptu holidays, but this is not the same as saying that the motivation to work is so that we can buy a car and travel overseas every year.

Being A Role Model For My Girls

With two girls and a third one on the way, being a role model to my children is something I take seriously. Though it won’t be easy, I want my girls to grow up knowing that they can have the best of both worlds – that they can enjoy their careers, be financially independent and be mothers who can spend the time they want with their kids.

As someone married to a husband whose job revolves around understanding finance, it’s easy to think that I can leave all the financial decisions to him. I could do that, but I don’t think it’s ideal.

The analogy I will use here is that of a co-pilot.

When we get married, we decide to get onto the same plane. Most commercial planes have two qualified pilots – a captain and a first officer – and for good reasons. If the captain is incapacitated, at any point in time, the first officer is more than capable to step in to steer or land the plane safely, and vice-versa.

Likewise, I too want the assurance that matters of finance and wealth are not foreign to me.  Particularly so, as I have my children’s future to consider.

Choosing To Be Involved In The Family Finance

That is why I choose to be involved in understanding our family finances, such as how much emergency savings we have, the insurance coverage we have bought for ourselves, the loans we have, our CPF savings and the investments we have made.

For us, managing the family finance isn’t as straightforward as it used to be when we first got married. As my husband is an entrepreneur, we need to make plans to ensure our family won’t be financially affected if the business fails. This means agreeing and ensuring that we have sufficient emergency savings, both on hand and in our CPF savings accounts, that can be relied on if any of us lose our jobs. We also do our tax filing together each year to optimise for tax savings as a family, rather than as individuals.

On a personal level, I have my own savings accounts where my salary is credited towards into each month. I also make it a point to invest on my own, as opposed to just relying on my husband to invest for the family. And since the home that my family lives in today is under my name, I am responsible for the monthly mortgage.

Being married to a spouse that has similar life goals helps a lot, but it doesn’t mean I need to be fully dependent on him to make all the financial decisions for us. While my financial plans for my future are done with my husband, it’s important for me that the plan we have made still works, even without one of us.

By choosing to be involved in the family finances, I have the confidence of knowing that if my husband is unfortunately not around, my girls and I will still have our home that we can continue living in, with sufficient coverage to continue living life normally. I also know that I can be financially independent in supporting them without requiring external support. It’s not ideal, but we can always make lemonade if life throws us lemon.

For any working moms, managing our time and money well is vital for us to enjoy the best both worlds – have the time to build the relationship we want with our children, while still being financially confident in our ability to provide for them today and in the future.

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