Run a Company or Raise a Child? Why Singapore Makes It Very Possible to Do Both
Roshni Mahtani, Group CEO, theAsianparent, shares why this is possible
10 years = 4 years
+ = –
32,000,000 = 250 = 1
No, my math is not horrible but these equations ring true to me every day.
10 years = 4 years
I’ve had my company for a decade, and my daughter Shan is 4 years old.
+ = –
I earn with the former and spend for the latter.
32,000,000 = 250 = 1
theAsianparent reaches 32 million women monthly and has 250 employees; while my Shan is one tiny person – yet I will always feel equally responsible for them all.
The equations don’t seem to make sense, but to be honest, neither does much of motherhood. What we know for sure is that our love for our children is the strongest force on the planet. So when it’s pitted against our drive to succeed, we find ourselves battling a war within.
Working mums plough through this guilt every day, wishing for more time with their kids, worrying about them while at work but also worrying about work while at home. My advice in dealing with this personal struggle: Know that you are a good mum. The first step is recognizing what you’re already providing your kids.
As a CEO and mum in Singapore, I’ve recently taken stock of what it is I’m able to provide Shan. And I’ve realized, it’s a lot:
Back to Basics
Good, clean air. Barring haze season, children in Singapore are able to breathe in fresh air. This keeps them from falling ill both in the short and long term. Best of all, it’s free for everyone.
There’s also the luxury of knowing our kids are always safe. I’ve been to places where fear fed my parent paranoia. When I am in Singapore, kidnapping, abuse from caregivers, and hazardous spaces for children are distant concerns for me. Our strict gun laws and drug laws have helped keep the crime rate low and my worries at ease. In stark contrast, these same things are very very real concerns for many mums in other parts of the world.
Yes, Even CEOs Love Free Stuff and Cheap Thrills
With the COVID-19 work-and-study from home situation, it has been challenging making sure I am productive at work while my daughter remains engaged. On top of the online school sessions, we have her attend multiple free storytelling sessions, including the never-been-missed daily ones by the National Library Board that has a permanent slot in our daily schedule. We have borrowed so many children’s books to keep her occupied while learning.
Even though the line between weekdays and weekends has blurred, I make it a point to make weekends my make-it-up-to-my-daughter days. Adhering to the government regulations, our outdoor adventures are now limited to the nearby park or grocery store. Being confined at home most of the time, playtime these days involve a myriad of arts and craft projects - from 3-ingredient slime without borax to making a house out of ice cream sticks.
There are so many interesting activities and complementary resources for children that are available online. We also try our best to limit screen time for Shan, so I am thankful that this period has given me more time to become a more hands-on mother.
Our Kids Are Set on the Path of Global Citizenship
When it comes to education, what I love about our preschools is that there are so many types, and you can choose which is best for your family. For Shan, we want her to grow up feeling truly Singaporean, and able to speak its many languages. We speak English at home; she learns Bahasa from our helper and Hindi from her grandparents. Shan goes to a fully-immersed Chinese school where they speak only Mandarin, and she’s been dishing out cultural facts to us, like why we do yu sheng or give ang pao.
Also, how convenient is it for us to sign up for affordable enrichment classes at our community centres – everything from ballet to Wushu to art class? My daughter takes tennis lessons at something like 10 SGD per session!
25% of Our C-Suite Is Female
This fact about women in the workforce is from Anu Madgavkar, Partner at McKinsey Global Institute, in The future of women in Asia’s workforce on McKinsey.com (August 2019). Comparatively, she mentioned that in Japan and India, that number dips to 4% and even lower.
Coupled with career opportunities for working women are excellent childcare options. I am fortunate to have an FDW for Shan. And having worked in other places with my little one in tow, I appreciate that our childcare centres are open from 7am to 7pm (or beyond). Even when I have 10-hour workdays, I can still be the one to drop my daughter off and pick her up.
Many of our childcare centres also open from 7am to 2pm on Saturdays, so when I’m out late for meetings on Fridays or have simply reached my limits of exhaustion, I can have some time to recharge on the weekend, letting me be the best mum (and not mumster) I can be to Shan. Operating hours may seem like a trivial detail, but these extra hours – in fact, every minute – truly count for working mothers. So does every cent of financial aid in the form of Baby Bonus, Parenthood Tax Rebate, Working Mother’s Child Relief, and even Grandparent Caregiver Relief!
theAsianparent offices are kid-friendly; and whenever Shan visits, I can’t help but envision her bright future. After she’s had an awesome childhood – one where she’s safe and healthy, has learned about different cultures, spent quality fun time with family surrounded by books and nature, and finally found the best ice cream in Singapore – she’ll be joining the ranks of successful Singaporean women, with a very proud and grateful mum beaming right behind her.
This article is written in support of Made For Families.