During the past 12 years that I have been blogging, I tend to write about the fun I have with my three children - or monkies. I share about places we enjoy together, or the holidays we take as a family, or some of the funniest and poignant moments with them. I do this because quite simply, there is no other job in the world like being a parent.
Of course, there is always the other side of the coin because all parents are well aware, the exercise of raising children will forever be the hardest endeavour we will ever undertake in our lives. It IS hard work. But if you are a parent, you already know that don’t you?
One of the most common comments that my wife and I get from either friends or strangers is this:
“I don’t know how both of you do it with three kids!” Our response is usually to laugh it off and reply, “We just do it.”
Because to be honest, I have never given it much of a serious thought. I won’t lie; having a family with three kids can be busy and hard work – and even more so if you have more than three! It is crazily tough, but crazily super at the same time.
For us, parenting has always been a constant learning journey. Both the wife and I are working full time so the work, housework and school revision with the kids are NEVER truly done. And what this means is that for my wife and I: We cannot do it all.
So along the way, we have fine-tuned and made changes to the way we manage our and our children’s lives. And so, I thought I would share some thoughts on ‘how we do it’ – and hopefully, not scare you off in having your first child (or another).
I believe the first thing for parents to acknowledge is we are not super-humans. We all have the same 24 hours in a day so we have to rank our priorities. For me, I choose not to schedule any work appointments with my clients on weekends so as to spend time with my family. Sure, my income takes a hit but I guess that is a small price to pay in exchange for being there with my kids.
We learn to say "No"
Real people can't devote 100% to everything they do. So I always remember that I can respectfully decline offers to join the Parent Volunteer Group or serve on an extra committee at work. When you stop doing things out of guilt, you will find more time to focus on the activities that truly bring you joy.
We pick our battles
Having 3 kids means there are plenty of arguments, disagreements, sneaky jabs to the stomach or limbs, or even MMA-style altercations. And when it comes to mediation, there are always three sides to the story – your side, my side and the truth. Make that four sides since I have three kids.
But as schooled by my wife, the first thing that a parent has got to learn during parenthood is to pick one’s battles. Parenting can become a whole lot easier when you know which battles to pick and which ones to ignore. So now, I let the monkies negotiate and resolve differences on their own while I go make myself a cup of coffee.
We employ routines
What I love about routines is that it takes the thinking out of what to do next for all of us.We have pretty much drilled into our monkies what the main daily routines are like. So whether it is getting ready for school early in the morning, watching TV only after meals, or designated time to get changed and ready for bedtime, they know what has and needs to be done.
We accept help
Being a parent also means knowing the importance of accepting help. We are extremely blessed that my parents take care of the three monkies during weekdays so that we can go to work with a peace of mind. And sometimes on weekends when the wifey and I need to run some errands, we feel grateful that we have my parents-in-law to depend on as well.
But more than that, I am also grateful that my boss at my workplace places a huge emphasis on family ties. should we find ourselves unable to find alternative childcare arrangements on a particular day, we are free to bring our kids in during meetings to liven things up!
And while I would not say that money is the be all and end all answer to having babies, I would not disagree that any form of financial assistance helps. We benefited from the Baby Bonus Scheme for all of my three kids - back then, it was only $3,000 for the first child compared to $8,000 for the 1st and 2nd child and $10,000 for the 3rd and subsequent child!
The Child Development Account (CDA) where the Government matches your savings ($6,000 for 1st and 2nd child, $12,000 for 3rd and 4th child & $18,000 for 5th and subsequent child) over 12 years has also been extremely helpful for us. Besides using the funds to pay for the monkies' kindergarten school fees, the money also came in useful at hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and even optical shops!
And with the introduction of the First Step Grant in March 2016, newborns will receive $3,000 upfront into their CDA, without parents having to contribute anything first! Definitely a great 'starter kit' for all Dads and Mums. Do note, however, that the amount will count towards the existing caps, meaning first-time parents who receive the grant and then save $3,000 to their child's CDA will hit the $6,000 co-savings ceiling.
So yes, while every little bit helps - and the Baby Bonus Scheme did certainly helped to lighten our financial costs of raising kids in Singapore - how we have made it this far (and still remain relatively sane) is both my wife and I truly believe our monkies are a blessing, not a hindrance.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, we are genuinely grateful to have been blessed with three wondrous kids. Compared to someone who views children as troublesome, time and energy sapping, it will naturally feel more of a burden in having more children. But for us, we do not see them as an intrusion to our lives. Rather, it is more of a controlled chaotic joy and we make the most (and best) out of it.
At the end of the day, there is absolutely NOTHING out of the ordinary about the things we do. We are no different from you and your spouse.
Parenting IS hard.
We mess up.
We try again.
But we just do it. This is how life with children is.
And learning how to love it, is perhaps the most awesome aspect about it.
Check out what some other parents have to share - including me! - when it comes to ensuring a good work-life balance in the video below:
This post was written in collaboration with SmartParents.
For more tips on work-life balance, visit HERE.