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Advice from Working Mums

  1. #1
    mel_g20 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Stanley, Hong Kong

    Advice from Working Mums

    I would really appreciate some advice/feedback from mums who work, about what life is like being a working mum.

    I love my kids to bits, but I am becoming increasingly unfulfilled being a stay at home mum and think it is time to start thinking about what I need, which I think will mean returning to work mostly full time.

    I am however filled with significant apprehension that I do not believe my husband understands. My husband has a demanding job, and before kids I was quite career orientated. I have alot of worries about how I can be a good parent and give my kids a secure upbringing if I also return to work full time. On the otherhand I also need to be happy... so I would be really interested to understand what hours other working mums work, how they balance parenting with working, how they share the parenting with their husband with both parents working, how the kids are benefiting/or not.

    I have many many questions, but as a start I would love your feedback and to get a discussion going.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    starbucks2 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Hong Kong

    Hi mel

    I was in the same boat as you. Before kids I had a very demanding job and was working very long hours and a lot of weekends. I am a lawyer and although I knew I didn't want to push for partnership, I still wanted to achieve my goals and work hard at work.

    When I had my first child (now 2) I knew that I couldn't do the long hours and weekends anymore and nor did I want to. I love having my helper and she does a great job but I wanted to play a large role in bringing up my kids and I didn't need to work fulltime for the money (but did need to work part time for the money). I was VERY lucky in that my work was willing to help me create a new part time role for myself so that I could do 9 - 6pm three days a week. I am now on maternity leave for number 2 but am due to return to my 3 day role in April. I know that I need something else in my life and would go around the bend being at home all the time. Everyone is different but I feel I have worked hard at uni and then 10 years as a lawyer and I couldn't throw that all away (in my job it is difficult to take a long break and then return to it). Also, we have our own financial goals for being in HK and I need to work to achieve that. If I didn't work then it would not be worth it financially for us to stay in HK. So, even though I don't have much of a choice, I still enjoy the balance that I have with part time fulfilling work combined with 4 days at home with the kids. If I had not been able to work part time in my current role then I would likely not have worked despite the financial goals as I knew that a full time 5 day a week role would have been more than 40 hours a week (more like 80 - 100 hours a week at times - usually including weekends too) which was not conducive to having a role in raising my kids. If yours would be a regular 40 hour week and only 5 days a week (not weekends) then that makes a difference.

    My husband works flexible hours so is able to have a lot of input in the upbringing of our kids too so I am fortunate there.

    Since my kids are so young (2 and 8 weeks) they realise that Mummy is away (although my 2 year old is going through a real Mummy Mummy phase) so are fine with me being away. That may get harder as they get older.

    HK is at least a lot easier for childcare in that you can afford to have someone you know and your kids know to look after them in your own home. In my home country they would have to go to a creche and that would make it harder for me than leaving them at home.

    It is a big decision but I totally understand where you are coming from. Any other questions, please let me know.


    Last edited by starbucks2; 02-23-2010 at 11:39 AM.

  3. #3
    FutureHKmom is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    This is a really interesting topic which I have thought a lot about too.....I too am a lawyer who used to have a job where I was on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and working 80-100 hour weeks was the norm. But prior to my marriage and having my son, who is now 11 months old, I got out of that and took a huge pay cut to work in the non-profit sector - also doing legal work. In this new job, I work 9-6, Monday to Friday and really rarely do I have to take work home or work on weekends. I am lucky in that my work also has a great maternity leave policy and not only did I get 4 months off after the birth of my child but I also got to work reduced hours (9-4) until my son was 9 months old. If I was still doing my old 100 hour a week job, I don't think I would have continued working. I would not have been able to be a good mom if I had kept that job, I think. So one thing to consider when returning to work is whether or not you would be able to get a part-time job or if you can get a job where the hours are reasonable, flexible and where you can "turn off" when you go home to concentrate on your family. Unfortunately in many jobs in the legal and finance sector, you can't just "turn off" when you go home.

    People always asked me when I first returned to work if I missed my son (which is always a big issue for stay at home moms preparing to return to work) - and I will have to honestly say that I really had no separation issues and was even glad to go back to work because I really enjoy what I do. I think it helped a lot to know that I had a great nanny at home who I trust completely to look after my son. It also helped that I'm the one that changes his nappy and feeds him first thing in the morning before I go to work and I also knew that as soon as I got home, I would be the one to look after my son until he went to bed, so I did have a few quality hours with him each day. So I think that in preparation to go back to work, it is important to make sure that your have good child care options and you won't spend a lot of time worrying about what your child is up to while you are at work.

    However, as my son gets older and as he starts to go to school, I think I will have to re-evaluate whether or not I still want to continue to work. When my son comes home from school, I want to be the one he comes to with all the exciting news about what happened in school. I want him to come to me to ask questions about things he had learned at school. I think it is actually more important to spend more time with school-age children. But I guess I have another year to decide if I am willing to give up my work.....

    Anyways, it really is a big decision to make and a lifestyle adjustment. Good luck with your decision!!

    Last edited by FutureHKmom; 02-23-2010 at 01:30 PM.

  4. #4
    plumtree is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Hong Kong

    HI all

    This is a really interesting thread and it seems like there are lots of us in the same boat. I too am a lawyer with two children (2 yo and 4 months old) and am just back at work from mat leave. With my first one, I was fortunately able to renegotiate my role and have a 4 day working week , which was an absolute lifesaver as it means I don't have to work weekends.

    Mel, you don't say how old your children are, but I found it a lot easier once my 2 yo started pre-Nursery as I knew he'd be happily occupied for half the day and would be quite happy hanging out and playing in the afternoon. What I try to do is arrange playdates that my helper can take them to, and it also helps that my husband comes home earler some days of the week.

    I must say that the times that I miss being at home more are not the times when the kids are happiest, but when we've had discipline issues with the 2yo. My helpers are great, but one of them in particular had a tendency to spoil the children and the 2 yo was noticeably a lot more whiney when she was around. We have to work quite hard in ensuring that some basic house rules are adhered to.

    Like futureHKmum I think it'll become more important to be around when the kids are at primary school age and I'm telling myself that I have to work hard and save up so that I can step away from work then if need be!

    good luck!

  5. #5
    OX Jess is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Tuen Mun, Hong Kong

    It's an interesting thread and I'd also like to share with other working mums. I have a 9-month old at home, am a 1st time mother. Since I was pregnant I wish I could just quit my job and be a full-time mommy but the reality (financial reality) doesn't allow. Many people told me that I'd get bored/stuck with being with a baby all day and regret of losing my career. I have just spent 11 full days with my baby and I enjoyed every moment with him. I want more! Having said so, I won't hide the fact that it is indeed more 'exhausting' to look after a baby/toddler than working all day in the office. It's a lot happier to be with my baby.

    Well, I work full time, I leave the house at 7:30am and arrive back home, the earliest, 7:15pm. 12 hours away from my son five days a week. Sats & Suns are the highlights of my week cos' I can be with my son. My mum & dad help look after my son and I don't have a helper. I know my mom&dad would look after their grandson so well that I shall have no worries but I do miss my son awful lot!

    How do I balance career and child upbringing? I am lucky to have a husband who is willing to take care of all the household chores, as such I can pay full attention at looking after our son. Every evening I come home, I talk/cuddle/play/sing to my son while my husband does the cooking. I put my son to bed around 9pm~930pm so we have 2 'precious' hours with him every evening. Sat & Sun is lovely cos' I am literally spending whole day with my son and husband is given more opportunity to be with the son at the weekends. We take our son to a playgroup every Sat and we will have a family outing afterwards. Sun is normally spent at home or sometimes with relatives/friends.

    My son is supposed to be more attached to my mom (as my mom looks after him five full days in a week) but amazingly my son is actually very attached to me. I guess it's probably because I am always the last one he sees before he goes to bed and the first one he sees when he wakes in the morning. And I am always the one to comfort him or give him a big cuddle whenever he wakes during the night in tears or in distress. Whenever I am with him, I sing songs to him, play with his little fingers, tell him stories, massages him, feed him, change his nappy... I guess he likes mommy as his little Comfort Shelter.

    Physically speaking, it's pretty hard to balance working and parenting I must admit, unless I go to bed with him by 9:30pm. But how often can I really go to bed that early unless I am ill? The time after 9:30pm is the time either for me to catch up with the news, to read a book, or to share with my husband. I always try to go to bed around 11pm then hopefully I will have 7 hours sleep. Don't forget I need to get up before 6:30am to get ready for work. If my son sleeps though the night I can go to work the next day with pretty good spirits. Otherwise, like in the recent two weeks he wakes every two hours, I feel terrible in the morning and carry a stinking headache to work! It's really, really hard!

    I think it may make some difference on the daily routine when he starts nursery school?!? How does he benefit from having two full-time working parents? I don't know yet...and I will see...

    So far I think I make a fair balance between career and parenting. The key point I think is I do spend some quality time with my son whenever time allows. To sound a bit extreme, I spend all my non-working hours with him and pay all my attention to him whenever he's awake.

    I tend to agree that it is more important to be with your child when they start primary school till they pass their teenage. Those 10 years (from 6 ~ 16) is the crucial, in my view. But, the chance for me to quit my job and stay home is barely impossible, unless I win a lottery~~

  6. #6
    TheQuasimother is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Hong Kong

    I'm in the same boat as Ox_Jess unless of course we head back. But I have no family here so my child is left with a helper between 12-6 p.m.

    I could always head back to our home country. But, as I have learnt from many other women that I know, having your own career and financial independence is very important. And this is one of the best places (my workplace) I have worked in.

    I divide whatever free time I have between my child and my personal needs. I usually try to combine the two. We have Saturday morning mummy days... we head for breakfast just the two of us and hang out and chat. Every evening we spend about two hours together doing whatever he is interested in. Sunday is strictly family day. No computers, no TV just two parents and their child mucking around.

    Working in HK can be rough if you don't have an understanding employer. I work for one of the best. She understands when I need to take a sickie here and there or simply take time off to attend little things like my child's school picnic. In return, I do my best at work so that my department runs like a well-oiled machine. It's a give and take between my employer and I.
    Don't think about returning to work if you cannot find a company that will not support your family needs. I'm about to have No. 2 in Sept. and we are thinking of moving closer to work so that I can head home to breastfeed at lunch and bond for a little over an hour with my new bub after maternity leave is over. She knows that and has no issues with it. My boss has encouraged me to take as much time off as I need during this pregnancy. I truly appreciate how rare this quality is in an employer in HK. All my co-workers are supportive and are willing to take on some of my regular responsibilities so that I can have this 'HK baby'!

    Sometimes though, working and mothering can be overwhelming and on those days, I take a total time out for a few hours by myself with a girlfriend to have a meal or watch a movie.

    My husband works less hours than I do so is at home more often. So he does contribute quite a bit in taking care of our child. We don't need to split the housework as we have a helper. We take turns with the nightly reading, bath time, ... any daily routine that involves our child.

    It is hard to go back to work after having a child... but you get used to it and find a routine around the quirks of being a working mum. Having friends who are working mothers helps too as no one understands the trials and tribulations more!

    Sometimes it's sad that my helper hears about his bad day first. But, I make it a point to ring home everyday after his lunch to find out how his day went so that I don't really miss out.

  7. #7
    LeahH is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Hong Kong, Mid Levels

    Agree with Quasimother, working for a company that supports working mothers and offers flexible scheduling is key.

    I have two kids (11 months and 2.5 years) and work in banking for a global organisation that (has to be) commited to diversity.

    I agreed with my boss that I could re-engineer my working day to support my family needs. My role is global so much of my work is in the evenings anyway.

    I get in around 9.30 after putting the baby down for his first nap, usually take a short lunch or work through and leave at 5.45 latest. I have a black out zone from 6-8pm during which time no-one is allowed to call me. I am online again from 8.30 ish to finish work and take calls. Friday's I work from home, Tuesday afternoons from 3pm I also take off for a baby class.

    I am not working less hours, just differently - they definitely still get their pound of flesh!

    It was hard leaving both kids at first (a little easier with the second) but I do get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from my job.

    Having amazing helpers, a husband working flexible hours also, always getting the kids up / putting them to bed and keeping weekends strictly for family all combine to create a sense of balance for me.

  8. #8
    mel_g20 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Stanley, Hong Kong

    work life balance

    Thanks so much for all your replies.

    In my case my children are 3 and 5, my eldest is in the first year of primary and the youngest the first year at preschool. My ideal job would be parttime, however as I look around this seems to be highly unlikely. I am in Financial Services Marketing. So faced with not working at all my only option would be to apply for full time jobs. I am trying to look for something which will allow me a 9 to 6 day - but again I'll just have to see. You are right though that the company must be supportive of a work life balance.

    This still feels me with a tremendous sense of guilt and concern for my childrens wellbeing. My husband has a challenging job, and if I work would not be flexible to take on more responsibility for the children. In fact I know he doesnt want to. However being a full time mum is not something that I think is good for me. This would mean the helper would take on more, which I just find a little difficult. Not because I dont trust her, just because I think some things are a parents job. Unfortunately my husband and I dont not agree on this. If I wasnt living in HK then we wouldnt have a helper at all.

    I want to make sure my children have after school playdates with their friends and I worry that they will miss out if I am not there to meet other mums. It would be down to my helper to take them.

    I also enjoy dropping them of and meeting them from school, I find these to be special times. But maybe I need to think about this differently. Maybe if I work you something create other special times with your children? I dont know. Were you all apprehensive before you started work, and then found ways to make it work for you and your children?

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