Raising a Family: The Balancing Act of Child Care

Raising a family takes more than just love, time, effort and the monetary bits.

As a mother, the dream to strike a balance lingers. Just how do we achieve work-life balance, cater time to our family and other relationships, yet allocate time to nurture ourselves?

Now that we are on this parenthood journey, we understand the importance of having an ideal childcare support arrangement. As every family needs to work within the given situations, if you’re planning to start a family, don’t forget to plan about child care too!

I remember when we were pregnant with Vera – learning about our pregnancy was a huge joy for us! When reality set in, we had to be pragmatic and started to think about other factors, and one key question surfaced – who can we entrust our baby with while K and I were at work?

Mummy at work – who will care for my child?

Although I crave for time with both children, the SAHM (Stay at home mum) route was not really for me. Not very motherly, am I? :P

With one option down, our next was to consider family members who are healthy, able and willing to care for Vera almost 12 hours a day, 5 work days a week. Yes, childcaring is no mean feat, and having someone we could entrust our daughter with was a decision to make for a peace of mind!

The next best person would be my mum, except that she was working. So, I was really blessed that my mum agreed to help while making arrangement for her work. It’s not easy to look after a child alone, and thankfully, my mum’s helper was around to help with the chores, allowing my mum to bond with Vera or take a breather within the day. And for us, we knew she was in good hands and went to work without worrying endlessly. Before long, aches and pain came knocking on her aged bones and muscles, and we knew Mum would probably not be a long term childcaring option.

vera on crown pillow

Vera having fun at mamak’s home while daddy and mummy are at work.

So when we were pregnant with Leroy, our hopes of her helping with both kids flickered. True enough, mum waved the white flag during my third trimester and we had to work on an alternative plan. As much as it felt like the flame blew out, I also knew that we had been living on borrowed time – mum certainly needed her own life back, as she had helped with Vera for close to 2 years, which I’m full of gratitude for. Mum had always been working, while my sister and I were cared for by her sisters when we were little. For her to take a leap of faith as a grandmother took plenty of courage, and I know it’s only fair that she should spend her time the way she wanted, and returning to work.

Choosing a child care centre

While we had already been “shopping” around for childcare when we knew baby #2 was on its way, hearing stories of long waiting lists wasn’t encouraging (we are actually pretty late by normal standards!). When it comes to selecting the childcare centre, there were so many things to think about:

  • Proximity from home/work place/secondary childcare giver’s home
  • School fees – any subsidy in place?
  • Facilities and space: classrooms or open-concept?
  • Teachers and staff – turnover rates, current teacher-child ratio
  • Training and credentials
  • Curriculum and program
  • Parent-teacher communication – comms book, via App, newsletters etc.
  • On-site visit – always a good idea to check out the premises and observe how they handle meltdowns, look out for cleanliness or how cluttered the spaces are
  • Trusting our gut instincts

The child care centre is not a one-off arrangement for us, since our work schedules may be erratic at times, and someone would have to pick Vera and take her home. Proximity is our top priority for convenience sake, and of course the fees should not cost an arm and a leg. With waiting lists and fees beyond our budget for those childcare centres near our home, we ended up at a further childcare centre. At 23months old, we packed her off to her first “real” school, where she was there for a year. Here’s a handy checklist on what to pack in your child’s bag for child care.

Convenience and proximity are important for us

Fortunately, a new school sprouted recently, and we went through the process of deciding if we should switch. She had afterall, settled down really well (the initial months were a separate thing altogether! HA!), except for the inconvenience of shuttling her back and forth during work hours. Then we finally made the move to switch albeit a higher school fee, as it was so much closer to home without having to rush for school and work in the mornings. Anyone could take her out of school whenever we needed to, and my parent-in-laws would also swing by our place to help with both kids. Allowing the folks to spend time with their grandchildren, while keeping their minds and bodies active is definitely a bonus for all!

Being in a childcare means she gets to interact with her peers and adults, learn to develop her communication skills and build her character. Looking beyond academics (she’s only 3!), being in a conducive environment with the educators offers her the opportunity to build confidence, learn about social settings amongst others.

More importantly, she looks forward to school, and reminds us in the morning with “my friends are waiting for me, mummy! I want to go to school now!” Where did my baby go??

While it’s tougher on our pockets, working mums are entitled to $300 subsidy/mth for full day childcare and $150 for half day, so we’re thankful for every bit of support. Still, the need to earn an income is strong as a mum.

Singapore Budget 2017: child care support for families

With the Singapore Budget 2017, we learned that there are plans to increase the total capacity of centre-based infant care to 8,000 by year 2020, up from the current 4,000. With the increased capacity to support families with child care options, it’s a step towards easing their decision-making, if this is something they’re considering.

Perhaps the next step would be to make it more affordable for families, since child care fees multiply with the number of children (any bulk rate discount soon? :P). The number of vacancies  and locations of infant care/child care are equally critical when families plan child care support.

As parents, I think we understand our situation best. Settling for an arrangement that works well for the family is important so that “life goes on as per normal”. The emotional bit of things like trust, having another person care for your child, and the need to do things your way, are some of the (many) struggles that we have to manage. It’s hard (yes, I admit that!), but at the end of the day, some things just have to be done.

Embracing changes are also part of how things are, just like how my in law’s health will change. For now, we can only balance with our available resources, make the best of things and learn to “let go” or “close an eye” when needed. That would help free our minds, make us happier and become better parents too, pretty much the essence of this parenthood journey, isn’t it? Be strong, mama hearts! :)

Other information for families

Sharing some useful links that might help when it comes to choosing a child care for your children:

Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA): Information to child care in Singapore, locate child care centres near you etc.

Baby Bonus: Support from Government for families

Medisave Maternity Package: Medisave claims for gynaecologist visits/hospital fees for pregnant mums.

This article was written in collaboration with SmartParents.

What did you look out for when choosing the child care for your children? Do share with us!

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