Balancing Work & Life - GovTech mums reveal how they do it.
Work-life balance: it’s something we all strive for. For the parents out there, it’s a goal that is all the more challenging as life consists of young ones that depend on them for care and love.
With Mothers’ Day around the corner, we spoke to three GovTechies who are moms – Pradeep Kaur, Lydia Lee, and Ruth Cheng – to hear what they have to say about raising kids while having a fulfilling career.
Our GovTechies Pradeep, Ruth and Lydia share how they juggle their families and career in this Mothers’ Day Special! PHOTO: GOVTECH
First off, tell us more about what you do at GovTech?
Pradeep: I am a Digital Service Manager, and that entails leading a team of project managers and business analysts to deliver ICT solutions for agency’s business requirements. I was in- charge of Corporate & Common Applications and Cloud Adoption programme at Ministry of Manpower and my team managed systems like messaging platforms, data exchange gateway, corporate systems and also tracking & supporting other MOM teams in cloud migration.
Lydia: I market and communicate the benefits of GovTech’s products through media, social media, and other platforms that are most suitable for our target audiences. I’m currently working on SafeEntry’s range of products such as SafeEntry QR and the TraceTogether Token, as well as the National Digital Identity suite of services like the Singpass app and MyInfo.
I am quite excited when we get to work with our product teams to design and launch a product and receive feedback from the users. It’s really an end to end process.
Ruth: As an Engagement Manager, I engage with government agencies to help their stakeholders discover how Video Analytics can enhance their agencies’ operational capabilities and efficiencies .It’s extremely meaningful to use video analytics to level up on their operational capabilities. I also find it very inspiring to work with very brilliant-minded individuals in the team and feel proud that the cutting edge technology they build can benefit agencies and citizens!
One of my most recent projects is also in collaboration with the Singapore Food Agency, where we used AI technology and image analytics to automate the laborious counting of rotifers (fish food) so that fish farms become more productive.
Speaking of the Covid-19 situation, how has GovTech supported you during this time of change and uncertainty?
Lydia: My reporting officers and teammates are very supportive of our family-first priority. That said, we have a lot of trust and confidence in one another to deliver our work on time and cover for each other when any of us have a family emergency.
Ruth: I joined GovTech amid the circuit breaker in 2020 and I was really blessed to have great teammates and bosses who were juggling similar work and family demands as well and hence incredibly understanding of the challenges that I face. We do share parenting tips at times and covering of workload in situations where we have to apply for leave of absence due to family matters.
Pradeep: Times were challenging for MOM with the Covid-19 situation. However we worked together and managed to tide through the difficult period by supporting each other. We made it a point to be respectful of each others’ family time and setup meetings or discussions accordingly.
Earlier this year, I also went on No Pay Leave for a year to help my younger daughter with her PSLE next year. My bosses were supportive of this request.
So, how would you describe yourselves as mothers?
Ruth: Sometimes I feel like I’m an OBS (Outward Bound Singapore) instructor with my kids. I’m very hands-on in giving guidance to their daily routines (habits, manners etc). I also care a lot about helping them to discover their own strengths and leadership potential. I tend to be more adventurous so I usually plan outdoor activities on weekends to destinations less trodden in the hope of building their own resilience and teamwork between siblings.
Pradeep: I try to spend as much time with my daughters as I can. I love to hear them chat about their day. My husband and I jointly coach them, be it their studies, assignments, playtime or any other advice they need from us.
Recently, we also started taking evening walks as a family and it turned out to be a great stress buster for me. Watching the sun rise at Pasir Ris beach during the weekends is now one of our favorite activities.
Lydia: I feel like I’m the commanding officer to my kids sometimes and other times, I’m also their friend. We don’t have a domestic helper, so I encourage my kids to do simple chores (e.g. folding their clothes, keeping their toys) and on weekdays, I manage my kids’ homework and prepare them for school the next day.
On weekends, my husband and I encourage our kids to play hard. With two boys, we try to exhaust their energy by bringing them out to explore different parks, playgrounds, beaches and to try different sports (e.g. badminton, cycling, scooting). I enjoy trying out different activities, so it helps that I have an added excuse (my kids) to spur me on.
What are your top tips for moms to achieve balance between work and kids?
Lydia: There is no such thing as a perfect mom. Parenting has this steep learning curve that you will never get ahead of simply because every child is different. It’s important to manage your expectations. Surround yourself with people/ parents who are like-minded and don’t make you feel bad. It’s important to have people who encourage you and lend a helping hand when you can’t do it yourself. That sanity check helps to keep me going.
Ruth: Yup, it’s important to manage your own expectations of your kids – kids will be kids so do expect a lot of hiccups and detours along the way and just go with their flow at times. Also, if you feel burned out from motherly duties, it’s not wrong at all to switch to the reverse gear and take a break (even when you’re inclined to push on further). Your kids and work can afford to wait while you catch a breath and get your sanity back on track.
Yes, kids have a way of derailing the best-laid plans, in a good way! Any funny incidents like the BBC Dad that you can share?
Ruth: My younger son was having a high fever one night so I stayed up for the night to take care of him. The next morning, I felt extremely tired from staying up all night but I had to power through and get myself ready for a conference call in the morning. In the midst of the call, my younger son opened the door, walked into the room and brightly announced (while I was unmuted), “Mummy thank you so much for taking care of me last night. I feel better already. Love you.” I felt a little embarrassed that my colleagues heard his little love declaration, but I was honestly very touched by his words.
Lydia: I was on a con call with a few directors and I accidentally dropped off the call. When I signed in, I was unmuted and one of the directors asked “does anyone else have any comments?”. No one said anything for a while. Then my 2 year old proudly declared, “I’m here!”
Pradeep: My daughters haven’t really walked in on any of my calls, but during work from home, they’ve watched me taking call after call. One day they asked me, ‘Do you ever work or do you just talk to your office friends all the time?’
Finally, can you sum up the joys that come with motherhood?
Pradeep: Time I get to spend with my daughters, I find it very precious. I enjoy seeing them doing everyday stuff, learning and growing with it. When I hear from teachers about my daughters being very kind and helpful, I feel contend and proud. Their love is unconditional, and I find it hard to describe the joy of motherhood in words.
Lydia: I am very blessed to have two healthy boys. Watching them grow up, learn new things about the world, explore and just be kids bring me so much joy and happiness.
I’m probably biased, but I feel that boys are also especially sweet and affectionate to their mothers. I love it when they shower me with handmade gifts (with no special occasion), hugs, kisses and lots of cuddles.
Ruth: My joy is seeing my kids trying their best to learn, hearing them say “I love you mummy”, being the first person they run to when they’re down, also being their first person they run to when they’re excited about something, knowing that I am my kids’ universe, and knowing that they are my universe.
Kudos to all mothers who wear many hats in their daily lives and for keeping a strong front before your families and your colleagues. This feat wouldn’t be possible without their allies - fathers, grandparents, leaders, managers, co-workers etc. - so a big shout-out to you too!
At GovTech, we support our female colleagues where we can. This year, we have established a Women in (Gov)Tech Employee Resource Group (ERG) that would introduce more ground-up programmes and initiatives to support the attraction, development and retention of female talent within and outside of GovTech. Learn more about the establishment of our first ERG as part of our commitment to the SG Women in Tech Corporate Pledge here.https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/balancing-work-and-family-life