Working parents in Singapore have it tough, trying to juggle their responsibilities to both employer and children.
It gets even tougher with those raising primary school children, who usually need more supervision and handholding in their studies compared to teens at the secondary levels.
For those with kids taking their Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), the stress and tension get ramped up.
Parents try to aid their kids by buying assessment books and downloading worksheets to prep their kids better, and join in parent chat groups on WhatsApp, Telegram or Facebook to get an idea of how their peers are aiding their kids. It’s really a full-time gig by itself!
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For working mothers who take on the role of parent-in-chief when it comes to the kids’ academics, the juggling act can get wearisome, and ultimately, a career break may be the right choice.
Jacqueline Tok, 47, left her job in 2018 in the midst of a company restructuring, and then decided to take a longer career break to help her son prepare for his PSLE exams.
She shares her thoughts on the experience, as well as how she returned to the workforce below.
Jacqueline spoke to Workipedia by MyCareersFuture at the launch of Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) new initiative called “herCareer”, which brings programmes and information for women, as well as ensures they can be matched with the right jobs to meet their personal and professional needs.
What were you doing before you had a career break, and what was it like?
Jacqueline: Well, I was previously a senior executive in an international media company, and then during a restructure I left and then decided to extend the break to prepare my son for his PSLE exams.
The whole duration was over a year, and at first, admittedly I felt a bit lost, given my previous job was regional and pretty busy. After the initial weeks passed into months, it can feel like a bit of a dark hole personally.
At first, I picked up some new hobbies, but then decided to pursue a mini-Masters in Business Administration (MBA) as I thought it would be a great example for my son to be studying at the same time as him!
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What made you decide to end your career break, and what was the journey like returning to the workforce?
Well, thankfully my son did well for his PSLE, and after that, I told him it was time for me to go back to my own career.
He was really positive about it and said: “Sure Mom, go for it”, and understood that my taking time off from work was really temporary, to help him out.
But it wasn’t all peaches and cream in returning to the workforce, honestly. When I wanted to work again in late 2019, I couldn’t get an interview, despite sending over a hundred applications!
This is where a positive mindset is really important. In addition, getting lots of support from family members matters, and, also having the mentality to accept and let the help come when you need it.
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What kind of help aided you to get back to the workforce, and how did it end up being your new career?
Honestly, I hadn’t actually known about WSG and its various services before my own return to the workforce, and I found its online Career Connect and Career Matching Services really fantastic, on top of several other career advisory services.
I signed on and was attached to a career coach, who helped and mentored me during those tough times. But let’s face it, it’s definitely a partnership. In fact, I needed to work harder than my coach. He acts as a cheerleader for me in the dark moments when I doubted myself.
In hindsight, this journey has been amazing, and I’ve learned so much about getting out of my comfort zone. I actually became a WSG career ambassador in 2020, and a senior career coach myself six months later.
What I love about my work is I am in a position to help and uplift those who may be feeling lost and unsure as to what their next move should be.
I feel a lot for the “return-to-work mummies”, having been there and done that, and for all ladies who plan on returning to the workforce, don’t be afraid to explore and upgrade yourselves!