Five years ago, I had a business opportunity that would require me to travel to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta for the greater part of each week. I felt it was something I should not miss.
One of the things that influenced my decision was the invaluable experience I would get working in a very different environment from what I was used to.
My son was nine years old then, but I felt that I would be happier if I took the opportunity, and my happiness would be important in my parenting endeavours.
I reckoned that my husband Ivan was very much a hands-on father who would take Alex to school as well as amuse him daily, so there was no second guessing myself.
Sacrificing my own career would have made me absolutely miserable and would have made me a lesser individual. I believe that children are a reflection of ourselves.
When they are happy, we have succeeded as parents. And if we are in a better frame of mind, we are in a much better position to resolve problems we may face. Nora Lim, 34, regional manager of a beauty brand, says that “being ‘me first’ to me means that my happiness is non-negotiable, because I really do believe that a happy mum produces happy children”.
So over the next four years between 2014 and 2018, it was #mefirst. I shuttled around Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. I saw my family just two days a week. The drill: gone on Tuesday, back on Saturday. The family was complete from Sunday for 48 hours before I had to fly off again.
Did I neglect Alex? I don’t think so. The weekends were well spent with him, and during the week, I would call daily to check on him – I could Skype him every day. Perhaps I missed hugging him, but weekends were especially rewarding, when I could finally do so.
It was also important that Alex should see his mother as an individual with every right to pursue her own passions and dreams, just as he would later in life as an adult. I wanted him to understand as a child that while he was important, he was not always the centre of the universe – even as an only child.
Priscilla Tan, 32, a director of coal trading, feels that children deserve the best version of their mothers, but support is required: “I’m not apologetic for meeting my own needs. Yes, I’m a mother. I’m human. [I decided to] enter the Mrs Singapore Planet beauty pageant last year, and the schedule was insane. When I talked to my husband about it, his reply to me was, ‘it’s okay, don’t quit, don’t do things halfway, don’t worry. I can handle the rest. You can do this’.”
Teh May Wan, 37, a veejay and actress, considers her own sound mind a priority.
“I personally feel that when I have some time to myself, I can become a better mother,” she says. “What really energises my soul is when I’m out with my best friends, having a nice lunch or a coffee or wine. It’s refreshing to have adult conversations, [and not just] ‘have you eaten, have you gone to the toilet, have you done your homework?’.”
So whether it’s adult conversations, career trajectory, or plain peace of mind, it’s okay to prioritise.
I feel that my decision to put myself first has made me a more well rounded individual.
It doesn’t make me any less of a parent. In fact, it has made me a better mother as I am happier and more fulfilled. Focusing on oneself is so important as it could lead you to where you want to go as a person and enable you to achieve your life goals.
It’s all #winwin.