Commentary: It will be a waste if parents don’t keep flexible work arrangements

SINGAPORE: “Papa, where are you going?” got here the small voice of my five-year outdated daughter as I placed on my footwear for work.

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The accompanied puppy-look made my response even more durable, however I informed her I needed to go to work. 

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“Why do you need to go work? Why can’t you continue to stay at home?” she requested.

I had this troublesome dialog with my toddler a couple of weeks in the past as I returned to the office only for a day after working from residence for greater than a yr.

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This scene should sound acquainted to dad and mom, particularly in latest days, when you’ve got needed to finish your work-from-home schedules to return to the workplace. 

From Apr 5, as much as 75 per cent of staff will be on the workplace, with no cut up groups wanted. The Authorities can also be encouraging public servants to come back into the workplace 3 times per week.

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Some employers, like mine, have allowed workers to start out coming again a couple of times per week – protecting a dedication to hybrid work preparations.

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Whether or not you had been returning for a day or extra, after an virtually full absence from the workplace, the adjustment appears difficult.  

And that is particularly the case for folks with youngsters – we have now been round them and so they round us for a yr.


Earlier than COVID-19, dad and mom needed to juggle spending full days within the workplace with parental tasks. It was arduous to carve out significant time with children after reaching residence after a busy day at work, to say little of all of the time we missed when younger toddlers and infants wanted extra sleep.

All day, we depend on the assist of home employees, grandparents and day-care centres to do primary duties: Studying, feeding, studying, homework, and extra.

Weekends had been uncommon, valuable moments with the brood – all whereas recovering from the robust work week and making ready for the approaching one.

MOE kindergarten

A instructor interacting with college students at an MOE Kindergarten. (Photograph: Ministry of Training)

Then, out of the blue, got here the circuit breaker. Out of the blue, dad and mom had been thrust into all this face time with our youngsters.

Admittedly, the preliminary adjustment wasn’t straightforward. Sustaining the identical semblance of productiveness at work, whereas giving our youngsters the eye they now anticipated from us was a talent not many people had.

I do know I struggled too. Within the preliminary weeks, I needed to shoo the youngsters away whereas attempting to concentrate on work. I needed to preserve reminding them to be quiet as a result of I used to be on a Zoom assembly and plenty of a time regrettably responded with irritation once they requested me to learn them a e-book, repair a toy or give them permission to observe a cartoon on YouTube.

However as routines and limits started to be established, I’d say, we discovered a candy spot.

READ: Commentary: It’s principally sociopaths who wish to return to the workplace

I slowly started to see the dividends of working from residence when it got here to spending time with my youngsters. For a begin, I may do the small issues that I may by no means do sitting in an workplace all day.

I may go and choose them up or ship them to high school.

I used to be there to tuck them into mattress, learn a narrative, put together meals as quickly as my shift was accomplished, reasonably than wait for another person to do it whereas I used to be heading residence, navigating peak-hour visitors.

In a latest information report, dad and mom interviewed stated they felt the identical manner. Marcus Wong, 40, informed The Straits Occasions that going again into the workplace extra days of the week means giving up on the pliability he has come to cherish.

“Each time I’m working from residence, I can prepare dinner for the household and we will eat earlier. It will be too late by the point I get again from the workplace,’’ stated Mr Wong who takes public transport.


Sure, this was fairly an unprecedented experiment. So many households tailored and it’s time to adapt once more, as we transition from residence to workplace. However how will we preserve the features we’ve made?

I realised that parenting earlier than COVID-19 was about utility – instructing care-givers to do that and that, arranging schedules for pick-ups and drop-offs.

READ: Commentary: Monitoring your youngster’s on-line exercise shouldn’t be accomplished covertly

However these previous months, it’s been about watching my youngsters smile and hug me once they see me (as an alternative of the helper) as they get out of faculty. Or snuggle up shut as we learn a bedtime story. I can take my time understanding that I don’t should rush by means of Goodnight Moon as a result of, properly, my workspace was in my examine.

It’s a side of parenting we don’t wish to lose simply because work-from-home might finish. We all know deep down inside this chance received’t final endlessly. 

wfh kids

(Photograph: Unsplash/Charles Deluvio)

As soon as they head to main faculty, particularly higher main, we is not going to have this luxurious once more as our youngsters spend a close to full day at school, at extra-curricular actions and hanging out with their associates.

We wish to maximise the time we have now with them in order that sooner or later we don’t lament over the missed alternative of constructing these bonds with them once we may.

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READ: Commentary: Kids from low-income households and the facility of ‘significant adults’

In fact, this additionally implies that as extra of us return to the workplace extra typically, our youngsters should get used to folks not being there for all of them day. And this will create some nervousness.

Anna Sutherland, then of the Institute of Household Research within the US, wrote “instability creates stress and can threaten children’s sense of security”.

“The pandemic led to abrupt and extended changes to families’ routines”, Jill Ehrenreich-Could and Dominique A Phillips of the College of Miami wrote in a latest article, “worsening mental health” among the many younger.

Two weeks in the past, my spouse and I attended a workshop on aware parenting by Psychological ACT, a community-based psychological well being non-profit, the place we learnt that having common check-ins with our youngsters through the pandemic is a obligatory train, and one which we might have to provoke by means of open-ended and main questions, to assist them make sense of the adjustments.

Surveys throughout the globe have proven that staff have come to benefit from the flexibility, the liberty and the time saved from commuting which working from residence presents them. Productiveness has not been compromised and households particularly are so a lot better off.

My hope is that employers will present their workers a versatile and hybrid work association in order that they’ll proceed to spend time with their youngsters, whereas nonetheless attending in-person conferences within the workplace as required.

READ: Commentary: How one can give suggestions to your boss with out moving into bother

I additionally count on that we comply with the spirit of the legislation and never the letter – if coming in 3 times per week is lower than splendid for a younger guardian, then maybe she or he might be given dispensation to come back in much less, as long as the work is completed.

For thus lengthy, being a guardian and an worker meant that one was impinging on the opposite. If COVID-19 taught us something, it was that we’re capable of do each in a a lot much less frenzied trend.

It will be such a waste if we can’t preserve these fantastic features – particularly the delight in your youngster’s face once they get to see mummy or daddy once they get off the varsity bus.

Malminderjit Singh is editor at CNA Digital Information, Commentary part.

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