HoneyKids writer, Sheralyn has been quizzing her big sister, Shirin, about how she manages work and motherhood...without a helper!
Supermums aren’t always on the other side of mumstagram, sometimes they’ve grown up right beside you. As the youngest in my family, I’ve always looked up to my older sister, Shirin. While I was still in school, she sped ahead in the working world, and now she’s a full-time working mum. Having one kid is enough for some to cry ‘Uncle!’, but having two kids and three businesses to take care of? I’m biting my nails in secondhand horror…and I see her every week! Here’s how she manages the world of juggling full time work with full time kids: with no helper!
Despite being foisted with auntie-duties from time to time, she and her husband are usually carrying the shared load of work, house and kids. So I’ve finally sat down to ask her how on earth (and why!) she handles living life in the fast lane while still being a totally awesome mum.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a working wife and full-time mum to two cheeky monkeys (Natalie, who is 3 and half years old and Sebastien, six months old – who in real life are my actual bosses). I also run three businesses with my husband: an engineering company that manufactures oil and gas components, a distributor of engineering components and Scenze, an ecommerce platform for premium lifestyle products. Apart from handling HR and finance (and plenty of other behind-the-scenes work) in two of the businesses, I also head the Scenze platform.
Most mums have a helper, can you share why you decided not to hire one?
We travel a lot so it seemed like a better idea not to engage a helper!
With two kids, no helper and full-time work, how do you do it?
Natalie has been tagging along to the office since she was two months old. I would prop a breastfeeding pillow on my lap, sling a breastfeeding cloth over my neck and breastfeed her or let her sleep on my lap while I managed my emails and calls. Since our business started expanding overseas, our eldest has been travelling since she turned one. Her younger brother Sebastien, at just six months, also has a wealth of airplane miles under his belt. He’s even sat in on meetings!
When it comes to chores, my husband and I divvy up the work and I try to keep things organised. But every day after free play, our house is always a constant MESS (imagine a hurricane swept through a toy store). My mum and sister come over often and help me pick up toys (and debris) so I can find my floor again – thank you!
What’s the toughest part about being a full-time working mum?
Juggling motherhood and a business is hard. I often have to explain to Natalie that I’m talking to someone important, as well as explain to whoever I’m on the phone with to bear with the shouting/crying/screaming kids on my end of the phone. Thankfully, they usually understand!
I still have the ‘mom guilt’ which working mothers have. Sometimes I let my kids watch a little too much TV and eat a little too many sweets just so I can type out a proposal (in a record time of five-10 mins!). It’s definitely not an ideal situation and I always fantasise about being a full-time SAHM. However, work is exciting for me and I’m a self-confessed workaholic, and I don’t want to miss my kids’ major milestones either. So I do both even if it means carrying them the whole working day until my arm threatens to drop off.
What have you learned about motherhood?
Life was completely different before motherhood – motherhood is totally irreversible but absolutely packed with fun, love, cuddles, things your kids say and more poop and vomit than you could ever have imagined! I’ve never thought that I would be interested or worried about anyone’s poop until Natalie started potty training. I was so excited once she could ‘go’ on her own!
What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
Food and water and chocolate (not in that particular order). Essentials for a breastfeeding and naggy mum of a three year old and baby.
You mentioned you had to travel a lot. Where have you been so far?
We head to our Kuala Lumpur office at least once a month, Thailand once every three months to visit family, and Perth was our first family holiday as a family of four! Natalie has travelled to London, Manchester, Aberdeen, Sydney and the USA. We’re planning a work trip to the US and heading to Hong Kong for a friend’s wedding at the end of the year.
Sounds busy! But you call Singapore home, so what do you love about living in Singapore?
Having travelled all over the world, Singapore is one of the safest and cleanest place to bring your kids up. It’s the best place for kids to explore, learn and grow up. It’s also great that we have local experiences and local food from hawker centres which you can’t find anywhere else! Also, growing up with kids of different races and religions really helps our kids be more tolerant to others.
We also love to head to West Coast Park as well as our neighbourhood public library, malls and our local pasar malams (night markets) for cheeky snacks.
So, what’s next?
Enjoying my kids growing up!
Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:
Amanda Lapus Santos talks to us about how she juggles passion and parenting
Soek Ying Koh, mum to Ryan, founder of Mustard Tree, talks about having a son on the spectrum
Actor and dad, Shane Mardjuki tells us what life is like as a father of two
Same-sex parents in Singapore share their stories