If there’s one thing Malaysia probably isn’t known for, it would be parental benefits. Most companies still offer new mommy employees the standard 2-month maternity leave, and only 3 days for new daddies!
In other news, new mummies and daddies in Iceland get 5 months paternal leave EACH, whereas parents in Netherlands can choose shorter working hours while keeping their job, pay, health care and pro-rated benefits, so they have more time to spend with their children.
But just recently, Maybank became the first bank in Malaysia to offer a maternity leave of up to 365 days! This makes us feel like they’re breaking new grounds, and hopefully – just hopefully – Malaysian parents would be able to enjoy refreshed privileges to better juggle their career, family and home. As for now, less than 30% of Malaysian companies even offer flexible work arrangements! Aiyo.
But there’s always more help available 🙂
It goes without saying that finding a right balance is not easy. It takes a lot of discipline and determination, so every parent needs a little bit of help from time to time… and help is exactly what our friends at Go Shop want to offer.
While there are plenty of e-commerce sites out there offering products from skincare to electronics, fashion to household products, Go Shop has taken it a step further by re-inventing TV shopping which our parents went mad over in the 90s. It’s a 24-hour home-shopping TV channel (on Astro CH118 and CH303) with demos by real Malaysian hosts, and has a toll-free line where Personal Go Shoppers will help answer your kepoh questions and even help you place orders. But yea la of course they have a desktop site and mobile app to cater to those who are constantly on-the-go.
But sometimes, even tools can’t outsmart the ingenuity of parents. We asked working Malaysians to share their little strategies on how they manage, and here’s what they told us:
1. Gang up with other parents to let your kids run (and lose all energy)
It can be pretty annoying when you find children running around and screaming, but as parents, didja know that it could actually be pretty helpful? Sounds counterintuitive, but Chee Lam explains:
“On some weekends, my parent friends and myself take turns to “babysit” the children since they are all friends. We have a little playground in our condo, so the children can run around and play, scream to their heart’s content, and enjoy themselves.
By the end of the session, they will shower in our house before being picked up by their own parents.
The best part is… once they enter the car, they will fall asleep all the way till the night because they’ll have no more energy.” – Chee Lam, Software Developer, father of 3 children aged 7, 4 and 9 months
He adds that by taking turns to do this, each parent gets to enjoy the full afternoon to themselves to catch up on housework or to spend some quality time “dating”… even if it means just catching up on an afternoon nap.
2. Freeze your meals in advance
Cooking can be pretty time consuming – it’s 40% preparation, 40% cleaning up, 10% eating, and 10% actual cooking. Oh and don’t forget the marketing! So if you’re up at 5am to prep for your kid’s school, then headed off to work at 7am, coming home after a long day at 7pm, how are you still able to fit cooking a healthy, home-cooked meal for your family?
“Prepare the things you want to cook over the weekend. Sometimes I cook extra and freeze the food so that I can reheat them when I’m too tired.
Or tapao from your parents house on Sunday, so that you can eat them on Monday, hahaha.” – Azleen, Account Manager, mother of 3 children
Well that’s perhaps the most useful tip for anyone – especially college students!
‘Freezer meals’ (above) are increasingly popular, since all you need to do is to prepare the ingredients, freeze them, and use them as and when you want to. Better yet, cook a big pot of chicken curry or bolognese and portion them according to the number of people in your household. Before you leave for work, pop it in the fridge to defrost and by the time you get home, it’ll be ready for the stove and your tummy.
Then again there are many other ways to make cooking efficient, like throwing everything into the slow cooker before you leave for work, or using a double-boiler that fits 3 pots so you can cook several dishes at once.
Azleen adds that most importantly, parents need to accept the fact that they’ll never be perfect, so just do as much as they can with what they have. “I may have a messy house and a mountain of clothes to be folded, but aiya just chill la,” Azleen says.
3. Play housekeeping… with your KIDS
As a parent, what do you do if your work demands a lot out of you, till the point you even find yourself overnighting in the office? Like Kim, you bring work home, or even to a cafe that’s kid-friendly (like Marmalade) so you can complete your work while they play within earshot or sight.
But with her husband working outstation and only home once a week during the weekdays, and an ill mother (who also helps care for her kids when she’s at work), Kim definitely needs all the assistance she can get…. and that’s where her little ones come in.
“I also teach my children to do light housework. They are only 3 & 4 years old.
They are trained to pick up their toys every evening to be kept neatly away before they sleep. I also bought one of those easy magic mops so they can mop the house once a day.
It’s not a perfect job but it helps in keeping the house neat and tidy – they have fun using up their energy while learning survival skills and reducing the housework for us working adults.” – Kim, Marcomm Manager, mother of 2 children aged 3 and 4
Wah bestnyer! B-b-but what if the kids don’t wanna help out? Well we found a few creative ways for parents to motivate their kids to do house chores without having to nag. We’re not so sure about the withholding-WiFi-password strategy cos we’d lose our minds, but our favourites are making it a competition (e.g. ‘how many toys can you put back in 60 seconds?’) and creating a ‘Toy Jail’ for toys they leave out in the open.
4. Have a ‘Get Along’ jar for when the kids fight
“My two kids are always fighting over the smallest things and it can be quite annoying especially when my wife and I come back from work tired.
So we wrote down simples chores or activities on aiskrim sticks and put them in a jar. When the kids fight, we make them take one stick out and they will have to do it together.
In that short time it takes to complete the chore, they would have calmed down and will be able to forget about the fight. It also helps them to overcome their anger and learn to work together. Restore balance to the force and peace in our home.” – Hafiz, 38, father of 2 children aged 7 and 9
Hafiz tell us that this isn’t something he came up with on his own. In fact, the fights drove him and his wife almost mad and they resorted to looking for tactics online to help them with this. “In the office already got drama, at home also drama. You don’t know how amazing it feels when you have 30 minutes of peace at home,” Hafiz adds.
5. Get them to take up the same hobbies
“I’m a dressmaker and I work from home.
I give my kids brown paper and colour pencils. As I draft the pattern, they too will draft whatever they imagined on the brown paper.” – Ashikin, dressmaker and mother of 2 kids – 3 and 1 year old
Well we all know how important it is to have a hobby. It gives you something to unwind into, and if developed at a young age, can even boost a child’s physical and mental skills.
But… Not all hobbies are cheap (*ahem*LEGO*ahem*) and easy to maintain. So if you’ve already got a hobby of your own, why not introduce it to your kid? Sharing your own personal interest with your child can give them a peek into your world while potentially creating a life-long connection with them.
But this doesn’t just revolve around hobbies, of course. Getting them to enjoy the same sport, like badminton or football, also lets you fit in exercise (other than running after your kids) in your already busy schedule.
6. Make more dough than you actually need
“Whenever I make mee hun kueh (a.k.a. pan mee), I always make a little bit more so that my kids can play with it. They will take it and play with the dough themselves, while I get to prepare dinner in peace. Good to give them something to busy themselves with.” – Lilian Ng, Realtor, mother of 4 children
Regardless whether you’re making mee hun kueh, bread, roti canai or pasta from scratch, Lilian’s little trick is a great way to get the kids to busy themselves while a delicious dinner gets prepped by the adults. In fact, playing with dough is actually a powerful way to support a child’s learning, cos it lets kids use their imagination while strengthening their small muscles – the ones they’ll one day use to hold a pencil and write.
Granted it can get a little messy preparing the dough with flour dust flying across the kitchen, so maybe it’s not a bad idea to even get an electric dough maker to mix and knead it without all the hassle. 😉
7. Get them to sing in the car
Managing everything isn’t just about being able to keep up with work, feeding and clothing the kids as well as maintaining a well-functioning home. In fact, it’s just as important for you to spend quality time with your family. But if you’re juggling everything at once, how do you ensure that you don’t neglect your kids?
“In the past, I was always sending my children to places all around town. If it wasn’t school then it was to their tuition or music classes. But at the same time, I was a lecturer so I was also occupied with work.
One of the things I did which my own children remember until today was taking turns to sing in the car. ” – A. Jagan, lecturer and mother of 3
Okay…. Singing?! This is the first time we’ve ever heard of a strategy like this. Does it even work? Jagan’s son, Jagdeep, now 25 years old, seems to believe so.
“I was only about 10 years old but I can still remember how my younger sister and I used to sing to my mom,” Jagdeep says. “She wanted to hear us sing the songs to the cartoons that we watched, and I remember how loved I felt just to know that she chose to hear our voices instead of listening to the radio. What would have been a boring (or even noisy) car ride was turned into a berbonding session which I still hold dear till today.”
Awwwww so touching. Ok la looks like it worked, gonna ditch Ed Sheeran for kids singing Disney instead.
These Malaysian parents are pretty clever in juggling hor?
Non-parents would probably not be able to understand the struggles of a parent, but from what we can tell from our respondents, it is probably the hardest job in the world. Needing to put bread on the table while ensuring that everyone is healthy, safe and happy is a massive responsibility and one that’s hard to shoulder alone.
It wouldn’t hurt to have the utensils to make this life easier, and it’s nice that Go Shop has provided an avenue for parents to get the help they need. In fact, you can even find videos on healthy recipes, housekeeping tips, playing with kids and more on their Facebook page today.
Juggling is a difficult skill to master, but a little bit of help could make it a whole lot easier. 🙂