Families for Life Council Chairman Mr Ching Wei Hong and Members
Ms Lesley Ngai, Vice President, Business & Operations, Parenting, MediaCorp Pte Ltd
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my pleasure to join you at the closing of this year’s Singapore Parenting Congress. This year is special to me, as it marks Singapore’s 50th birthday. As the nation celebrates SG50 babies through the national Jubilee gift, I am glad that we have an occasion today to celebrate the best job that you and I can ever have – being parents with the privilege of inspiring future generations.
Parenting is a lifetime journey filled with stories of joy, laughter, sorrow and tears that challenge our hearts to grow in love. Even as we shoulder our day-to-day responsibilities and make personal choices to prioritise spending time with our children, being a parent fills our hearts in unimaginable ways, as we see our children take their first steps, say their first words and start school.
Many of us spend long hours at work, and find it challenging to balance work and family demands in a satisfactory way. We find it hard to disconnect from work even during holidays. This is reflected in a MSF’s survey conducted in 2013, where 55% of respondents felt that their job keeps them from spending time with their family. This is an increase from 47% in an earlier 2009 survey. This is especially the case for those aged 20s to 40s. I too find it challenging to juggle multiple roles as a mother and wife with my Member of Parliament and Ministry roles. Stay-at-home parents do not have it easier; the 24/7 homemaker faces a different set of pressures and an endless list of household chores.
All these pressures come down to how we manage our time, and our children’s time. In the 1960s, Charles Hummel published a book called “Tyranny of the Urgent”. He wrote that there is a regular tension between things that are urgent and things that are important, and too often, the urgent wins. This popular business classic remains relevant today, and applies to our home life. The first step is to distinguish the urgent and the important so that we learn to allocate time for matters and people that we really care about. For example, we are often bogged down by urgent things such as replying to emails, rushing kids to tuition classes and tidying the house. Sometimes, we confuse these things with other important areas such as spending time with our spouse and instilling values in our children. It can also get stressful when the “urgent” and the “important” things collide, or when the “urgent” takes hold of your household all the time.
Let’s make a personal decision today to be more intentional with our time. Take a step back and look at the week ahead to plan out the important and the urgent. Don’t feel guilty about fulfilling our urgencies, but make deliberate effort to prioritise at least one important thing each week. When deciding whether to send our children to a weekend enrichment class or to spend family time, let us consider how each moment spent with our child can strengthen the relationship in the longer term.
FFL Council member Claire Nazar, is a full-time working mother heavily involved in community work. Bridging the generation gap with her teenage children is a challenge that she grapples with. As such, she and her husband make it a priority to find common interests with their children and find ways to connect with them - like looking out for exhibitions or events that they would be interested in such as the Dreamworks exhibition at Marina Bay Sands, watching superhero movies together, reading up on “back stories” of their favourite superheroes so they can have an intelligent discussion on the subject, and even trading jokes and using their lingo like “That’s AWESOME!” or “LOL!” (meaning Laugh Out Loud or Laughing Out Loud). Her daughter now finds the parents “cool like that” because they are ‘social media savvy’ and she enjoys sharing her photos with them on Facebook and Instagram.
It is important to recognise that we cannot accomplish everything alone. A strong support network of relatives, friends and supportive employers is necessary to help families cope and thrive. It is encouraging that more employers are providing formal flexible work arrangements, as they realise such arrangements can help companies to retain good staff and allow staff to have work-life balance.
Since 2014, Families for Life Council has been promoting the importance of regular family time to strengthen family bonds through its year-round Celebrations. Families for Life monthly picnics have garnered a steady stream of supporters. I encourage you to participate in their activities for family bonding time, especially the five special SG50 picnics coming up in August. Parents can also look forward to getting updates on family activities and tips for an enriching family life at Families for Life new website from August onwards.
I am happy to announce today that the Families for Life Council has been re-appointed for another new term. The Council will continue to be chaired by Mr Ching Wei Hong, Chief Operating Officer of OCBC. Four new members will join the Council, with familiar faces such as Ms Lin Ruping and Mr Gurmit Singh. Mr Jeff Cheong, a marketing professional and passionate Singaporean behind the social commentary ‘Singaporean of the Day ’, and BG (NS) Ishak Ismail are two of the new Council members who are here with us today. I thank the members of the outgoing Council for a job well done, and look forward to partnering the incoming Council. The Council will continue to support and engage families in Singapore, and create a fresh spin on their family time movement.
Family time is a personal choice. Someone once said, “Many things aren’t equal, but everyone gets the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We make time for what we truly want.” When we choose to set aside other pursuits to spend time with our loved ones, we are really saying, “You are important to me.” Let us strive together on this journey to give our best to our families.