It takes a village to raise a mum: Focus Singapore provides community and practical help to mums
Salt&Light honours all mums this Mothers' Day week!
by Christine Leow // May 4, 2022, 10:39 am
Gracie Chai with her husband Yow Jian-Li and children. Motherhood has meant sacrifices such as giving up "cool jobs'. But it has also resulted in great gains as she gained experience and perspective. Photo courtesy of Focus on the Family Singapore.
“There’s no going back now.”
That was what Gracie Chai, 34, told herself when she saw the double line on the pregnancy kit for the first time.
“It was sobering stuff. I remember feeling that unshakeable, heavy weight of responsibility carrying and caring for another life.
“I knew, from then on, too, that I won’t and can’t be living for just me anymore, and that this investment would be worth it.”
“I’ve found myself growing along with my children.”
Since then, Gracie has made two more investments. The mother of three has discovered that motherhood has, indeed, “shaped me, and still continues to shape me, in a myriad of ways”.
Determined to be present for her children, she chose to be a stay-home mum. She turned down “more than a few cool jobs” because the work would have been too demanding.
But what she lost in job opportunities, Gracie has gained in breadth of experience.
She learnt to bake, a skill she had been sure she would never acquire, because her children loved to eat bread. She also began fermenting foods such as miso, kimchi and sauerkraut to ensure her children had better gut health.
“Motherhood was and still is an invitation for me to broaden my own narrative of who I tell myself I am and it’s been such a journey. I’ve found myself growing along with my children.”
Gracie is not alone in embracing new priorities when motherhood beckoned.
Pandemic stress on mums
For decades, working mothers have had to balance caring for the home and family while striking out in the world, burdened by traditional expectations that the home was a woman’s place even as they strove to forge a progressive future.
The challenge was thrown into sharp relief in 2020. The pandemic forced work to be brought home and the lines of leisure and labour became blurred. While it did give parents the opportunity to co-parent more equally, women and mothers continued to shoulder the extra caregiving burden. The quote “the days are long, but the years are short” was never more real than in the pandemic years.
Since then, 2 in 5 mum reported having only one hour or less of personal time daily while 6 in 10 said they averaged just six hours of sleep or fewer each night.
Caregiving remains a key concern for mothers.
In this year’s Focus on the Family Singapore survey of over 300 mums, more than 7 in 10 ranked career as their lowest priority, whether they were working full-time, part-time or were self-employed.
Instead, their children’s health was the top concern of 6 out of 10 mums. Meanwhile, their own personal health and wellness ranked as the top two priorities with only about 3 in 10 mothers.
Self-care may not be high on the mothers’ list but appreciation by others was. About half the mums said they felt underappreciated by their family, signaling that more can be done to appreciate mothers for both their seen and unseen work.
Respondents indicated practical help, and emotional and mental support as the top two things they needed in this season. Aside from the immediate support of their husbands, a community of mothers was thought to be able to provide the empathy and support that have been lacking.
Another thing that will likely be highly valued by mums is flexible work arrangements, even as work-from-home norms give way to the return of onsite work with easing Covid safety measures. This is because caregiving remains a key concern for mothers.
Help to enjoy motherhood
This Mother’s Day, Focus Singapore aims to encourage mothers that Every Season Matters in refining themselves as women, wives and individuals, whether it is a life-stage season or a COVID-induced one. The charity has prepared resources for mums as well as family members to remember, celebrate and appreciate each season, past and present.
“We are part of a society continually striving towards greater equality for women, and what better way to do so than to be present for the mums in our community,
This is in line with the government’s focus. It designated 2021 as the year to celebrate Singapore women, their progress and achievements. A White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development was eventually presented in March 2022 to inculcate a stronger sense of equality and equity for women across different spheres of society.
One Focus Singapore support for mothers is the digital resource The Power of Moments. It provides tips to help mums meet their practical, emotional and community needs. There is also a certificate for her that dads and children can decorate and present, drawing favourite memories and crafting a note of love and gratitude to Mum.
There are stories of mothers as well to encourage them on their parenting journey.
Lead of Insights of Focus on the Family Singapore, June Yong, shared: “It is human for mums to wonder if we are doing enough. We want to inspire mothers to go beyond guilt and soak in the beauty of the present.
“Being intentional to plug in to an encouraging community of mums may also provide mothers with strength to embrace the ups and downs of each season of life, be it their own or their children’s.”
“When things feel overwhelming, just do the next right thing.
Focus Singapore believes that taking a moment daily to encourage a mother in the season of life they are in will potentially go far in taking some of the weight of parenting off their shoulders.
Added June: “We are part of a society continually striving towards greater equality for women. What better way to do so than to be present for the mums in our community, be it our mother, sister, friend, classmate or colleague.”
For Gracie, there is an added source of support for days when she finds herself “hands in the air lamenting, ‘I just can’t do it anymore!’”.
“On those days, I remember I have an Anchor and a Rock I can cling to Whom I can find rest in because ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I don’t have to parent perfectly, just faithfully.
“When things feel overwhelming and there are far too many burdens, just do the next right thing. Don’t look too far ahead, one baby step at a time.”
Mums need support and encouragement. It is true that it takes a village to raise a child. But it takes a village to raise a mum, too.
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