Dear Thelma,

I am an Indian national married to a Malaysian. I have a degree in computer science, and would love to go out and work, but I can’t because I have to take care of my two young children. I don’t find housekeeping and child-rearing particularly exciting or challenging. Do you have any tips on how I can improve my concentration? 

I have been living in Malaysia for the past eight years, and have only returned to India once to see my family for two weeks. All my family members are in India. My mother comes to visit me every two years. My in-laws live in Taiping and we visit them every month. I am not conversant in Bahasa Malaysia and have very few friends. I have not been taking good care of my health, too. – Bored And Lonely

Dear Bored And Lonely,

Many women find it difficult to balance work and family life. Some make the decision to give up their careers to focus more time and attention on their family.

However, gone are the days when there are only these two options for women. With a changing workforce, employers are now looking at different modes of working to cater to both the new demands of work and the new workforce.

One option is part-time work. Now there are many companies which offer this flexible working option. You can organise your work schedule around your children’s school schedule. That way, you can be home for them when they are back from school.

Another option is to look for work that allows you to work from home. With high-speed Internet connection that is now readily available, the options for working online are numerous. This allows you the flexibility to work while staying at home with your children. The only thing is that you would have to cultivate the discipline required to work under these conditions and meet your deadlines.

Yet another option is for you to be creative and think about skill sets that you have and what you can do with them. Home-catering, for example, is a lucrative business. Tailoring and baking are among the numerous home-based businesses. 

Talk to your husband. Let him know you are interested in working. See if he can come up with ideas. Discuss with him if he can share some of the household and childcare responsibilities to give you more flexibility with time. You cannot do this alone and at this point, your husband is your best ally.

The thing is, options are always available. What seems necessary now is for you to seek these out and take the necessary steps to make your hope of working a reality. You can hunt for jobs online. Or, you can try the old-fashioned way of looking in the Classifieds pages of local newspapers. The Star has a pullout for job searchers every Saturday.

Of course, it will be so much easier if you had a support system. In many cases, it is the family that acts as this support system. But, in its absence, you can create your own. 

Surely where you live there must be other young families. Make friends with them and see what options they have for childcare or even assistance with domestic work. Sometimes, just having a group of friends you can talk with and share your difficulties with can act as a support system.

You should not let yourself fall into despair and feel like there is no hope, as this will ultimately result in a narrowing of your options and prevent you from seeing all that you can do. It boils down to you helping yourself. All you have to do now is find the will and courage to take those steps to help you realise your goal of being a working mum. – Thelma

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