Kids, Career and Budget 2023: Can Working Mums Have it All? [ft. Oniatta Effendi]

Raising Kids in Singapore: Can Working Moms Really Have It All?

In a thought-provoking podcast episode, Oniatta Effendi, an esteemed entrepreneur, mother, and advocate, sheds light on the struggles faced by working mothers in Singapore. Joined by Rice Media, the conversation dives deep into the challenges of balancing career, raising children, and managing finances. With her candid insights and personal experiences, Oniatta Effendi offers a unique perspective on the pressing issues surrounding maternity leave, budgetary constraints, and the need for societal change.


Oniatta Effendi: Entrepreneur, mother, and advocate.

The Harsh Realities of Motherhood

The conversation kicks off with Oniatta recounting a shockingly unfair incident during her corporate days. “I went on maternity leave and there was a review of your performance appraisal, right? It’s a C,” she quotes her boss saying, despite her stellar work before the leave.

Such penalisation for taking maternity leave is sadly common, Oniatta laments. “Time and time again, I’m being told it’s normal everywhere…That needs to stop. Some budgets of sorts needs to enforce that this is not right behavior.”

The Costs Beyond Just Money

“Raising kids is expensive. It’s time consuming,” she said, noting the pressure for academic success adds to family costs. Tuition has become the norm, leaving less time for childhood play. Oniatta adds, “If you question, you look at the guy and you say, um, not sure lah, then don’t lah.” Doubts about readiness for parenthood are reasonable given today’s responsibilities.

While moms appreciate government benefits like the Baby Bonus Scheme, Oniatta feels the real costs of raising children, especially teens, go far beyond just finances.

“The age of my kids are, ready? 8, 10, 12, 14, 16. The reality is this, the kids live in a world that is a very frightening place…Can you imagine what a teenager goes through? And therefore, when you look at cases of mental health, of suicide, of overdose…They’re real.”

She emphasises that beyond just covering the medical bills, more needs to be done systemically to support families with mental health challenges. Schools and workplaces often still lack understanding, adding undue stress during already difficult times.

The Overlooked Stay-at-Home Moms

A key issue Oniatta raises is the lack of support and recognition for stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) in particular.

“The stay-at-home mother wakes up far earlier than I do…Whatever support that the government is giving to working mums, that needs to also extend itself to the stay-at-home moms,” she argues, suggesting solutions like tax relief or cash payouts for SAHMs.

When it comes to policies, Oniatta believes support should extend beyond the working definition of “mother” to include stay-at-home parents. “Tax relief, for example, for stay at home moms? Could it be benefits, uh, where cash payouts are concerned, where moms are receiving.” All mothers deserve recognition for their unpaid labor.

In her former career, Oniatta faced unfair practices like lower performance reviews after maternity leave despite meeting goals. “That needs to stop. Some budgets of sorts need to enforce that this is not right behavior,” she urged. Leave policies also fall short, from three days of paternity leave to insufficient family care leave given eldercare duties.

For older children, mental health support ranked among Oniatta’s top budget priorities. Her own family experienced the challenge of navigating hospital systems during a teenage crisis. Monies alone cannot solve such issues; attitudinal shifts are equally important.

Redefining Success and Having It All

So can working moms in Singapore truly “have it all”? Oniatta believes it comes down to redefining what success means.

Running a small business brings financial instability alongside long hours. Yet for Oniatta, fulfillment comes from career autonomy rather than earnings. She advises the next generation to “build yourself first before you build it with someone else,” establishing identity beyond relationships.

“For me, my heart is full…Am I missing the bigger paycheck that I had as a senior lecturer? No, I’m not,” she says about leaving the corporate world. “In shifting that lens to see what makes your heart full, then you see things differently.”

Her advice? “Carve your path” and stop chasing the conventional idea of a prestigious, money-minting career if that’s not what fulfills you.

The Real Root Causes

Oniatta feels tackling Singapore’s low birth rates goes beyond just money. Ambitious career goals, time poverty, fear of raising kids in today’s world, and the sheer costs contribute.

“It deters parents from having more children…Expenses are high in Singapore.” From tuition classes to mental health support, “it is expensive.”

At its core, the conversation emphasises that flourishing families need an supportive environment systemically – from workplace policies to social attitudes. As Oniatta authentically shares, mothers shouldn’t have to choose between their careers and taking care of their loved ones.

Key Insights:

  1. Maternity leave and performance appraisal: Oniatta Effendi highlights the unfair treatment faced by working mothers during maternity leave and advocates for change.
  2. Singapore’s fertility rate: The declining fertility rate is discussed as an economic concern, prompting the need for policies that support families.
  3. Financial challenges of raising children: Oniatta Effendi emphasizes the disparity between the baby bonus policy and the actual expenses involved in raising children, calling for more comprehensive support.

  4. Mental health support for teenagers: The conversation addresses the pressing issue of mental health among teenagers and the need for improved support systems and resources.

  5. Caregiving responsibilities and healthcare: Oniatta Effendi shares her personal experiences as a caregiver and highlights the need for better healthcare services and recognition for caregivers.

You can check their full interview on The Alternative Budget Debate 2023 on Spotify, YouTube, Google podcast for the highs and lows of her unconventional path, Oniatta offers rare insight for reconciling ambition and motherhood in Singapore’s high-pressure environment. While policy tweaks could ease burdens, individual priorities also must evolve to support raising the next generation.

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