Through the month of May, we are celebrating the enterprising spirit of working mothers in Singapore with our mumpreneurs series.
Like many working mothers, Sher-li Torrey found it hard to juggle the demands of work at the Singapore Management University’s Office of Career Services and spend time with the family.
“I struggled when I had my first kid, where I had to work late and could not spend time with her. At the same time, my mother also fell sick with cancer. This made me think that there had to be a way where women could find a balance, and I wanted to find it,” recounted the 41-year-old mother of two children, a 9-year-old daughter, and 6-year-old son.
This eventually led her to leave her full-time job and embark on mumpreneurship with Mums@Work, an online portal for women, particularly mothers, who were looking for jobs back in 2010.
“It’s a social enterprise aimed at helping women find a balance between being a mother and having a career,” said Sher-li, who is the company’s founder and director.
In addition to the portal she runs with her team – all of them mothers with varied working arrangements – Mums@Work also organises events such as career fairs, skills workshops, bazaars and forums to help women find the right career opportunity to strike the balance between work and family needs. This could come by way of full-time work opportunities, flexible work arrangements or mumpreneurship options for mothers to run small businesses from home.
According to Sher-li, mumpreneurs are mothers who run small businesses, usually from home. Unlike female entrepreneurs with children, the business revolves around the needs of the family.
“It doesn’t mean you get more time, just more control of it as you literally work around the needs of the family.
“Being a mumpreneur gives me that sense of confidence, that I’ve got it covered. There is that sense of positivity, that I have the control to scale things – more time on the business, or more time with my family. Time is worth a lot, especially when it comes to parenting,” said Sher-li.
Making A Difference
While Sher-li has had to embrace the need to be fluid as her two children slowly grow up, and as Mums@Work continues to evolve as a business, she takes heart that whatever she’s done has made a difference. The obvious difference being the bond she has built with her children, and their awareness that she will always be there for them.
The other difference is in being proud that through Mums@Work, Sher-li has been able to make a difference to someone’s life.
“I want things to change [for mothers], and I want employers to really change their mindsets towards mothers in the workplace,” she said.
While she may seem to have it all, Sher-li said that impression is the biggest misconception people have. Like many mothers, there are times when she makes mistakes, moments when she feels insecure and nights when she would break down and cry over work and life.
“I do have those moments, but we figure things out and then move on,” she revealed.
When asked what’s her biggest challenge, Sher-li revealed that there is always a sense of guilt as to whether she is doing the best she can.
“I will wonder if it would be better if I spent more time with my kids. Or, if I didn’t spend the time with the kids, could the work have been better? It’s just this constant need to recalibrate. It’s a less scary word than change, but there’s this sense that things will eventually be okay, and I’m trying very hard to use this as my own philosophy,” she said.
Mums@Work is eight years old and growing strong, and Sher-li credits her ability to achieve this happy balance to her husband’s support and encouragement.
“The reason why I’ve managed to do this successfully is because my spouse continues to be very supportive. Not just monetarily, but also in recognising that I am running a business, that I am working, and he plays his part in the family too,” she said.
Besides shared parenting duties, Sher-li also maintains a calendar that is prioritised with family appointments before work engagements.
“On days where I may have to work at night, my husband would block out those nights to be at home to mind the kids. I’m a planner and I don’t like surprises very much, so we have a very clear schedule,” she added.