Balancing the Tightrope of Work and Life

 Lee Junior (BBA 2000)

 

Like other busy fathers, managing work and family life is by no means an easy task for Lee Junior (BBA 2000). He holds multiple challenging roles in life at work, play and home; and yet, is an exemplary master of this juggling act in the circus of life. He shares his philosophy on making his roles rewarding so that he can reap the invaluable dividends of healthy and happy children.

LeeJunior

What does having work-life balance mean to you?

Very often, when we ask someone who they are, they would describe themselves as a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer or whatever job they do, which gives them their sense of identity. To me, work is much more than an occupation or what we do for a living. We are all someone else’s child, perhaps someone else’s parent, and a member of a community and much more – all the same time. In order to play all these roles well, we have to work hard and put in effort to do so.

We may or may not always be paid for such “work” (and even if we do), the compensation that follows may not necessary be in tangible forms. On the other hard, some people might argue that if we truly enjoy what we do for a living, it becomes something enjoyable and fun. Thus, it ceases to be work, to which I fully agree.

Hence, unlike majority of the people in our mainstream society, I do not subscribe to or agree with the conventional notion that an individual needs to achieve a “work-life balance” because “work” and “family life” are two opposing forces in a zero-sum game, whereby one cannot co-exist in peace with the other without the risk of them overpowering each other and, so, an equilibrium needs to be achieved.

Share with us your strategies for achieving work-life balance.

Having revealed my views on what work-life balance means to me, I would also like to share a famous quote by Sir Winston Churchill that has influenced me profoundly. He said, “You make a living from what you get, but you make a life from what you give.”

The truth is, I do not have any strategies for achieving work-life balance simply because I enjoy what I do too much to ever consider them work. Secondly, because I do not measure success in the same materialistic way that most people do.

I feel very fortunate because I am rather simple-minded and consider myself successful as long as I know that I am loved by the ones whom I love. I feel empowered by a great sense of liberty and serenity, which allow me to choose how I would like to spend my time and efforts. One of the things that I enjoy most in life is actually spending time with my family, rather than spending time on making money to spend on materialistic things for them, which I believe will diminish in value over time no matter how much they get.

Apart from having very little regard for whatever material possessions that we own, my wife and I have a very strong sense of “attitude for gratitude” which we try to impart to our children. We are always actively cultivating a sense of altruism and willingness to give and share what we have with others, be it in terms of time, effort or other material forms.

What career sacrifices have you made to make time for family?

Not long after I learned that my wife was expecting our first child, I made the conscious but unusual choice of retiring from my full-time job of running a relatively successful incubator-cum-boutique M & A house that I had started with a couple of partners in February 2004. This was so that I could spend more time with my pregnant wife, who was working for my father, and also in anticipation of spending more time with my son after he was delivered.

After my son was born, I spent a great deal of time helping my wife look after him and I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to only work part-time and become a stay-home dad. As an active social activist, an adjunct lecturer with several institutes of higher learning (including NUS Extension) and an avid triathlete, I naturally had to make adjustments to my lifestyle so that I could spend more time with my children. These included volunteering at places nearer to my place of residence, helping out at more sessions but with shorter time per session; bringing my son along with me for meetings, social gatherings and also for my training sessions; and even pushing him in a sports-stroller when I went running.

Having spent a lot of time with our children when they were younger, my wife and I have forged very close ties with them, having learned to understand them, and are able to communicate with them relatively well. Thus, we are able to maintain our close bonds with them, even though our lives have become more structures as we began working longer hours, and as they attend school or enter other childcare arrangements with their grandparents.

Nowadays, I have stopped devoting long hours to train for endurance races and have cut-down on attending meetings in the evenings, so that I can continue to feed, bathe and put the children to bed as often as I can with my wife on weekdays. On weekends, we will usually do something spontaneous that everyone enjoys before going for our weekly sushi or dim-sum feast at our favourite children-friendly restaurants; and we still travel overseas with the children whenever we can.

Have your work arrangements helped you as a career and family man?

When a man’s priority – which rightfully should be his family – is in good order, his mind will be at peace. Once a man’s mind is at peace, and if his mind is free and open to endless possibilities, then he will not suffer from the proverbial tunnel vision, and his exposure and sensitivity to opportunities will be magnified multi-fold. Therefore, his ability to take advantage of these conditions to advance his career will definitely be enhanced exponentially, if he allows himself to do so.

What advice would you give to busy fathers who want to build stronger bonds with their kids

The earlier we realize that most material things are immaterial, and that things which can be counted may not be what really count, the earlier we can find happiness as a parent and a human being.

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