Is it actually possible to be a full-time working mom with three kids under the age of six—without any help?
Yes it is, if you’re like Alison Yap.
Alison is a familiar face in City Harvest Church. More accurately, it’s her voice that all the churchgoers recognize. Alison is a worship leader and her husband William Ng is a sound engineer; both are full-time church staff and they have three beautiful children under the age of 6. Emma is 5, Elliot is 3 and the youngest, Edelle just turned 2.
Just how does she do it? By the grace of God, the support around her and by taking things one at a time, she says.
“When Edelle was born, my mom came to help out a bit,” says Alison. “She lives in Kuala Lumpur and she helps my brother look after his kids. I managed to work things out with my family and she came over for two weeks every month.
“But that didn’t last very long,” she adds. “This year, my eldest niece started primary school and my mom couldn’t help us anymore.”
Thankfully, changes at her office last year gave her flexibility to work from home most of the week. “I had to make a lot of work adjustments. Because of the office shift last year, my department was given more flexibility because we don’t have a fixed work space as our work doesn’t require us to be deskbound. So long as we fulfill our work requirements then we are given a certain amount of freedom,” she says gratefully.
“I don’t know how long will this last, but at least for this year I’m grateful. At least I don’t have to send Edelle to school yet because it’s quite costly,” she says, echoing the concerns of just about every other parent of multiple children.
So the baby of the family gets to go to work with Daddy and Mommy while the older children go to school in the day. The little sweetheart is often spotted by colleagues trailing behind her mom or playing in a corner on days her mom goes to the office.
“I can’t really do much, but I was given a lot of grace this year and I don’t take it for granted.” says Alison. “I don’t think this will last very long so I’m trying to make arrangements as we go along. It helps that my husband works here too so we take turns. He would watch her a bit while I work and while he works I’ll watch her. When she takes her afternoon naps, we really get more things done. It’s better when I work from home. She would have her own activities at home and I would be able get more things done.”
It gets particularly challenging during the night worship practices that happen every Wednesday, as both Alison and William are a vital part of that.
“One of us will pick the two older kids from school to bring them to church and they’ll have their dinner here. If I’m not on duty but just there to supervise, I’ll watch the kids.
“It gets really challenging when I need to sing on stage and William is at the sound board, but thankfully we have friends that help. They would stay back after work and play with our kids when we are busy. I really thank God for them.”
Alison does not take the kindness of her friends for granted. “I don’t go out thinking, ‘Oh, there will be someone to help me babysit later.’ I plan as much as I can, and if my friends want to play with the kids after the service, I’d be very grateful for the break,” she says with a chuckle. “I’d go make myself a cup of tea in the artists’ room.”
Going without domestic help was a decision the Ngs made based on reasons that many parents can identify with: limited finances and limited space at home, which conversely means privacy for the family. More importantly, Alison and William believe in raising their kids on their own.
“I guess I don’t want to give myself room to rely on someone else,” admits Alison. “If I have someone else, I’ll slowly hand over everything to her. This is definitely difficult but it’s my choice; even though I don’t even know if it’s the right choice at times. Because I see that having a maid eases things for other families and it makes them happier. When those parents are with the kids, their time is precious. They are not grouchy; I’m always grouchy because I’m always have my hands full. My time with them is always tense because I’m always rushing.”
But for her, it boils down to values. “I know myself—if I give myself room to depend on someone else, then slowly I’ll rely on them on everything from bathing to feeding and cooking. Soon, everything will be on them and that’s not a value I want for my family. So I’ve just got to keep enlarging my capacity and hopefully I get less intense, wiser and happier.”
Raising three kids without help has been a tough journey but Alison says if she had a choice, she would still do it again. The best part is watching them grow day by day.
“They have brought us a lot of joy; their innocence and cuteness,” she smiles. “Seeing them grow up is something very interesting. From knowing nothing at all to learning words and forming sentences. I feel super proud even though it’s a very normal thing. Every time they hit a milestone, it makes me feel so proud.
“You can’t imagine you can love someone so much and have them love you back; you feel good because you are their hero,,” she adds. “Also, they have taught me a lot of things. They taught me to be more patient, to be wiser, to be more careful with my words. The other day I was a little intense with Emma and she said to me, ‘It’s not nice to say that’,” she remembers with a laugh.
“My capacity to love them has grown so much. I’ve also learned to depend on God. I’ve gained a lot of wisdom and found a lot of grace.”
At the end of yet another challenging day, Alison would wind down by watching television. “I love to watch TV,” she admits. “I try to watch every night. Sometimes I just watch whatever is on TV, if there are good dramas I may also watch those.”
That is, if she has not fallen asleep with the kids.