Skip to content

Working from Home, with Kids

March 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing many companies to implement work-from-home practices, and schools might be closed. The question is “how will parents work from home, while caring for their children who are not going to school?”

My INSEAD classmate and mental health advocate Enoch Li authentically shared her struggles with this.  Read  Lived Experience in Time of Coronavirus | LinkedIn

We try to work from home but with children screaming around us who have pent up energy that otherwise could be released in school, we find it hard to focus or be productive at work. With such frustrations, who has the energy to think of extra little rhymes to teach their kids, especially with bosses still demanding targets be met and attention be spent on team meetings via WeChat? Additionally, those who take up roles of managers and leaders have added challenges keeping their teams together and to assess the mental health situation in the workplace.

The recommendations in reports on paying attention to peoples’ psychosocial states of mind are great – but “how”?”

This got me reflecting on the “how”. What did I do in 2003 that enabled me to work at home AND look after my children during SARS? In March 2003, I started my leadership practice and decided that working from home would save money. When SARS hit, my children’s school was closed from 23 March to 6 April, 2003.


Wendy wrote these books in 2001 and 2002, while working as school psychologist at Raffles Institution. They were based on the theory of multiple intelligences, with stories based on her experience raising her children. In 2003, she was writing “Break to Dawn” from her home office.

Working from home with children around takes tremendous self-management and child management. I will share what I have learnt about managing self, and managing kids while working from home. I raised my children that way. They are now 21, 23, 24 and in university.

I would like to share with you some simple tip and stories about managing yourself and managing your kids.

Managing Self


This is absolutely important.

I made my work and life goals, reflected on how they are aligned with my purpose and strengths. Each week, I created a “declaration list” – a to-do list with categories for work, writing, kids, money self. I used this list to organise my days, and check on my actions. If I wrote an activity down but did not complete it two weeks in a row, I asked myself, “how important is this?” If very, what was stopping me? If it were not important anymore, I replaced or released it.

Self care

It is not just about working from home. It is about LIVING. I gave myself my own rewards and treats – walk in the park, chocolates, massage, a nap.

Getting support: “I am not alone”

It can be isolating working from home. It is much easier to connect in 2020 even when working from home, because we can use video calls to “meet up”.

Managing Children
(especially if they are stuck at home with you)

Delayed gratification “One now or 5 later?”

I was determined to nurture delayed gratification into my children from the time they were 2 years old.  If you have not started, it is better late than never.

One day, I was writing at my computer when my daughter, then 3 years old, came to me with 6 story books.

“Read to me… please, mummy. Please…”

I looked at her with her big eyes and thought “oh, so cute and sweet…” It would take a hard heart to say no.

“Nicole, mummy is writing and working now.  If I stop now, I can only read ONE story to you.”  I picked up one book to demonstrate what ONE meant.

“If you wait for 30 minutes and I finish my work, I will read you FIVE books.”   I picked up five books to demonstrate what FIVE meant, and that they looked MORE than one book.

She looked at the books and back at me, “Promise?”

‘Yes, promise 5 books if you wait till I finish my work.”

“Ok mummy.  Can I draw while you work?”

Half hour later, I completed my writing and turned to Nicole.

“Nicole, you waited so patiently for me to complete my work. I will read you five stories now.”

This meant that I spent more time reading to my daughter, but we cannot complain about more reading time, right? PLUS, I had the time and peace to complete my work. I always showed that I was trustworthy – I keep my word.

Keeping your promise

A strong foundation of trust is important in parenting children while working at home (or working at home while parenting children).

Do not promise anything you cannot follow through.  If I don’t want to read five books, I would not promise five.  I would promise two.

Once you break a promise, your child will not trust you the next time you ask “one now or five later?”

Set up “an office and a work plan” with your kids

I chose a spot on the dining table as “my office” with my laptop, pens and paper.

I allocated other spaces at the table and/or around the house for my kids’ individual work spaces. My kids were 3, 7 and 8. I remember that Nicole would pack a box with her crayons, colouring books, story books and paper, and “go to work” at her part of the table. My sons would choose other spaces within sight of me.

We would have a “work plan” discussion.

“This is the list of what mummy is doing today.” I showed them my list. I asked them, “What is on your list?”

They would draw or write their to-do list for the day.

We made up a time table on a big piece of paper, that included all our names and activities. Activities include “play …”, “watch cartoon, “lunch”, “math”. We stuck it up on a wall.

We had schedules for each day, and reused them the next week.

Pages taken from “Is it Time yet?

Like an office, it was not all work and no fun.  We still joked while we worked, we ate together, we had quiet time separately.

I stopped my work to check how they were doing with their math, playdough, lego building and drawing. I stopped work to mediate conflicts between the boys over who used the toy first (like a real office with conflict resolution).

The Good that came out of this confinement

My children saw me role-modeling patience and discipline.

I also got to know them a lot more. Before 2003, I was working full time outside of home, and I saw them only in the evenings or weekends.

Today, Nicole is an undergraduate in National University of Singapore. She has great self-leadership skills – she sets her own goals, work plans and is purpose-driven, expressive and fun.

Example of Nicole’s work plan now, created on some apps (With parts edited out for her privacy)

I hope that my confinement experience will give you some ideas, or at least some smiles, on what you can create with your children as all of you work and live at home. Know that this time is not a limitation but an opportunity to create lifelong bonds, build character and inculcate a good work ethic for your children. (They finally get to see you at work!)

Resilience, joy, and love I wish to you.


Ready to write again

February 10, 2016

It has been two years since my last post.

Lots have happened since and I am now ready to blog again.

Where do I start?

I nearly lost my husband, my house, and my son.

I graduated from INSEAD with an executive Masters and my business grew, despite my personal setbacks.

My faith in God kept me going, even when and especially when I did not feel very strong.

And I am beginning to understand the purpose to my almost-losses – what my pain was for. I am meant to grow wiser, and then to share the wisdom with you.  I am meant to speak out for the unwell, the broken, the hurt, and those in pain.

In the last two years, I found my husband again.  Like Jesus turning water into wine, my marriage found its passion despite the illness we experienced – “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”.  I found ways to keep my house.  I found ways to save my son from dark despair.

In the next few months, I will keep writing my experience and insights, and hope you find some hope and light for your situation.

I pray for wisdom as I start to write, and I ask that you pray for me too.

Even though I feel vulnerable to write, I am ready.


“Have I ever ever argued over money with you?”

December 12, 2013

I am writing a book entitled “What are you thankful for?”, which contains a story for children and a parenting guide.  As I looked at one of the paragraphs I had written, I thought I should check the facts with my own kids.

The paragraph in the guide says:

“Be thrifty
I am grateful for my children’s willingness to save money since young.   They are constantly comparing prices and going for the less expensive options.  Now that they are teenagers, they still shop within their budget and I have little arguments over money with them (note: little, not none).”

I asked myself, “how much does “little” arguments?”  I mean, what if the media interviews my teenagers, and the latter say “we fight with mum ALL the time about money…”

So I decided to a little reality check, by conducting a phone poll, using modern technology.

I texted each of my teenage children this message:

“Have I ever argued over money with you?  If yes, why?”

Within a minute I got their replies simultaneously from different parts of the island.  Their replies required me to respond and so there followed a string of texts that went like this with each one.

14-year-old daughter:

Her: Define an argument?

Me: Like you want buy this  i say no.  And then you argue n I argue, (angry face icons) n then fight.  Not talk to each other.  N then cry.

Her: No

Me: Why we not fight?  Lorren says cus he is reasonable

Her: Ya not over-dramatic enough LOL

17-year-old son:

Him: No you just give it to me.  why

Me: Writing my book.  Why I so good?  Just give you one?

Him: Maybe cause im always reasonable.  ahhhh

Me: Ya you reasonable.  And you know the value of money

Him: yes

18-year-old son:

Him: Yes, I have asked for more allowance before and you denied it

Me: And then how do we resolve it?

Him: I eventually get some increase but your initial resistance wasted savings

Me: OIC.  It would have saved money if I increased your allowance???

Him: No, during the time you provide resistance I had to use savings

Me:  Now you got enough?

Him: Yup got enough.  Why you asking?

Me:  OK.  Good to know.  Glad we have few arguments over money then.  Many parents and teens fight over money more than us.  I am grateful you, Nicole and Lorren are financially smart and disciplined.  Lorren says cus he is reasonable.

What is the point?

I can rest assured that I speak the truth in my upcoming book – my children know the value of money and are thrifty, that parenting them in their teens is a lot easier than if they “anyhow spend money”.  I know of parents who complain of their children’s huge phone bills, or wasting money on expensive or unnecessary things.  I am proud of the way they manage their allowance and savings.

What is my latest book about?

“What are you thankful for?”demonstrates that it is possible for parents and children face life changes with love, discipline and gratitude.

In the story, Mummy is about to change her career, which means she “might earn less money”.  How will her two young children respond to this change?

The book also shows that an attitude of being thankful can help children and parents be more resilient and positive during times of changes and difficulties.

The simple language of the story makes it easy for children aged 4 to 8 years to understand.  The introduction and advice to parents makes this an invaluable guide to parents who are keen to raise their children with values such as gratitude, financial discipline and courage.

Suitable for children 4-8 years-old, and their parents.

If you are interested to order the book (printed S$12, S$8 ebook), please email to  Order by 18 Dec, and it would be delivered in time for Christmas in Singapore.

“What is your favourite word, mum?” Lesson in living your values

October 29, 2013

Parents talk about instilling values and character into their children. They ask me how to teach their children to be responsible, to care, to be independent and to be resilient. Leaders ask me similar questions about developing their teams.

One of my question back to these questions would be “how are you as a role model of these values?”

Last week, as I was looking for a book, I came across an old notebook I had used to journal in during 2001-2002. I opened it out of curiosity and saw an entry. In 2002, my oldest son was 7 and younger son was 6 – at an age where they asked lots of questions.

“Last night, Lorren asked me lots of questions like what is my phone number, what is my favourite colour.
And then he asked me “what is your favourite word, mum?”
I was thinking about it when Brandon said, “It is love.”
I was surprised. I asked, “why do you say my favourite word is love?”
Lorren chirped in, “because you love everybody.”

I was truly amazed. Have I lived in a way that showed love to everyone? …”

Reading my old journal reminds me about an important aspect of parenting and leadership.

How do you live your life and what would your children/team say you stand for?

Parents and leaders can say all they want about caring for others, about being responsible and honest. Talk is easy. Talk is cheap.

Do you show love to others? Do you talk about your life in a responsible way or a victim (blame others) way? Do you twist the truth if it is convenient?

If you are a parent, ask your child today, “what is my favourite word?”
If you are a leader, ask the same question to your team. Or a more adult version is “what would you say my values are?”

May you discover something useful for yourself.

Crying on the way to school

October 4, 2013

I was driving to INSEAD this morning for my second day of class n I started crying. Not because I had school anxiety but because I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I was listening to ‘ Glorious Ruins’ by Hillsong n I just thought of how far I have come n overcome obstacles to get back to school.

In 1999 I was preparing to return to Simon Fraser University to defend my Masters thesis when I got retrenched n husband left me with three kids.

New job, dealing with grief, finances being tight meant I gave up my Masters, just as I was approaching the end.

I focused on being mama n not the masters. Over the years, I asked myself ‘ do I regret giving that up?’ N there are moments I wished I completed but I refused to grow bitter. My kids’ well being is worth it.

13 years later, I am going back to school. I got accepted into a program relevant to my passion n work, in a renowned school. I have the money , I have family support and I have a great team in my business. I feel more matured n wise.

As tears ran down my cheeks , I recalled how devastated I was 13 years ago. I thank God for second chances. I am a glorious ruin.

Broken but not damaged.

The scars show my recovery. I wear them with honor.


How I got to the Maldives

September 21, 2013

What do the Maldives, INSEAD and my friend buying a house have in common?

They are in my life map 2013. At the beginning of every year, I create a vision poster and a life map, where images and words describe my values and my year’s goals.

Last year, I wanted to do my PhD at INSEAD but I was not accepted. Disappointed for a few days and then when my husband got sick, I was glad I was not in the programme. It would be hard to go to school and spend so much at the hospital. The stress would be too much.

When the opportunity to apply to a different INSEAD programme this year, it felt more right. I applied and with that application, came all sorts of highs and lows. Thus my post about self doubt a few months ago.

Maldives …. It was written in my life map this year but my husband said he had heard me talk about the Maldives since 2004. I am not sure what really attracted me to this place. Would sea, endless sea be enough?

So here I am now, writing from my water villa at The One And Only resort, Reethi Rah. I have waited since 2003 or even before that. Thus only the best would be for my dream come true.

It was not easy getting here.

Most people, when thinking about their goals have these common considerations.

1. Money – is not enough
2. Time – not enough
3. Age – Too young or too old

Given my husband has not worked since November last year due to his brain operations, I have been working more on building my own business. I had my own moments of anxieties and then many more moments of wonder as business came pouring I through referrals. So much so that I was busy delivering my services and programmes. I assured my husband that it was ok for him to rest while I took I the breadwinner’s role.

Finances were tight as we grappled with one income instead of two. Our kids understood and helped to cut down on their expenses. We had a huge mortgage, car and if you know about Singapore cost of living, this two items pretty much make up the bulk of family expenses.

So I put the Maldives out of my mind. Until three weeks ago, on out 5th wedding anniversary.

Husband by then was entertaining a offer of a job. I was getting exhausted and aware of a little potential burn-out. And I knew that with my INSEAD course starting in October , I would need some recharging.

A recent psychology study found out that there is only a certain amount of delayed gratification one can handle. I cleverly (cunningly) applied that to me. I have had practiced a lot of self-control in last 1.5 years. Time I rewarded myself with a well-deserved trip/treat.

Thus I researched on hotels in the Maldives. . I wrote to a friend who was Artist in residence at the One and Only resort. I checked if I could clear a few days of work by moving three meetings. Yes I could. Great.

Then the most difficult part was convincing my husband to go to the Maldives with me.

I prepared a spreadsheet of numbers showing income projections, expenses that I have. I have learnt to speak his language.

And I prayed.

Furthermore, I have long dreamed of being I could become a resident life coach in an exclusive resort. While people relax and recharge physically in a resort, would it not be even better to get a psychological check-up and learn some mental wellness habits?

I have always done lots of self-reflection n realigning of thoughts and goals during my own resort retreat time.

And so i decided to check out this particular resort in the Maldives.

Being ‘the Wand at the One and Only’ has a certain magical note.

With my logical points, I presented the holiday idea to my husband. We debated and I must confessed, some tears were involved.

And finally he said ‘Ok. You deserved a good break’.

So we are here. We even got upgraded to business class on Singapore Airlines coming here. How blessings come upon us!!!

Dreams coming true is a journey.

It takes some self-control, some reality testing, some risking, plus lots of self-awareness and, if others are involved (like having husband join me in the Maldives), interpersonal relationships.

(I will talk about my friend buying a house in another post. Kind of need her permission.)

What is a dream goal you have?
What information would you need to make choices and take actions?
Whom do you need it get buy-in from?
What would you pray for?

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who faced reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” Douglas H. Everett.


18 Years of Motherhood – sadness and joy

July 23, 2013

I celebrated my oldest son’s 18th birthday today.  I have had moments of sadness when I think of my oldest son being  18.  He is almost a MAN, in two years, he enters the Singapore National Service, and will bear arms.  Where have my little boy who used to hug me gone?

On Mother’s Day this year, I was very surprised that, at 8am today, he walked into my room with a plate of hash brown, egg, apple, peanut butter and ketchup.  I could see that he was expecting me to dip the apple slices into peanut butter because I avoid wheat.  How thoughtful.

Recently,  I found three pink journals which I had kept from 2002-2005.  Within the journals, I found letters written from me to each of my kids at different times, their drawings, a few photos and stories of specific moments.

Here are excerpts from two entries:

29 June 2004 – Brandon broke a bottle of air freshener, and he said “sorry” and then cried in bed, under the covers.  So sad that he broke my “perfume”.  And I did not even scold or punish him…. I told him to tell his brain, “careful, slowly.”  He’s still whimpering.  Sweet Sensitive Brandon.  Crying like his heart is broken.

He was almost 9 years old.

20 April 2003 – Lorren learned to cycle.  (He was almost 7 years old)

“How do I balance?”  Lorren asked.

“I can’t tell you.  You must find your own balance.” I replied.

“Keep going,” I called out as I ran first ahead of him, then beside him.  
He fell.  And got up again.  Thanks to cargo pants, he had no cuts on his knees.

“Learn to brake, Lorren.  Then you can slow down and not fall as much.”

He learned to brake, slow down and use his legs to stop him from falling.

“You’re doing well, Lorren.  Keep going.  You’re balancing.  Look forward.”

He’s got it.  He’s happy.  And I’m proud of him.

Three evenings ago, my 14-year-old daughter Nicole gave my husband and I a cupcake and note of affirmation each.

Excerpts of the note to me says (hopefully she is OK that I am sharing this with the whole wide world):

“You have raised me for great things, and have instilled so much knowledge, love and countless morals and values in me.  I often tell my friends all the lovely things you’ve done for me and to me…..I love you, and I wanna be just like you.”  

Being a mother has its troubles – teething, tantrums, exams and falling downs.

After 18 years, I cannot remember the troubles much.  Or really I prefer to remember the treasures – the cuddles, the triumph of learning to cycle, and the notes of love.

Tonight, Brandon prayed “Thank you God for the people in my life” before he blew the birthday candles out.  He then said “thank you thank you mum” to me.  That moment spoke a lot to me.  I knew what he meant.   And the first time in more than 5 years, he gave me a hug.

If you live with love, your child learns compassion.

If you live with discipline, your child learns self-responsibility.

If you live with courage, your child learns resilience.

Am I an insecure over-achiever? Am I? Maybe not? Or yes?

June 7, 2013

Yesterday, as I was lying in bed, I was suddenly seized with a moment of panic.  Questions flooded into my mind, “What if I do not know how to do it?  What if I am really horrible at it?  What if I am truly not good enough for it?  What if I have been faking it all this time?”

And I am not taking about Sex.

I am talking about another issue that starts with S.


When I was the “office shrink” of a global consulting firm, I used to hear about the “insecure overachievers” that worked there.  I did not think myself as an  “insecure overachiever” then because in my humble opinion, I was not overachieving anything.

Nevertheless, as I started to achieve more success, more self-doubt moments would creep in and go “BOO” into my consciousness.

And all it takes is to have a new aspiration to bring out that monster.

If I chose not to reach out for another goal, there is not much to doubt myself on.  If I wish to remain same-same (or in Singapore “Sama sama”), not stretch and test myself, what is there to be afraid of?

So my most current aspiration is to start and complete the Executive Masters in Consulting and Coaching for Change at INSEAD.

And soon as the idea was planted into me by a client who is in the program, Excitement and Anxiety fought within my mind.

Have YOU ever wanted something so bad that you are afraid to do anything about it?

So I had those moments.

I was so scared that I did not even blog about it till now, for fear that I would be laughed at if I failed.

What did I do in bed yesterday to beat the self-doubt monster?

I recalled my strengths, my accomplishments (how many books have I written again?  Who have I inspired? ), and more importantly, what have brought me thus far?  Grace of God, Support of Family and Friends, and my 100% Diligence and Resilience.

Thus, recall the challenges you have overcome, what actions worked before, what results you have created, what strengths are already in you.  Be humble and ask for support.

Soon, my breath became normal again.  My heart beat slowed down.  My stomach stopped churning.  And I got ready for work, and my phone interview with INSEAD.

At my phone interview yesterday afternoon, I briefly talked about my Self-doubt.  The response I got was I would learn to deal with that in the programme, and to learn how to help others with their self-doubt.  All you insecure over-achievers (and those who think they are under-achieving), watch out for me.

Oh, I can hardly wait to start my learning.







How I see one organisation transform its culture

May 21, 2013

On Sunday, I went to the Navy Open House (NOH) at Changi Naval Base.  I am talking about the Republic of Singapore navy.

As I reflect on the people I met at the NOH, I  am grateful for being part of a organisation’s transformation.

I have  often been asked “how long does it take to transform a culture?”

Many wish to shift their risk-averse, low (and sometimes negative) engaging, directive, toxic people into a culture where people are assertive, innovative, nurturing, self-directed, empowering and energizing.  And they hope to get a quick fix to their problems – “take two tablets and call me in the morning.”

If only transforming a culture is that easy, I would get instantly rich selling those pills.

I cannot comment on all initiatives and policies that the Navy has implemented in order to transform itself.  I can only share about my own experience as an external facilitator, coach and mentor to many over the years.

Since 2006, I have been part of their commitment to develop leaders who will positively engage their people, nurture  goal setting, build character  and help others achieve.    My part is to spend 5 days with groups of  leaders and raise their self-awareness, interpersonal competence, and skills in coaching and facilitating.  Systematically, the navy organises at least 6 such runs a year, and book my team and I in advanced, so that there is consistency in delivery.

We are still running the programmes because every year, “old” leaders retire and younger leaders get promoted.  Two years ago, they asked me to design another programme for  first-time supervisors who, in their past, did not do well in school.  They come into our programme thinking “I am not a leader.  Look how I have failed and made mistakes before…”  Our “pre-coaching” programme was to build their resilience and confidence in being a role model and leader.  After spending 6 days with them, one result we see is them stand taller as they present ideas with greater confidence.

I salute the navy for caring enough to create a new programme like this, which breaks through these young adults’ perceived limitations, and help them shed their baggage.

The transformation has since taken them 7 years, and a senior leader  told me, “we are prepared to continue for another 3 years” so that everyone speaks the same language of coaching and learning.


When I look for the impact of an organsiational transformation on its people, I look for more personal (qualitative case studies) examples.

I met a couple at the NOH.  The husband reminded me that he was in my first “coaching and facilitating” class in 2006.  He is now leading others in the navy, while completing his studies at the top of his cohort in marine engineering.  His wife was in my class a few years later, has since left the navy to pursue a different career.  Although she is no longer working in the navy, looking at her on Sunday, I could see her pride in the navy is evident, and their children’s pride in their parents’ affiliation with the navy is clear.

I acknowledged them both for accomplishing their goals set years ago for their career, further studies, and family life.  In FaceBook that night, the wife posted a photo of her and me, with her comment that “Wendy has been conducting courses for the Navy since 2006. A great mentor….”

I am delighted to be called "mentor" by her.

I am delighted to be called “mentor” by her.


Transformation may not come in a pill, but when it happens through conscious choices by everyone, it is irreversible.  And the positive impact ripples beyond the organisation, into the families and lives of the transformed.

Thank you Navy, for having me be part of your journey.

“Now or Later” – 1 of the 20 books in the series “All Kids R Gifted”

May 3, 2013

This shows how parents can nurture delayed gratification into their children. First published in 2002, more than 6,000 copies sold in SEA. Now it is time to digitize it. Your advise and encouragement will be greatly appreciated. Email to