It’s been eight months since I left my full-time job. At an ex-colleague’s wedding last week, I was asked several times if I missed my job, if I would consider returning to work.
Life as an ST reporter for 12 years was colourful, varied, exciting and stressful. I would do it all over again because I gained experiences I would never have, otherwise. As a rookie reporter, I trailed a debt-collector into the wee hours of the night, hoping to get an interview with him. I also tailed the Chinese husband of the lady in the Orchard Towers murder a decade ago, complete with a taxi chase, eventually getting an interview with him in his hotel room. Thankfully, my colleague, the photographer, was with me throughout. I got to interview newsmakers and ask them questions I would otherwise never have the chance or the reason to. From elections, to an SQ plane crash, to interviewing families of accident victims, the experiences helped to shape my world view today.
Later on, as an education reporter, I covered annual MOE events. From results day of major exams, to major announcements, to breaking news stories. One in recent years that left the deepest impression was when ACS(I) principal Ong Teck Chin quit suddenly, and was later found guilty by the school board of behaving inappropriately to one of his teachers. The fact that I had known him for many years prior to this added to the shock, and mixed feelings when I had to chase down each followup story on the scandal.
As a parenting columnist for Sunday Lifestyle, I got to know many parents who wrote in to share their views and thoughts after my columns were published. I got to know several better and we are in touch to this day. I’m thankful for these friendships.
I’m also thankful for the many newsmakers I got to know, and some whom I got to know better. I covered education for the longest among the various beats, so many of the people I interviewed regularly have become more than just contacts or newsmakers.
But one of the best things about my job, was the handful of wonderful bosses I had. Among the 10 or so who supervised me in the decade I was with ST, several stood out. When I was pregnant with Jason, I had a female boss (who has since left ST). She’s a mother herself and was more understanding than I ever dared to hope of a boss. When I was pregnant with Shannon, I had to be on bed rest for many months and was on leave more often than I worked that year. I had a male boss, himself a father, who would only ask me to take care of myself and not worry about work whenever he messaged. Then two years ago when I decided not to have a maid and thought I would quit to look after the kids myself, I was blessed with another male boss, also a father, who let me work from home, going in to office for meetings only once a week, so that I could ferry the kids and cook dinners. In the two years that I worked for him in Sunday Times, this gem of a boss had never once called or messaged me to chase me for stories. In fact, he had never called or messaged me. We communicated only via email. This same boss granted my request for no pay leave last June so I could spend school holidays playing with Jason, because I had used up my annual leave. In the sea of people in SPH, they made a difference in my life.
I also miss my buddies at work, the ones I had lunch and coffee break with. They kept me sane. I would like to think our rants to one another kept us all sane! They’re not just colleagues, they’re friends. Thankfully we still meet fairly regularly.
Of course, no job is perfect. Even with a good boss, interesting job, great friends, it still wasn’t enough to keep me going. There are seasons of life, and I guess the season now for me, is to be at home more, to spend more time with the people who need me more. I remember one email I got after my last column for ST, was from a doctor with 4 kids. I saved that email, along with the rest. She was speaking from the experience of someone who had given up a full time career to work part time. Her kids are now adults. She said: “Your kids have only one mom – you. Your readers have many good writers to look to. You are not indispensable in your work. Sounds like I said something unkind? But that’s the reality!”
And it is the reality. I’m thankful to her, to the many others who wrote in with their encouragement then. So to those who asked if I miss work, the short answer is, yes, I do miss certain aspects of my job. But not to the extent of wanting to go back to a full-time reporting job. Not right now, at least. 🙂
In the next post, I talk about how and why I keep busy.