Mum is out, Dad is in
Singaporean family featured in reality TV series where dad takes over household while mum goes on holiday
Working mothers will agree that the struggle to juggle career, family and the often elusive "me" time is a real and sometimes painful one.
Singaporean mother-of-three Leah Tan, 34, is one such mum.
And her story will be chronicled in the second season of reality TV series Mom's Time Out, which follows three South-east Asian families as the husbands take over running the household while their exhausted wives are treated to a five-day vacation at a luxury resort in Cebu, the Philippines.
It premieres Sept 16 on Lifetime (StarHub TV Ch 514) at 9pm.
Mrs Tan's day typically starts at 10amafter her aircraft engineer husband Mr Tan Jee Teng, 36, goes to work at 7am, leaving her with their three children - Atticus, seven, Ashlea, five, and 10-month-old Aubrey.
After she sends the older children to school in the afternoon, Mrs Tan, who runs an events company mostly from home, dives straight into "work mode" while attending to her baby round the clock and carrying out household chores.
Although the family has a domestic helper, Mrs Tan claims to be a clean freak who is "constantly packing and vacuuming... 24/7."
At night, she prepares dinner and with her husband, helps the children with their homework. Mr Tan, on the other hand, is more laid-back and admitted his lack of flair for cooking.
On weekends, Mrs Tan often heads out to meet clients or see that events run smoothly while her husband takes over at home.
She admits the stress gets a bit too much to handle at times and she has been forced to seek much-needed peace and quiet in her car.
She told The New Paper in an interview with Mr Tan yesterday: "All mums go through ups and downs. I go through them especially when I have lots of events to prepare for.
"Conceptualising events and doing planning work need a lot concentration. Sometimes when the kids are too noisy, I don't get to sleep enough and yet in the day I have plenty of errands to run non-stop, "
DAD IN CHARGE: In reality TV series Mom's Time Out, Mr Tan Jee Teng (centre) runs the household and looks after his three kids, realising that it's no cakewalk.
With Mrs Tan away on her escapade, Mr Tan took leave from work for the "experiment".
It was his first time caring for all three children for days on end but he was "excited" and embraced it.
It has also been a long time since his last vacation alone with his wife. They have date nights "once in a blue moon" and it is spent discussing how to be better parents.
Despite Mr Tan's eagerness to assume his wife's role, there were challenges.
"I didn't foresee so many arguments between the older children and with such frequency. Aubrey is an easy baby but with Atticus and Ashlea, I had to step in and force them to compromise each time they quarrelled," he said.
Mrs Tan also had to remind her husband to keep the children "well-fed and the house looking great" during her time away.
In her absence, Mr Tan ordered food from an online supermarket which included instructions on preparing do-it-yourself meals.
"I chose to cook meatball rice with snow peas and it was a successful attempt as there were clear steps on how to prepare the meal. The kids even gave me passing grades," said Mr Tan.
He even threw in a surprise for his wife - a handicraft work to show his love and appreciation for her.
In the past, he used to make her paper flowers for every month that they were together.
The experience made him appreciate his wife's sacrifices for the family and he commended her for dealing with the domestic chaos on a day-to-day basis.
"I took leave so I didn't have work to think about. Leah does a fantastic job that I cannot do and I really admire her," he said.
Mrs Tan was grateful for the short break from the hustle and bustle of her daily life.
"I just needed that solid six to eight hours of peace. It was a good break but to make up for missing them, I filled up two trolleys worth of shopping to bring home for them," she said with a laugh.
Life is back to normal for the Tans after filming the show and the status quo remains, but Mrs Tan believes the experience has taught her husband patience.
"I probably didn't come back a changed person but I came back to a changed husband who is more understanding of me juggling my various roles.
"He now understands how I can switch roles from a businesswoman to a mother in a split second, and then from a mother to a daughter when a phone call comes through. It requires continual effort and lots of love," she said.
She added that her husband has now stepped up more to allow her some alone time.
"There are days when I need to hide in a corner and breathe or just pamper myself with shopping, a perm or a manicure and he has definitely chipped in to be a more active father," she said.