Rachael Marshall is a Physical Education Teacher with daily work involving the planning and conducting of PE curriculum to introduce age-appropriate physical activity, health and fitness to her students. Passionate about sports since a very young age, Rachael loved the fact that her job involves sports and inspiring physical activity.
Rachael enjoys a lot of physical sports, like boxing, HIIT training, and hiking. She first took up boxing 14 years ago when her son was 18 months old as it seemed a great way to exercise, and try something new. She immediately fell in love with the sport, and never stopped in all the countries she was subsequently based in - Singapore, Vietnam and Japan. Having done 2 fights in the ring in Singapore, the mother of two (15 years and 18 years old) recently decided to focus on the health and fitness aspects of boxing.
Rachael shared with us how she flourished in every season of her children’s growth by being actively involved in her community. Stepping up when the chance arises has allowed her to return to work seamlessly after years of putting her husband’s career and family first.
It felt overwhelming at the start becoming a new mum in a new country where I didn’t know anyone. I first fell pregnant at 29 years old while I was working full time in England. The first few months were rather exhausting as I accompanied my husband in uprooting and moving to Singapore when I was 5 months pregnant. I was thankful to be in Singapore where there was a great healthcare provision as well as new mums support groups which made me feel like I belonged and that I could cope. I also managed better when I became accepting of imperfections while trying to find the right balance, and not being afraid to ask for help.
As we were moving countries every few years, I took up the role of running the household and being the stabilising force at home for the family. However, I’ve always felt the itch to return to work in every country we have lived in so I’ve always found myself a job whether part-time or full-time. I’d left teaching for a number of years but thankfully it’s a profession that you can easily go back to so it was quite an easy transition to make when we made the decision to return to work.
I first felt ready to restart working when my son turned 3 and started school. It felt like a good time to go back to work as both my children were in full time education and I had more time on my hands. I was an active parent at the school for a number of years as I ran the Rainbows group which is part of The British Girl Guides Association. I found conducting the activities and crafts with girls up to age 7 really enjoyable and it built up my confidence to teach. I first started at the school as a cover PE teacher, so my hours were not set. Eventually my working hours grew longer as I turned full-time, and I recalled feelings of guilt when I was no longer at home when the children were coming home from school.
That being said, working mothers can have a home/life balance. They shouldn’t be expected to just stay at home looking after the children. It was not easy to return to work after many years as a stay-at-home mom, but being part of the community helped me tremendously in entering back to work. Finding a fit between my work and my children also meant I got the best of both worlds - seeing my children during the day at school, and at home after work.
My school is understanding of the challenges working mothers have. We have a dedicated nursing room for mothers to breastfeed or pump when needed. We are also allocated one well-being mornings/afternoons per term where we can come to school later or leave earlier. These were put in place to make sure each member of staff takes time for themselves in whatever way they want - to go to the gym, have a coffee or chat. I also have the same school holidays as my children. On the school site, we also have nurses, counselors and educational psychologists to provide support. Every October during breast cancer awareness week, we are encouraged to get breast cancer screening when the mobile mammogram station arrives at school.
I am also thankful to my husband who is the cornerstone in my journey. My husband has always been there to support us as a family. We found that working as a team complemented our family dynamic: sharing babysitting, taking turns to attend the children’s appointments and day-to-day childcare.
I’m also grateful to friends who provide me with ample support, whether physically or emotionally. I maintain strong relationships with the people around me which creates a sense of belonging. It is extremely helpful when you first move to a new country to get a support network around you as soon as possible. It can be daunting when you don’t know how to get around places, or even which doctors to call. I find online information groups essential, and there’s always been a friend of a friend who is willing to help you get set up.
Now that my children are older and more independent, I am able to fully focus on my work on the weekdays, then meet up with friends on the weekend. I also try to manage my working schedule during the day so it allows me to go to the gym every day. Once a week, I also take time to hike and reconnect with friends.
My working style is functional since I am often teaching outdoors for several hours at a stretch. I like my kit to breathe easily to try to stop me from overheating, especially in Singapore’s humidity. On my off days, I find myself drawn to longer, floaty type dresses.
To working mothers, I’d like to say that ‘You can totally do this’. Have a voice by maintaining communication with family, friends and work colleagues. Don’t be afraid to fail as it's another stepping stone to greatness. Remember to breathe and take notice of what your body feels like inside and out. Love yourself, take care of yourself making sure you don’t leave behind your own self care.
*This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Photos c/o Sabrina Wee
This series is part of our International Women’s Month where we catch up with amazing women who live, as intended. With many amazing women in our community, As Intended will be celebrating an entire month to feature amazing women to #breakthebias of Working Mothers.
As part of this celebration, As Intended will be donating 10% of proceeds from purchases made in the month of March to Daughters of Tomorrow (DOT), to help raise funds for low-income working women in need of child minding support.
Daughters of Tomorrow is a registered charity organization with IPC status in Singapore whose mission is to facilitate livelihood opportunities for underprivileged women, and support them in achieving financial independence and social mobility for their families.
The lack of childminding support can be one of the biggest factors preventing a woman from being gainfully employed. Singapore Tote Board will match dollar for dollar for donations made and Tax Deduction Receipts (TDR) will also be issued for donations above $10. You may like to learn more, and choose to donate directly to: https://www.giving.sg/campaigns/as-intended