I was an early childhood educator…

Ms Ain Syakirah is the founder of The Bambini Sg – an early years learning and education platform for both parents and children. This mother of 3 left her role as a full time childcare teacher to do exactly the same thing that she loves, but from home. Here is her story.

What made you leave your role as an early childhood teacher to be a full time mom?

I was burnt out. I went all out as a teacher and I felt I was offering so much support, and compassion to the people in school. I didn’t realise I ignored myself and didn’t have the mental and physical capacity left for my family by the time I got home. I was running low. Slowly, discussions about quitting surfaced between me and my husband. He was supportive of the idea and gave me the go ahead to tender. I didn’t act on it immediately – I was hesitant, unsure. Only until I went through complications during my 2nd pregnancy did I decide to pull the plug.

I was exhausted, and I needed the rest – a lot of bed rest. Prior to that, I was on many days of medical and hospitalisation leaves. At that point, I was also a form teacher of a class with tremendous workload and I didn’t want to trouble my team. But when I thought again, I felt that it was only fair for the school and my teachers to have someone else who can be physically present and permanent to carry out my duties in school. The signs were crystal clear. It was time I focus on my health and my family.

What were some of the concerns that went through your mind before this?

Initially, I was worried and wondered if I was even financially and emotionally ready to make the jump. Many questions ran through my mind. Do I have sufficient savings to support my family with one less income? Will people look at me as a failure? How would my parents feel?

Yes, I was anxious about what others might think of me, especially the people whom I worked with and cared for. More importantly, it was a lot more nerve wrecking at the thought of breaking the news to my parents, and see the worried/disappointed look that would come right after. They’ve been by my side through all the struggles and highs of this career, and quitting would mean that their efforts had gone to waste. I feared not being able to match up to their expectations of being a good teacher, mother, daughter. Financially, I haven’t even carefully panned out how long my savings would last the family on a single income. What are the hidden costs involved leaving my job?

I felt that I was accountable for all these, despite knowing deep down that this was the right thing to do. I had always been very committed and responsible for my decisions and doings – so I thought, this should not hold me back.

Did you have a support system to help you through the transition?

A good and supportive family member or friend is very much crucial to take you through any transition. In my case, it was my husband. Living in the same household, it was much easier, he understood my situation very well and we communicated a lot. After awhile, I realised that what others think of you doesn’t matter because they are neither the ones going through it with you, nor paying your bills. What mattered was knowing that my husband was in it together, and the constant reassurance that whatever we had then would be sufficient to pull us through. I am also a spiritual person, and strongly believe that the Almighty will not put me through something which I am not built for.

Did you consider taking on other part time or freelance jobs to finance your expenses?

I had a brief game plan just incase my savings went dry. I considered switching to part time teaching in the same centre – which would allow me some flexi hours to be at home. Pre-Covid when online learning wasn’t a hit yet, conducting fee based online story telling sessions/ phonetic lessons was another option I contemplated. I’m glad more educators are aggressively conducting many online sessions now. There will always be a demand for academic enrichment tutors/ confidence building coaches for children, be it online or face to face. And lastly, I even reviewed possible part time virtual assistant / remote admin jobs – with the transferable skills I had as a teacher. Surprisingly, the possibilities are quite endless.

The Bambini Sg pop up store at the launch of M3 @ Woodlands & Syiok BabyFest 2019

How did you path your way to build your current home business, The Bambini Sg?

They were small but consistent steps. I started organising playdates and storytelling sessions with children of my close friends and even conducted mini parenting workshops within my circle.

The first few playdate sessions were done at the comfort of my own home. I enjoyed the flexibility of teaching at my own time and style, without having others telling what was right or wrong. It was also through these sessions that I realised there was a demand for early childhood support groups and programs. Young and new parents came up to me asking for learning references and resources, learning support tips, and even parenting hacks. It was a gap I could fill in right away. I founded TheBambiniSg – an education and family platform. Soon, what used to be a once in a while playdate session became a weekly affair. I was opening my home every weekend, welcoming parents and children to my safe space for them to learn and bond through play.

Thanks to social media, word got around, and before I knew it, emails from other SMEs and associations in the same industry started to come in for collaborations. That was the catapult for me to extend my service and efforts to the wider community. Fast forward many years on, I’m proud to say that TheBambiniSg has somewhat carved its way in the early years and education scene in Singapore. I never looked back since.

What is one advice for women who are thinking to do the same?

Stop and think. Don’t leave out of impulse. Speak to people who matters. Weigh the pros and cons. Maybe all you need is a mindset change. But if your gut feeling to leave is strong and the reasons to leave is more than to stay, be brave to make that move (with a plan). Take things one at a time and focus on what’s important for you first (health, family, future possibilities etc). Centre your attention on your current priorities, sieve out the things you don’t need anymore and be prepared to make uncomfortable adjustments in your life – this includes living with a lot lesser, forgoing the little luxuries for a while, and maybe even working at odd hours (when the kids are asleep).

For me, I knew at that point that my children were and still is my priority, and I didn’t want to regret looking back in time for missing out key milestones in their lives. I’m glad I acted on my plan, little by little. Be bold, go for it! You’d never know what opportunities lie ahead.

Secondly, one needs to nourish to flourish. I learned that I needed to empty my cup first before filling it in again. It was one way I could achieve what I had always wanted to do. For me, quitting my full time job was the form of nourishment or cleansing which I needed. I had more time and wiggle room to grow, think and learn. Go improve your well being, get that family goals, and achieve all other aspirations.

Link up with Ms Ain via her instagram account @TheBambiniSg .