Navigating work and life as a fulltime working mom with Juliana Chai

By Natasha Sim | Parents Avenue’s Writer

Successful property negotiator Juliana Chai is a mom of one. Aside from attending to her young toddler, the 32-year-old full time working mom also juggles meeting clients and going for site visits as a real estate agent.

“I move around a lot and my work is seven days a week,” she said. The property industry can also be cutthroat and ruthless. So, it comes as a pretty big deal when Juliana managed to pull off an 8-digit commercial property deal in the first quarter of 2019. 

What’s her formula? Juliana shares with Parents Avenue how she maintains work-life balance as an all-round busybee with an almost 2-year-old.

It takes a village to raise a child

“I have my mum and domestic helper,” Juliana says. She explains that the extra set of hands have been instrumental in allowing her the time away from her daughter to work. 

“Sometimes though I will take my helper and baby to site visits with me when my mum is unable to help me jaga my kid,” she said. 

During those moments, she would be apologetic towards her client. However, most people are understanding towards her circumstances. 

Now that Juliana’s child is older, certain aspects of her toddler’s life is outsourced to educators in the form of play school twice a week, and music class once a week. 

“I understand that the 0-3 years age is crucial for a child’s development. Even in play, children are still learning something,” she says in regards to early childhood education. 

“Sometimes as a mother, I’m not fully equipped to teach my child everything. That is why teachers and playschool can be so helpful with my child’s learning,” Juliana said. 

Needless to say, it really does take the help of an entire community to help Juliana (and a lot of mothers like her) to raise a child.

Juliana's baby will turn 2 years old soon.

Challenging transition with newborn 

Juliana did not have a restful confinement. In fact, she was still working from home during her one month maternity leave. 

“I did work mostly through my phone and laptop. I picked up client calls and responded to messages after messages while in bed,” she said.

It was an obviously stressful period in her life. And for a career-driven woman like Juliana, she found it hard to unplug from work. 

“I had a confinement lady, which was a huge help with taking care of the baby. But that was only for a month,” she said. 

“To be frank, I did not really rest even when I was meant to,” she said about her confinement. Although she was fortunate to not experience post-labour pains as she had a natural birth. 

Post-confinement, Juliana found herself unable to be away from her baby for long periods of time because she was breastfeeding every 3 hours. 

That also meant carrying pumping equipment in her suitcase whenever she needed to go outstation for work, as well as pumping enough to build a freezer stash of breast milk. 

“The newborn phase is definitely not easy at all,” she recalled.

Juliana is part of the Property Hub family

Supportive work environment & flexible working hours 

If not for her wonderful colleagues and a company that supports working parents, Juliana would not have been able to stay on top of her career. 

“During those early newborn days, I had my colleagues help me a lot. They would take over my site visits for me or entertain my clients some days,” she said. 

She said having that strong trust between her and co-workers allowed her to relax on certain work responsibilities during that stressful period. 

“Especially in my industry, sometimes you hear stories of colleagues undercutting each other. But not here. Teamwork is a quality we value,” she said.  

Even now, at 21 months postpartum, Juliana still works from home often and attributes her company’s flexible working hours as key to managing time between domestic affairs and career.

It gets better 

“It’s definitely easier now that my daughter is older,” she said. 

Her routine usually involves taking her daughter to play school and classes in the morning, where she devotes her time and attention there with her daughter. 

After lunch and dropping her child home is when Juliana heads to the office. 

If she’s working from home, she’ll have to wait for her daughter to nap to start “because as soon as I open my laptop, she’ll want to sit on my lap.”

The other caveat with working from home is that Juliana has to do the bulk of her paperwork at night after her daughter goes to bed at between 7pm and 7.30pm.

“Sometimes, no choice la. I put my daughter to bed early, if not I really won’t have the time to focus and I do get the morning time with her already.” 

However, she still prefers her current arrangement because “I still get to manage my own hours with what I do,” she said. 

Her family on vacation. Juliana's husband quit his previous job to join her at Property Hub for better working hours.

An equally invested partner 

A strong support system is everything to full time working moms like Juliana. Aside from her mum, hired help and supportive company culture, the key really is her husband and partner. 

According to Juliana, her husband is equally invested in helping her and himself achieve the ideal work-life balance they seek. 

So much so that her husband quit his 8-to-5 job and joined her at Property Hub in February 2019 so he too can have flexible working hours.

Her husband is one to get his hands dirty in changing their daughter’s diapers; bathing, feeding, putting her to sleep and taking over some night feeds. 

“Not only that, because my husband is at Property Hub too, we can play tag team on our work duties,” she said. 

That way, Juliana also gets the downtime she needs. These activities include kickboxing classes and happy hour with her colleagues. 

As for family time, the trio spend every Saturday having dinner with their daughter’s grandparents. On Sundays, they’d go to the beach for some quality rest and relaxation.

“On less busy weekdays, we’d sometimes bring our daughter to an indoor playground such as Kidzoona as well,” she said. 

Although her day-to-day can get quite fast-paced and busy, Juliana says that “overall, I do feel that my life is quite balanced right now.” 

Juliana Chai is a senior real estate negotiator for Sabah’s premier real estate agency Property Hub. One may view her listings by visiting Julianachai.iagent.my.

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