Guilt is normal for working mothers: Woman of the Year

Corporate lawyer Rachel Eng believes "guilt is normal" for women who choose to juggle family and career.

Yet she overcame this to successfully co-manage one of Singapore's top four law firms and bring up her three children.

Last night, the 46-year-old trailblazer was crowned Her World Woman of The Year for 2013/2014 in a ceremony at the Shangri-La Hotel - where she championed family-friendly practices and advised fellow working mothers not to be fixated on excelling at everything they do.

"In the perfect world, you want to be there to take them home from school, greet them when they come home, cook dinner for them," she said.

"But we are not in a perfect world. Guilt is normal... there is no antidote. There will be trade-offs... you accept them and make the best of the situation. Then everything will get better."

Ms Eng became the first woman to be named Managing Partner of the Year twice at the ALB South-east Asia Law Awards, in 2011 and last year.

She spoke in favour of companies that offer flexibility to parents, such as allowing them to work from home.

Ms Eng also paid tribute to her fellow partners, colleagues and family. "Some of them refused to let me quit my job. They stood by me, gave me all the help and the peace of mind to carry on and give my best."

The annual award has been given out for the last 23 years to Singaporean women who have contributed to society, projected a good image of the nation and acted as role models to others.

Her World, published by SPH Magazines, is the best-selling women's title here. Its annual Young Woman Achiever award went to photographer Sim Chi Yin, 35, who has documented the lives of migrant workers in Singapore and China.

The former SPH scholar and Beijing correspondent at The Straits Times quit the paper to freelance and has won several international photography awards.

She is the first Singaporean and Asian to join the ranks of the exclusive VII photo agency.

Ms Sim, who is based in Beijing, said the award is a nod to her decision to "cut the strings of security to do what matters to society and me".

This article was first published on Oct 18, 2014.
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