No time to eat , no time to sleep - A Primary School student mantra - - Singapore Lifestyle Portal

No time to eat , no time to sleep - A Primary School student mantra

The Wacky Duo
Time to sleep...

After 2 weeks of primary school with 2 primary school going kids, the reality of school-life balance begins to seep in.  For parents with primary school kids, the mantra 'No time to eat, no time to sleep' would be a familiar war chant that is echoed in every household during weekdays. Effectively from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon, the battle is on repeat mode during school term. This issue is primarily prevalent for single session primary school students.

As adults, we often discuss and debate on work-life balance. The consensus would usually be synonymous, we embrace the philosophy. In certain instances, this may be our guiding principle when it comes to getting a job or remaining in one. If we as adults, treasure such a notion, should we not apply it to children as well?

How does a situation where no time to eat and no time to sleep lead to a school-life balance for the children?

To assess the concept of balance. take a look at our weekly timetable

  • Impossible meal times
Mealtime would usually start at 10 am, this will be breakfast for most folks, but it would be brunch for children. The 12 pm snack break (as a substitute for lunch) is debatable. Most schools only allow up to 5-10 minutes for you to wolf down food that you brought from home (if you pack one). As it is done in classes, there will be NO opportunity for you to head to the tuckshop to fill up. This had become such an issue that it created a hoo-ha with this post from The Middle Ground. A reply from MOE was sought, but it only brought in an ambiguous reply. However, we feel that is only scratching the surface of the issue.

Real lunch is served at home at 3 pm with dinner following up at 6pm. Before you complain that it is only 3 hours or less in between meals, do note that it is not an option for working parents. By the time the parents stop work and pick the child up from grandparents, relatives or day centers, it will be closer to 7-730pm. The last hour before bedtime is normally reserved for revision or any schoolwork that is not completed.
  • No Time to Sleep
It was recently published that Singaporeans are not clocking enough sleep. This study involved adults age 21-80. The result showed that 44% of Singaporeans slept insufficiently. We believe if you survey only Primary school students, it may be closer to 100%. Primary school children (7-12) are recommended to have 10-11 hours of sleep per day. Based on what we had shown, school children average about 9.5 hours of sleep on weekdays (if they are lucky). Let's not talk about the parents, who have to stay up later to have dinner or complete their work  + wake up earlier to prepare the children for school.

  • Working Parents woes
In today's context, a dual-income family is common in the family nucleus. With the high cost of living in Singapore, this is hardly surprising. However, this comes at the expense of interaction with the children. With work, the only time we can interact with the children is the 1 hour revision time set daily. In reality, we could not even enjoy a dinner with the children on weekdays. Doing homework or going through revision are not exactly family bonding activities you look forward to on a daily basis.

There are even instances where parents have no choice but to leave the children with their grandparents on weekdays. This may be due to irregular work hours or the need to save time on long commutes. Ironically, although it might provide relieve for school-life balance, it is not ideal as parenting becomes a weekend affair.


  • Start School late
School life balance is a joke. In the morning, kids wake up grouchy and like little zombies. They are tired and famished at the same time while attending school. A more viable option is to consider starting school at 8am. Starting school at this time would also mean parents can send the children to school and head to work thereafter. This would reduce the reliance on the school bus as parents opt to send children to school themselves. This morning commute can also help to build a relationship between parent and child.

  • Swap snack time and Lunch Time.  
Devote a proper break time and lunchtime for the kids. Break time should be about 15-20 minutes and lunch at least 30 minutes or longer. Before you say this is ridiculous, overseas primary schools such as those in the UK have an hour lunch period. Moreover, if an adult can have the luxury of one hour lunch, it is not so difficult to phantom a  lunchtime longer than 30 minutes lunch for the children. A longer and appropriate lunchtime would mean that there would not be a rush to feed the children in the afternoon.

  • Happy Children, Happy Teachers
Although children may arrive home later from school, time management may actually improve. Since lunch is taken care of in school, the children will just have to focus on school work in the afternoon. With proper time management, they could also be given opportunities to have a siesta. The cost here is just to start school later and add 10 minutes to a mealtime. Hardly rocket science.

If there are complains that it would stretch the teachers time, rest assured we are on the same side as them. Starting school late would give them time to rest better. In addition, teaching well-rested and well-fed happy children will be a plus over mini zombies.

  • Better Time management
As children are allowed to sleep a little later, enrichment classes can be moved later to the evenings. That way, parents need not juggle work and class schedules just to send them to classes. Dinner with children would be possible with the new timetable. Lastly, the need to rush through revision just to make it to bedtime would be reduced.

If we stuck to the current timetable, the imbalance will flow through the weekends. Due to the lack of sleep and lack of time to complete homework, weekends are now devoted to sleep, homework and enrichment classes. Time off for fun is a rare commodity for kids and adults alike. At this rate, adults with primary school going kids will have their precious work-life balance philosophy on the tightrope.  With expectations of increased homework as the year progresses, you can only expect to see any precious work-life balance dissipate into the abyss.

A happy child would boost his/ her development by having a positive attitude to school. In contrast, one that is constantly protesting about the lack of rest, being hungry and overfed on the same day would be detrimental in the longer run. Worse, it may inculcate the same behaviour when they become adults, leading the next generation to think it is the 'normal' way of life. 

With this mindset, the world will be a different place to live in after a decade or two when these primary schoolers join the workforce. It will be perfectly ok to wake up at the unearthly time, have meals at irregular hours, forget about play and sleep before the sunset. The young minds would be brainwashed in time to come.

If the charade continues, things would have to change. As a parent, I feel the only way to ensure a healthier childhood using the current schedule would be ditching the current dual-income family unit and embracing a single income household. It may be highly impractical in Singapore due to the high cost of living, but it may be essential to allow the kids a fighting chance at school-life balance. That way, it will eliminate precious travelling time and convert it into more productive revision time. With revision covered in the afternoon, there will be more relaxing evenings for the family to bond. 

Otherwise, in a few years time, your children will ask ... 'What did you do to my childhood? '


  1. Do not understand the abbreviation GP house is grandpa house? HW is housework or homework or......?


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