Learning from my parents' resilience and hard work — even during Covid-19
Both my parents are hourly-wage workers. My father is a delivery driver who has worked for over 40 years delivering parcels as an independent contractor, while my mother helps him. Most recently, they worked at a small and medium enterprise (SME) delivering e-commerce products from Amazon, Alibaba, and more.
Both my parents are hourly wage workers. My father is a delivery driver who has worked for over 40 years delivering parcels as an independent contractor, while my mother helps him. Most recently, they worked at a small and medium enterprise (SME) delivering e-commerce products from Amazon, Alibaba, and more.
My father, Simon Lim, just turned 66 years old while my mother Irene Tan is 62.
My parents barely went to school and were asked by their parents to work at a young age.
For them, spending each hour earning money made more sense than going to school, as they needed to sustain the family and raise me, my younger sister and older brother.
My parents often took on multiple jobs to make ends meet when we were growing up, and would encourage us to work hard so we can get ahead in life.
I grew up in my dad’s van — following him in waking up early to hitch a ride to school. This meant getting out of bed at 5am so that he could drive an hour from our Housing and Development Board flat in Bukit Batok to a warehouse at Changi to pick up the goods that he needed to deliver for the day.
I was always tired and sleepy as he put me next to him in the van and drove to work. To him, every minute counted as he was paid by the hour.
My parents would gobble up their S$2.50 lunch in 10 minutes so that they could get back to work faster.
My father often worked till 8pm and would take only half a day’s break each week.
My parents' hard work and resilience through tough times have been a driving force for our family. Both my parents never had the opportunity to be educated and always needed to rely on their own hard work to provide for the family.
My father used to run a small logistics business many years ago, but due to the global financial crisis, the business did not pan out. However, he did not let this bring him down.
The same week that this happened, my father started to look for new jobs and started working as an hourly wage worker again in order to provide for the family. Since then, he has kept doing his best by delivery parcels for companies that he worked for, putting in hard work and dedication.
But like many workers in Singapore, my parents have been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before the circuit breaker, my parents dutifully continued to deliver goods and parcels.
They took pride in being able to serve fellow Singaporeans in times of need, even though my siblings and I were understandably very worried over their high risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Last month, the local SME where they had worked for the past few years closed down and they lost their jobs. My father returned home one day and shared the news in a matter of fact manner.
I encouraged my parents to take a break or to look for more flexible work including with on-demand logistics and delivery companies, but they were persistent in continuing the same line of work they did in the past — delivering goods for local SMEs.
After all, they had been used to the same routine and process for the past few decades.
Over the past few weeks, my parents’ daily routine consisted of looking for jobs in newspapers, exercising, and occasionally watching Taiwanese dramas to unwind.
However, it has been hard for my parents to find work given the circuit breaker and the uncertain economic outlook.
Nonetheless, each time I have a WhatsApp call with my parents, they remain in high spirits and full of energy and drive.
My mum has started to take some online class on cooking and English, while my dad continues to look for jobs daily, with the hope that when the economy reopens, he will be able to get back and contribute to Singapore’s supply chain fabric.
He would say in a half-joking, half-serious manner: “If this doesn’t pan out, I can always go be a security guard!”
This could be an easy time to be negative or to retire. But my parents made a deliberate choice to keep moving forward, in their own ways that they understand. They believe in standing on their own feet, and not depending on their children or others to maintain their livelihood.
Despite many suggestions by my siblings and me for them to get some time off, they are determined to be gainfully employed and provide for themselves.
My parents’ resilience, determination and hard work have taught me to keep moving forward too.
I am currently running a human resource startup and like many others, we have had to adapt quickly to changes brought about by Covid-19. Inspired by my parents, I led my team to pivot fully into working from home.
Like my parents, we could have taken the opportunity to take a break, but we did not. Instead, our team is spending more time with our customers, producing more relevant and helpful content on our company blog, and offering our product for free to frontline organisations such as hospitals, clinics and government agencies.
I am very fortunate to be able to learn the value of resilience, determination and hard work from my parents.
Despite never going to school, they have educated me in their own ways — leading by example, working hard and displaying integrity in their beliefs.
Covid-19 is one of the most challenging times for us, but it too will pass. What is most important for us is the experience of standing up to the challenges and overcoming them.
I believe we all will and can do so, just as my parents are doing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Desmond Lim is the chief executive and co-founder of Workstream.us, a hiring automation software for businesses. A graduate of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he is currently based in San Francisco.