While the circuit breaker appeared to be an opportunistic time for family to bond, not everyone had a pleasant experience.
The two-month circuit breaker forced everyone to stay home, and for most Singaporeans, it means that the period was spent with their family.
For some, having more family time was a blessing. But for others, it did more harm than good.
We spoke to four Singaporean youths about how the circuit breaker helped or affected their relationship with their families.
While some families may have made it a point to eat dinner together at least once a week before the circuit breaker, it was a struggle for others to find an appropriate timing for the whole family to be at the dinner table together as schedules clashed.
For 18-year-old student Iman Izzati, the circuit breaker was a blessing as it finally allowed her big family of eight people to have meals together. It used to be difficult to spend time with her family since her parents were working and her siblings had their own school schedules.
She recalled that before the circuit breaker, her family members would only be able to interact with each other for three hours daily at most. Even then, their interactions were limited to the evening when everyone was home after work or school.
“During the circuit breaker, since most of us have home based-learning and work from home, we would interact more in our free time. Our interactions with one another increased to at least five hours a day.
“We were able to do family activities like baking, having movie marathons. My family did not have much time to do things like these before circuit breaker since our schedules clashed a lot.
“Before, my parents could be home when we are at school, and their work shifts would only begin when we are home,” said Iman, who is the oldest child in her family.
Her family has grown closer and she attributes this to being able to finally sit at the dining table together for their meals.
“I feel that part of the reason why we grew closer would be that it was the fasting month for us. Having dinner together gives us time to actually talk and bond, like what we learnt during home-based learning, or just any interesting conversations. It just gives more room for us to talk without our laptops or phones in the way,” she explained.
Iman revealed that her family plans to maintain their strong bond by making an effort to eat together more often when circuit breaker ends as they really enjoyed being able to have dinner together.
Alden Andrew, 18, is another youth whose family benefited from the extra time they had due to circuit breaker.
He was barely able to spend time with his family before circuit breaker since he always came home late from school.
The psychology student shared: “Before the circuit breaker,everyone was busy with work and school. I used to come back late and spend the night doing my work or studying in school so I could not spend as much time with them.
“Since the circuit breaker, we have been able to have meals together all the time and spend more time at night since we don’t have to travel. So the amount of time we spend doing work decreases.”
He also shared that his helper was stuck overseas due to the travel bans which resulted in splitting the housework with his siblings. This activity brought them closer together because they did chores together and they also had a shared responsibility for maintaining the house.
With plenty of time too, he was also able to do things that his family wanted to do previously but were not able to due to the lack of time. His family did activities like baking, crafting and playing board games to pass time when they were done with work.
“In the past, we simply did not use our free time to spend time with one another. Our busy schedules made us want to do other more relaxing things during our free time, such as having alone time by ourselves. But now, we are spoilt for time so we can afford to do other things with our family,” explained Alden.
While he isn’t sure whether they can maintain this schedule after circuit breaker, he ensures that his family has always known the importance of family bonding and they would definitely try to manage their time better to allow for more family time in the future.
But for some families, they grew apart even though they were sharing the same space and that was the case for 20-year-old Valerie Lim. Her circuit breaker experience was a dreadful one, as her relationship with her parents were strained.
Valerie admitted that everyone usually avoided each other at home and nothing changed during circuit breaker, even though they were all home the entire day. If anything, the relationship between her and her parents deteriorated.
She remarked that her parents would always nitpick and nag at her, especially about her sleeping habits, which would affect her mood badly.
Valerie confined herself to her room since she felt that it was the only safe space for her in the house, away from her family members.
“I feel like everyone is on edge more than before. During the start of circuit breaker my father would incessantly try to get me to fix his laptop and all that but I vehemently refused, not only because I was busy with work but also because of the difficulty of the tasks. When I explained why, he wasn’t even understanding.
“I got a lot more annoyed with everyone and I didn’t want to speak to them or see them, because I knew I’d get annoyed or they’ll say something infuriating to me,” admitted Valerie. As the only child in her family, she has no siblings to turn to as well.
The circuit breaker had taken a negative toll on her emotional well-being as well.
She said: “It has been horrible. Not seeing my friends, not getting a break from my family and the overall feeling of lack of productivity is stuck in my head. Spending more time in my room also made me realise just how lonely I’ve been my entire life growing up in this family.
Valerie also believes that her relationship with her family members will not be mended anytime soon. She said that there were “deeply rooted problems beyond the circuit breaker” and someone in her family would have to change their character in order for them to get closer but she does not see it happening.
Then, there are families whose relationships maintained the status quo.
Ferdeos, a 19-year-old student, thought that her family still spent the same amount of time together as they had before circuit breaker.
Her mother and sister still had to head out for work as they were essential workers in the food & beverage industry. Even when they came home, everyone would be doing their own things instead. While staying at home with her family didn’t affect their relationship with one another in a drastically negative way, Ferdeos found that being together with everyone for a prolonged period made her more aware of their small habits.
“For example, my brother likes to have the curtains drawn in the room but I don’t. He prefers to work in a dim setting while I prefer working in a brighter setting with natural light coming in. My dad also smokes so I don’t want to be outside in the living room when he’s smoking.
“These are some habits that I’ve had to adjust to at home,” she explained.
Her relationship with her family members has not changed for the worse but her emotional well-being has been affected by having to stay at home.
Knowing that she would have nowhere to go if she were to get upset with her family during circuit breaker, she admitted that she forced herself to be more tolerant towards her family, causing her to bottle up her feelings.
This led her to a realisation that she might have to consider moving out in the future when she can.
“While it is nice to live under the same roof as my family, I found myself considering the option of moving out and living on my own. I kept wishing that I had my own space to do my work so that I wouldn’t be disrupted.
“After sharing a living space for so long, rather than getting accustomed to it, I have longed for a sense of privacy,” said Ferdeos.
But without having enough money to move out anytime soon, Ferdeos, who has an indifferent relationship with her family, explained that for the time being she would only have to keep tolerating her family’s habits.
The circuit breaker has certainly given plenty of families different experiences, whether it is good or bad. For those who had a pleasant time with their family, that’s great!
But for those who had a less than ideal time with their family, know that there are ways to solve disputes peacefully, and seek help if you need to! There are plenty of resources here.
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