Juggling work, studies and family life is something Madam Penny Tang, 37, took in her stride.
In the course of a day, the business development manager used to get her sons, Bill, 10, and Billy, 6, ready for school, made sure they did their homework and chores, dealt with clients, rushed to her part-time degree classes, returned home to check on her kids, revised her schoolwork and then grabbed a few hours of sleep before repeating the cycle.
She followed this routine for the past year, a testimony to her iron will and determination to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in Marketing Management from Coventry University, UK.
Her degree dreams started not long after she graduated with a Diploma in Business Administration from Singapore Polytechnic in 1999.
But she joined the workforce and got married, and it was not until 2002 that she decided to pursue her dreams.
She said: "I could not pursue my academic dreams earlier as I was busy looking after my kids, and my husband was often working overseas, leaving me alone with the children. I joined sales as that was the only field which did not put too much emphasis on paper qualifications, but on experience instead.
"In 2002, I started a course at a private school, but I had to give up after one semester when I found out I was pregnant with my first child.
"Five years later, I enrolled for another private school course but had to put that on hold after two semesters when I was pregnant with my second child."
But Madam Tang did not let it hinder her progress.
She took short courses to keep her mind active, and seeing her strong desire for a degree, her husband, sales director William Tan, 41, gave her the perfect 10th wedding anniversary gift last year.
She said: "He said he would sponsor my degree course and wanted me to be focused and to study hard to achieve my goal.
"I was so touched and happy."
Madam Tang has completed all her modules and exams, and expects to graduate in July.
Recalling her time at Auston Institute of Management, she said: "The staff were very helpful and friendly. As I had to travel frequently on business, Auston was willing to allow me to be absent from classes as long as I produced a company letter indicating my reasons for absence.
"Other private schools said I had to meet a minimum attendance target before I could sit for the exams, but Auston did not have this criteria," she said.
Once Madam Tang enrolled in the course, she had to adjust her schedules to fit her academic timetable.
Classes at Auston were held three times a week, from 7pm to 10pm, and she would usually study for her lessons from 10pm to 1am daily.
"If I had group assignments or classes on Saturdays, my husband would ferry the kids to their enrichment classes, and I would go meet my groupmates for the assignments or invite them to my home," she said.
Madam Tang is grateful for the support and help she got from her in-laws and her Indonesian domestic helper, Dede.
"Every day, I prepared homework for the kids and told Dede to make sure they do it. She acted as the 'policeman' in the house while I was away.
"If the children had not done their homework before I returned home, she would inform me. My in-laws were also very obliging, and would go over to my home to look in on the kids when my husband or I were away.
"Sometimes, my elder son saw me with my coursemates going through our projects and asked why I still had to do homework when I was tired. I told him that that was why he should study hard while he is still young and not be like me," she said.
Sacrifices also had to be made. As she had to study for her exams, Madam Tang had to do without the customary meal on Mother's Day.
She said: "I told my mother and husband that we would have a Mother's Day meal later this month instead."
Her iPhone, iPad and five daily cups of coffee were essential items in helping her get through the day.
She often rushed from work to class without having dinner, and relied on coffee to get her through the day.
"Without my iPad and iPhone, I was lost as my schedules and children's schedules are in the devices. I relied on the reminders from my iPhone to help me know when to call my kids, when to schedule my meetings, when to do my assignments and many other details," she said.
Madam Tang has never considered her academic journey a struggle.
She said: "After every class, I always felt that I was cleverer. The lecturers taught us what was new and relevant in today's business settings.
"I was always grateful because I learnt something new every day. As I was often absent from classes because of my frequent business trips, I usually met with the lecturers personally to ask them to explain what I had missed.
"Despite their busy schedules, the lecturers took time to meet me to answer my questions."
She has one main piece of advice for adult learners and part-time students.
"Manage your time well, or you will find it very hard to balance your work, studies, family and social life. Once you manage your time well, success will come," she said.
A day in the life of 'Supermum'
Madam Penny Tang's hectic day while pursuing her degree would begin soon after she woke up at 5.30am.
She would first check the schoolbags belonging to each of her sons, Bill Tan, 10, and Billy Tan, 6, to make sure that they had all they needed for school.
"When my elder son's teacher noticed he had forgotten something, she usually knew it was because his mother was not at home," Madam Tang said.
After she was satisfied that the kids were ready for school, Madam Tang would wake Bill and then have a shower.
By 6am, Madam Tang's Indonesian helper, Dede, would be up and preparing breakfast for the family. Madam Tang used breakfast as a chance to spend some quality time with Bill before her husband, Mr William Tan, 41, woke up.
Come 7am, Mr Tan would have had breakfast and driven Bill to his school in Clementi before heading to work. Madam Tang drove Bill to school if Mr Tan was overseas on business.
By 8.30am, her second son, Billy, would have woken up, had breakfast and boarded the school bus to kindergarten.
Madam Tang would then head to work.
After school, Bill would head to a student care centre nearby, where he would do his homework and spend the rest of the day before returning home at 6pm.
By 8pm, Madam Tang would be done for the day and on the way home.
"I usually finished my work after 6pm as my office is usually quiet and free from distractions. Most of my time before 6pm was spent at meetings and conference calls," she said.
After dinner, Madam Tang revised Bill's schoolwork until 10pm, when he and Billy would get ready for bed.
She said: "Learning cannot stop for children, or they will take it for granted."
While the kids were asleep, Madam Tang would remain wide awake as she turned to her computer and hit the books at the penthouse terrace of her Pasir Panjang condominium unit.
A combination of determination, perseverance and strong coffee kept her going until 1am, when she went to bed.
Then at 5.30am, the cycle would repeat for another weekday.
Weekends are a chance to enjoy a few more hours of sleep, unless group assignments and other projects were due.
Madam Tang said: "Saturday was also busy as my husband and I took the kids to their swimming classes, enrichment classes, Chinese tuition classes and so on. But we took a break on Sunday. We would just go swimming, have a meal together, and other things to bond as a family."
As she awaits her results due next month, life has become less hectic. And she's hoping that all the sacrifice was well worth it.
This article was first published in The New Paper.