My Life as a Mother and as a Working Woman

—Simran Oberoi

Art is the child of nature in whom we trace the features of the mother’s face.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ibegan writing this article several times and each time something came up which needed my immediate attention. These were either associated with my work or with my 4 ½ month old baby. I would like to add the word ‘new’ before mother, simply because my current status is a reflection of that.

A lot has been shared on how a working woman balances her job against her role as a mother—attending conference calls interspersed with diaper changes or client meetings juxtaposed with visits to the paediatrician. A lot has also been shared on how women get increasingly better at balancing these two elements. However, all the literature on this topic cannot prepare you for the moment when in the middle of an important call your baby smiles (yes, smiles, not cries!) at you to get your attention or you miss seeing how your baby turns sideways for the first time. Clichéd as it might sound, time does seem to standstill during those moments as you oscillate between your duty and your love.

Having just joined after the birth of my first kid, I am in a phase where I juggle between my baby’s needs and my professional commitments.

To say that I have been able to successfully manage both fronts smoothly, even after a month of re-joining my duties would be wrong. But I can confidently say that I know it gets better with each passing day and that I am hopeful of being able to acquire that skill. Honestly, there are days when I discover that there is no method to the madness.

Here are a few basic techniques that one could adopt to make one’s life a little more organized and manageable.

Make list!

The only way to control the situation is to make proper to-do lists. Earlier you had to manage your grocery list for home and your to-do list for work. Now you have an additional list—a list of the things necessary for the baby. So you may want to ensure that you make a note of even the smallest requirement of your child. Be more specific with your work list—sub-divide it into first and second half of the day. You may want to finish your mails/deliverables/reports/reviews first and then have your conference calls or vice versa. I do it as per my baby’s requirements. So, if I plan to bathe my baby in the afternoon, I get over with my calls in the first half and then work on the mails in between his play as well as food timings.

Prioritize—Segregate the Essentials from the Non-essentials

These could vary for each individual. For me, bathing and playing with my child are essentials or non-negotiable alongside ensuring that I complete all the work that I have assigned to myself. Work-related non-essentials are kept for Friday early evenings or for an hour or two during the weekend when my husband is around to help me with the baby. Home-related or child-related non-essentials are either delegated to the domestic help or done over a period of time. I rely a lot on online purchases. They are not the best always, but help me devote my time to the bare essentials associated with my child and work. Perhaps when I have the luxury of time, I may rediscover the joys of actually visiting a shop to buy things.

Discuss with Your Managers/Leaders

You will be surprised to know how often this works out positively. To give you an example, we had a business review meeting recently with the team of our global leaders visiting us. I had to make the presentation for my team and with a 4 ½ month old that may need me anytime, it seemed like a mammoth task. I discussed the issue with my manager. My manager allowed me to leave after my presentation and also to get my baby along. Having a supportive spouse who came along and baby sat in the hotel room, while I went ahead with my presentation, was an additional bonus.

Take out 10-15 Minutes for Yourself

For a mother and a working woman, life seems to be clearly confined between one’s job and children. Dissolve the boundaries and ‘re-demarcate’ them! You need to be yourself to do justice to both these critical roles—and the only way you will continue to be yourself, is by taking out time for yourself whether it is 10-15 minutes or an hour each day. It helps you to organize your thoughts, channelize your energy and re-focus and helps you to revisit those corners of your mind and heart that you forgot about!

Indulge in Your Hobbies

I love baking and that was the first thing that was put on the back burner because between my work and my baby, there was just no time to do anything else. And then I thought, let me start it once again—once a day to begin with—the idea changed me. I would identify the low pressure days when my baby needed me a little less or my work commitments were lighter and I would spend an hour baking or writing my blog. It worked wonders in rejuvenating me because it gave me a small window to relax and focus on something beyond work and child.

I have tried to share my experiences and how I am learning from them, to manage this delicate balance. Often times, women have to choose between their child and work, because of the current corporate set-ups, absence of flexible work arrangements, no childcare facilities at work places … it will always be a struggle unless our organizations demonstrate a better understanding of the needs of a mother who is a high performing professional for them! But till then … ways of trying to manage can help each of us get by.

About the Author
Simran Oberoi is working as the Knowledge Advisor at Society for Human Resource Management, India. She holds an experience of more than a decade in HR Advisory Services. At SHRM, she is currently responsible for in-depth knowledge development. Her poems have been published in literary journals such as Apostrophe’O, Muse India, Kritya India, Free India Media.

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