“Day dreaming when pregnant”- Dressed up in smart business casuals, I walk into the office. Check mails, hold meetings, complete my work at jet speed and leave for the day by 4. Yes! that’s going to be my target everyday to beat the maddening traffic of Bangalore. Anything pending I can always log in from home. Once back I have all the time for my little munchkin. How perfect! The best of both worlds.
Now sets in the reality after I join back office. A sleep deprived, blurry eyed woman who has spent the early hours of morning cajoling the baby to go to bed and before she could catch a wink, there rings the alarm. ‘Wake up; wake up it’s a bright new day’. Run around the house completing the unending morning chores and somehow make it to the office cab in time much to the annoying glares of co passengers and the driver who have been waiting. Once in office there are a few dozen mails to be read, the workload seems to pile up. The to do list with an ETA (expected time of arrival) being today, meetings to be attended, work to be done keeps multiplying. The clock strikes 4 and there’s so much more to be done. Can it be done from home? Yes, but the efficiency would not be the same working on a laptop as opposed to 2 big screens. It will take longer. So I decide to skip the 4 pm cab. When I finally do mange to leave, its chaotic traffic and I am stuck for 2 hours. A tired mommy reaches home to hug her baby. It’s time for dinner and then the Herculean task of putting baby to sleep. Yet another day. Yawn Yawn.
Phew that did not sound fun at all. Is this for real? Long and stressful work hours, the maddening traffic which makes the commute grueling, lack of sleep- is this what working moms go through? I am a working mom of a one year old (love saying one year old, she just turned one!). I got back to work 4.5 months after my baby was born. It’s not easy. Yes there are deadlines, there is work related stress as there always was, the maddening traffic is the same and to add to that you have a baby who you are away from for so many hours. You would no doubt worry about the well being of your little one, miss her and will want to be back soon to spend more time with her. Yes this is a reality.
But over the months I realized that a few changes here and there, learning to say a firm “No“ at times, learning to be more vocal and a few changes to your home infrastructure can bring in so many benefits. A few changes can go a long way in making a working mommy happy. Some of them are:
1) Yes woman you are back to work and I know that burning desire to prove that you are as efficient as you always were, you haven’t lost that spark. But take it easy lady, you really have to. Remember you have a baby back home and though you may have maids, nannies, daycare, MIL or someone taking care, you still have a big role to play. Take it easy to settle down at the workplace. Do not hesitate to say no to some work or a meeting that requires you to stay late in the office. People do understand. Once your child grows up you have all the time in the world to devote to longer hours at work.
2) Planning the day and a systematic approach coupled with prioritizing is a must. It’s no longer that happy go lucky girl who decided she will leave office by 6 but ended up leaving at 9. As a mommy you cannot afford to do that. As soon as I enter office I use some notes to plan what’s due for today, the meetings lined up, what’s to be prioritized and gotten off my plate early. If it looks like too many things piled up I decide to have breakfast and lunch at my desk to save some time. It’s no longer those luxurious time whiling coffee breaks or lunch breaks and I don’t mind it honestly. Those few days when work is light I do take my time having lunch and laughing with my colleagues, but my aim is to get out of office in time to be with my baby.
3) Get a blackberry or your office mail on your phone. And set up a good home working environment, it actually helps to a great extent. Now don’t frown! I always despised having office mail on my personal phone, one would tend to look at it and there might be items to action or some bad news which will cast a dampener on those hours spent out of office and on weekends. But there is another way to look at it. It saves so much time as you can utilize time more effectively by checking mails say when you travel and once you are in office you have a better idea of what needs to be done. Rather than spending the first half an hour going through the pile of mails, sorting out the action items, meetings etc. the time spent commuting to work can be put to better use. A good home working environment which consists of a big screen and a good internet connection works wonders on those days when you need to work from home so invest in that and reap the return.
Coming to the Home front, it’s equally important to manage it well and that’s no easy feat. A few tips to wade you through.
1) Here again planning and prioritizing is a must. Shopping for groceries, vegetables, , baby diapers and the stuff, plan it better and do it at one go for a fortnight or so. You can no longer have the luxury of oh there’s nothing at home lets go out and eat or let’s go and buy groceries. With a baby in tow it’s not that easy.
2) Take all the help your dear ones offer graciously. Yes superwoman! I know you can do it all but don’t forget you are human and you get sick, get tired. Please do take the help offered by your parents, in laws, good friends and others. At times you may even call them up and ask them to baby sit while you run some errands or take some time for yourself. Nothing wrong with that.
3) Get daddy into action. By hook or crook it’s time your hubby realizes that it isn’t easy managing work and a baby. Have a discussion and split work make sure he lends you a helping hand, after all being a Dad he has s role to play as well!
4) Say ‘get lost’ to the guilt. I am not spending time with my baby, am I a selfish mom? Will my baby love his nanny or my mother who takes care of him more than me? This is often the biggest stumbling block in getting back to work and it was very difficult for me to come out of it as well. Most of the working moms at my workplace told me ” no one can take a moms place as she grows up she will know you are her mom and this will always be a special bond just between the two of u”. I experienced this as my daughter grew that yes I had a very special pace in her life just as she has in mine. I make the most of weekends and the time I get on days off to revel in her company. I do believe quality time is what counts the most. So remember to fight the guilt and show it the door.
4) Do make some time for you to catch up with friends, or shop, or treat yourself at the spa, read a book, jog or do what u like, do I sound crazy? With a baby and a full fledged job where is the time to evens sneeze? No doubt it’s difficult but not impossible and here comes the help offered by hubby and others. Seize the opportunity and take out some me time. You need the rejuvenation, believe me.
Becoming a mom is a life altering event and managing a career with the responsibilities of a baby is no short of a Herculean task. But with a few handy tools like planning and prioritizing, good family support and a conducive work environment one can sail in both the boats and steer them in the right direction. So get set go mommy seize the moment. Carpe diem!