Follow these tips to strike a balance between taking care of a baby and work from home
On a manic February morning, while figuring why the wi-fi network at the India Art Fair (IAF) had crashed, its 32-yearold founder-director Neha Kirpal got a call. Her four-month-old daughter Ruhi was howling and the help was struggling to quiet her. Kirpal made her way through the Fair, which in its fifth year has become a world-class platform for showcasing contemporary and modern Indian art, walking a kilometre to a vanity van parked at the entrance of the NSIC Exhibition Grounds in Okhla, Delhi. She entered it and cradled Ruhi to sleep before returning to a mob of visitors and gallerists.
This isn’t new for Kirpal, with who Ruhi tagged along while she was at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. In fact, her hands-on approachmeant that she was putting in careful hours figuring out IAF’s logistics while juggling labour pains and nursing the newborn. “It’s hard to see her cry for me. It feels awful but you’ve got to be strong, train your mind, and more importantly, never blame yourself.”
If new mom and Powai resident Nupur Gurbaxani met Kirpal, they’d hit it off well. The 31-year-old general manager with the International Marketing & Innovation division of Godrej Consumer Products Ltd. is juggling a nine-hour workday with being mommy to 10-month-old Reyansh. “If you are certain that you want motherhood and your career to coexist, you have to make several hard choices. It requires careful planning, mental preparation and an emotional pact with yourself,” she says. A recent ‘choice’ she had to make was move residence from Kandivli to Powai to cut down on travel time to her Vikhroli (E) office. Calling it a “cautious call”, Gurbaxani says, “My career was going well, and my husband and I realised moving made sense if I wanted the baby, and a continuing career.”
Having been raised by a single mother, a gynaecologist who was on call 24/7, Gurbaxani learnt early that a hectic career and motherhood could be in harmony. And it’s not really as difficult as making a tough choice between A and B. No matter how knackered you are after a gruelling day at work, there are things you’d do for your baby because you want to, not because you have to, she says. Gurbaxani has chosen not to keep a nanny, preferring to take complete charge of Reyansh’s care. He is safe at her company’s day care centre while she’s at work, after which she takes over. “It helps me bond with him,” she reasons.
Are you prepared?
The challenge becomes a shade easier if you are prepared, most successfully employed moms will tell you. Motherhoodis a full-time job, just like your professional one, so ask yourself repeatedly — Are you ready for the dual responsibility. Long lunch breaks, spontaneous shopping trips or a movie with colleagues after work are not luxuries for Gurbaxani to enjoy. “I have to head back to him,” she says of her son.
That constant challenges will spring up at home, affecting, even disrupting your work pattern is also a given, says Chembur resident Kavita Anthony, who resumed work as a senior manager with a multinational firm, four months after she delivered her son Aaron. “But you should learn to be okay with it,” she says, “For instance, I didn’t get a good appraisal in the first year after my child was born. I took it with a pinch of salt.”
Help from home
Support from the family, especially the husband, is crucial, they agree. Both Gurbaxani and Anthony back Kirpal, who says, “You need to have an extremely supportive husband; the kind who understands why your work means so much to you.”
Kirpal delivered Ruhi four months before the fifth edition of the IAF. “My work,” she says, “is different from regular corporate jobs. The Fair is my first baby. It still requires my nurturing, time and commitment, and Girish (her husband) understood that. So, there was never a compromise at work.”
Working it out
However, leveraging family support isn’t the only co-operation you’ll need. A helpful work environment is crucial too. The Godrej Company, for instance, allows new moms to work for reduced number of hours every week at a slightly lower compensation. “I, however, did not opt for this and returned as a full-time employee,” shares Gurbaxani. “But yes, what helps is that we follow a flexible time policy, which allows all employees to choose their own working hours, provided they are in office during
How to pick the right daycare
- Ensure that it’s a professionally managed day-care centre; one that is registered with National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), or with the Association of Early Childhood Figure how Education many children (AECE) are allotted to each caretaker. For children below 18-months, the caretaker–children ratio should be 1: 2 and 1: 5 or above to core hours —10.30 am to 4 pm — and clock 42.5 hours a week.”
- Inquire quality about attention the activities and care that the centre pursues to keep your child busy. Are these working towards your child’s development.
- Make time for surprise checks; drop in when you have an hour free to see how your kid is doing.
Moreover, all employees can opt to work from home twice a month, creating an option that’s worked well to balance work, personal responsibilities and exigencies. While this may not be a facility all firms offer, constant communication with seniors makes your workplace conducive to your situation, say women professionals. And make sure you are clear about what is expected of you once you resume work. “While I was on the six-month maternity leave, I was in touch with my colleagues to figure what’s unfolding in the company. I didn’t want to lose touch. In fact, in the fifth month, I had several definitive discussions about my deliverables for the coming year,” says Gurbaxani, warning you that the first few weeks will be hard.
Learn to let go
“Your mind is constantly with your child, wondering what he is up to. Several questions are racing through in your mind — what’s he doing, how’s he doing, has he eaten, is he sleeping. But gradually, you’ll learn to let go,” says Anthony.
She suggests you go through a week-long, weaning-off process. “At the daycare centre, they allow you to be around the child for a few days while the caretakers take charge,” shares Gurbaxani. “Initially, it is difficult to take off and concentrate on work. Have faith and be positive.”
It gets particularly challenging because moms are juggling work and insecurity, the fear of underperforming at work and not meeting the baby’s needs. “But one smile from your child after a long day at work proves reassuring. It’s all good.”
Taking your baby to work, if that’s an option, works well, like it did for Kirpal. “Ruhi joined my office when she was just two months-old. Everyone was happy to have her, and my cabin had turned into a mini-playroom.” This of course, may not work well for those who find it hard to focus. The baby would prove to be a distraction, and you might just end up getting very little work done. For these sorts, it’s best to seek help at home.
Can the baby make it through without mommy? “Ruhi is strong; she took it in her stride. I guess, strong mothers make strong babies.”
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