PANEL DISCUSSION SERIES

BEING A WORKING MOTHER

Panelist Introduction:

Mrs. Ajitha is specialized in the education field and a mother of two kids, an eminent Instructor in a CBSE school.

Mrs. Nidhi is Tech savvy and a Data Scientist, a former full-stack developer and a mother of a 15 months old.

Mrs. Sridevi Ravichandran is an entrepreneur, runs her own business, Shrishi Career Academy and a mother of a preschooler and a school going Kid.

I was super excited to interview an energetic team of panelists about the topic ‘Being a working mom’. Here is my share of the panel discussion for the readers out there to have a glimpse of our interesting discussion.

Me (Ramya Ashok): How are you all keeping your kids busy during the pandemic?

Nidhi: To keep 15 months old busy, the main tactic is to get busy with him, I took a sabbatical recently so that helped me. After restarting my career it has been a bit challenging.

Sridevi: My family and husband have been a great supporting system to keep my kids busy.

Ajitha: As an educationalist taking video lessons and managing kids are difficult, without my family’s support definitely I would be a big failure. To be available for the students when they have doubts is as important as taking care of kids in my job. As well my kids understand that mom is busy when I get inside the room and start my video lessons.

Me: What has been the hardest part and how did you manage it?

Ajitha: We are being workaholics, the preparation time for the work and home is extended to a huge stretch. Physical and mental stress is the hardest to manage.

Nidhi: I second Ajitha on time management, We have a guilt factor. Do I spend enough time with the Kid? As we are working from home, we are far behind the professional and personal line. We have to be able to balance family and work time. As well our co-workers need to equally understand and we need extended support from the employers and co-workers.

Me: Do you ever feel guilty about anything? How do you set boundaries?

Ajitha: Being with families for an occasion, we are pushed into guilt that we are not able to engage with the family members for the needed occasion. As I am preparing students for 9th and 10th class it’s difficult to have substitute Teachers. So the availability is crucial. I have tried setting boundaries with the working time when I work from home. But the kid’s snack time and the tasks from work come on the go and it’s difficult to set boundaries and it is too difficult to satisfy all around us. Even it’s difficult to satisfy our morther (she smirks). The boundary is invisible.

Sridevi: That’s there. I took a sabbatical for two years when I wanted to work again. I was unable to give my 100 percent as I used to do before. My schedule is all over the place. (she laughs as her kids walk inside the room to give a guest appearance to our panel discussion). Especially when they are sick. I feel guilty about my responsibility. Even though I know that I have a support system, I take a guilt trip now and then. We meanwhile have guilt that we are unable to take care of ourselves and we don’t have time for self-care (as the panelists make a witty comments on sending the family members out of the home to have self-time).

Nidhi: We are not confident enough that the people who take care of our kids are capable enough. we should be able to mend ourselves to relax when we have an opportunity to relax. We have to have trust in others around us.

Me: Does motherhood affect or boost productivity at the workplace?

Ajitha: We can never give 100 percent being a working women.

Nidhi: Let’s not try to give 100 percent. One thing motherhood taught me was multi-taking. Let’s focus on the quality of work and let’s cut down on the quantity. let’s delegate. The productivity is not hampered if we set our expectation right with ourselves otherwise we will again spiral into guilt.

Sridevi: I wanna mention burnout here. We try to do a lot of things at the same time. I feel I burn and crash. I am a superstar a week and the next week I burn out. I am sure everybody can relate to it.

Ajitha: Sometimes I even feel like quitting my job (she laughs) sometimes because of the burnout.

Nidhi: Open up and speak that helps us a lot definitely on the burnout.

Sridevi: We want sometimes somebody to listen, not opinion. Just listen. This way we avoid burnout and boost our productivity.

Me: what’s your take on self-care?

Nidhi: There is too much to do these days and after 12 pm, when every house chore is done, I think of what should I do now. Do you even get time for self-care after that?

Sridevi: What is self-care? (she smiles) As they say, right now we don’t have enough time as we speak about self-care but that’s something we should do.

Me: Does motherhood incite subconscious gender discrimination?

Ajitha: I work only with women and even though among fellow women we see motherhood discrimination to some extent.

Sridevi: I am my Boss, I wanted to be treated the same way but it doesn’t happen usually. There are a lot of things from unequal pay scale to projects that are handed to someone else. These were with my experience but with the current scenario, I get unprofessional messages on LinkedIn which is quite annoying. That might not happen to a man. These are not tolerable and sometimes we start questioning ourselves. The Irony is that my social media is strictly professional despite that we have this problem.

Nidhi: With respect to IT, pay scale was rightly pointed out by Sridevi. Employers’ view on maternity leave is a fault in the work. There have been scenarios that this sabbatical had costed progression, these kinds of things are unsettling. One thing that I truly believe in is that if a women after so many hurdles wants to work, then she must be extremely passionate about her work more than someone who wants to do it for sake of doing it. Although IT towards motherhood has been very supportive, like work from home. But when it comes to equality, that’s something which is lacking. Employees should see mothers as an asset rather than a Liability.

Me: Advice / Tips for fellow working moms from personal experience?

Ajitha: Be open and transparent, so that you don’t have mental stress. Express yourself. Be courageous. Be ready to face any hurdles that come in your way. Speak out in a way that you don’t hurt others. Have your personal space. Even if it’s midnight (she says smiling). Be Independent. Own your decisions. Put yourself first over everything.

Sridevi: Adding to what Ajith spoke, I work with women who want to restart their career, when they want to restart their career, they settle for something else even though they had a high-profile job in the past. The confidence they used to exert in the past is not there anymore. Don’t be the submissive person who doesn’t want to voice out your opinion. Don’t think about what others would think. Fight for your instinct and your vision. Even your kids will start living their own life. Don’t make your kid’s life yours. Have your own life. Stand for what is right for you.

Nidhi: Most of them have been well summarized. adding to that. know what is your extent. Assess yourself. Don’t push yourself to the edge of burnout. Personally, I have a habit of reading the more you connect with new things (books, podcasts, videos, travel, connect with people) you will know how the world is progressing. You will get the enthusiasm and zeal. You will know how the world is evolving. These will help you to go ahead.

The session had a lot of takeaway and thoughts to process and ended with a rapid-fire session with the panelist. We all learned how all the women around us inspire each other for us to push through the difficult times and get things done.

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