Thriving in your career while maintaining a productive personal life rarely feels like an easy feat. Historically, it’s been a never-ending juggling act between time spent at the office, time at home planning for and decompressing from work demands, time for family and friends and time for yourself.
Add the duties of being a mother to the mix, and the entire balance can quickly unravel. Now throw in the all-encompassing disruption of a global pandemic — forcing many parents to work from home full-time on top of becoming their kids’ primary educator, daycare provider and more. With a lot of those home responsibilities feeling more like work than family time, it’s amazing that anyone has been able to maintain a healthy work-life balance over the past year.
Muneet Chohan, Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition with Robert Half, has risen to the challenge of balancing work-from-home life with the responsibilities of caring for nearly 5-year-old twins during the pandemic. Her typical workday starts like that of many other professionals — checking email and reviewing her schedule for the day. But it can go any number of ways from there.
“My twins are a boy and a girl, and they’re a lot of fun — but they’re also a lot of work. They’re typically my morning alarm clock. One or the other needs to be convinced to brush their teeth, get dressed and get squared away to get the day started, so I go through those motions with them,” Chohan said.
One thing that’s helped her manage professional and parental duties is windowed work, where she dedicates certain blocks of time throughout the day to different types of tasks. “After the kids are settled, I work for a while, then take two hours, like from 11:30 to 1:30, to spend more time with them,” she said. “I try to carve out my project time. I’ve noticed that my kids really want attention when they know I'm on a call. So it's very strategic on their end, as well,” she added. “But if I'm just working on something in my office, they’ll play with their Play-Doh behind me for hours. After work, it’s the kids’ time. Whether they want to read or play a game, I just generally engage with them. And after they go to bed, sometimes I’ll log back in and work on some projects.”
Another factor that’s been important in finding balance with work and home life: letting go and easing self-induced pressure. “In the beginning, I was struggling and juggling every day. “There were days I thought, ‘I'm going to lose my mind,’ you know? Or ‘I’m a bad mom,’ and maybe losing my patience. And then I just took a step back and reflected. I realized that this is a moment in time. It’s not forever. It’s okay to not be perfect.”
“I think it helped that I let go of certain standards or dispositions I had set in my mind that were no longer realistic. Before last year, I would’ve been mortified if my kids were talking in the background of my meetings. And now it's like, ‘Yeah, my kids are here.’ But they’re just going to say hi and walk away.
“Even things like being okay not cooking all the time and ordering pizza for dinner can really help. It’s about not putting that stress on myself with expectations that end up burning me out,” she said. “Also managing my calendar so I’m not flooded with meetings. Learning to say no when I don’t really need to be on a certain call, so I have time for the work I need to do. And also trying to take some time off in between, taking time to unplug.”
When she’s ready to disconnect for some “me time”, Chohan has a few different ways to go about it. “I like fresh air, so I schedule a 30-minute walk for myself every day,” she said. “I also like to clean, just make sure things are in order. My husband and I love to cook and bake desserts for the kids. I’ve reconnected with reading, and I’ll take a shower and lock the door so no one interrupts me with 5,000 questions. Even if it's a five-minute shower, it’s definitely peaceful.”
Although Chohan’s kids are back to attending preschool in person, in the earlier months of the pandemic, she had to get creative with keeping their education on track. “They’ve been back in school since June, which is a huge blessing, to be honest,” she said. “But at the beginning of the pandemic, we got them their own tablets so they could play educational games. And I signed up for an online education program that provided all these amazing workbooks, so I printed those out for them to work on while I worked.”
Chohan also recognizes the value of a good support network, personally and professionally. “While I’m getting the kids ready in the morning, my husband prepares breakfast and has a hot cup of chai tea waiting for me. Being from the state of Punjab in India, we love our tea and I look forward to it every morning.” she said. “My husband and I rotate the responsibilities with cooking and cleaning, and the kids’ grandparents come over to watch them on Thursdays,” she added.
“I truly believe it takes a village to raise children. And I didn’t realize how deep that village goes: their teachers, the community, friends, family — they’re all part of the village, and we really recognize that now. I commend stay-at-home moms. I don’t know how they do this all the time.”
“And with work, Robert Half has created an environment where I’m able to bring my whole self to work. I can be upfront with what’s going on and what assistance I need, whether with a project or technical help, and they give that support, from the leadership to everyone else. I even started a support group for working moms in the company so we could share everything, from frustrations, to ideas and resources for overcoming them,” she said.
“And one thing that’s been really sweet is that our VP has sent handwritten postcards to us in the mail periodically. It’s very powerful. She mentions topics we’d discussed or recognizes something I did that week. I look forward to them, and they’ve helped me get through the pandemic. For her to do that is incredible leadership,” said Chohan.
“I’d encourage everyone to find a workplace with the flexibility and support I’ve experienced here. It makes a tremendous difference. Sometimes you feel pressured to give a certain answer to certain things. But the reality is, when you are just yourself and you’re upfront and honest with your leaders about what it is you need — especially during this pandemic — you end up in a better place. I mean, imagine if we all had to pretend our kids weren’t at home with us. It would be crazy. Those are my tidbits of advice, from an organizational standpoint and a working mom standpoint.”
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