Pragya Malhotra has a message for moms-to-be who are on the cusp of navigating work and motherhood for the first time.
“I do not say this lightly: your life is about to change,” she said. “It isn’t going to be easy, especially in the beginning. Just know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and ask for help… This is your time to rest, heal and, most importantly, embrace this new bond.”
As Director of Products at Ultimate Software and a mom of two herself, Malhotra was fortunate to have access to plenty of bonding time after the birth of her second child. That’s because Ultimate includes 10 weeks of fully paid maternity leave within its arsenal of policies that support working parents. And rather than end with her pregnancy, these policies and culture of support have continued to make a major impact in her family’s life since Malhotra returned to work this past April.
“The flexibility here has helped many of our new moms adjust to the new realities of life without having to consider leaving or temporarily pausing their careers,” she said. “I’m able to find ways to step away from either work or life without having to compromise, sacrifice or favor one over the other, and I enable the same goal for the people I work with.”
Recently, Malhotra shared some insight into how she prepared for the smoothest maternity leave possible, her No. 1 tip for balancing work and home, and the ways being a mother has made her a stronger employee.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I have been with Ultimate Software for three years leading product teams, translating vision and turning North Stars into real products. I’ve helped architect, launch and scale our omni-channel presence — which includes end-to-end employee experience across Ultimate’s suite of products (including HR, payroll, recruiting, onboarding and workforce management), as well as digital touch points (web, mobile, tablet, voice and experimental channels). Prior to joining Ultimate, I worked at InComm as Director of Product Development.
How did you prepare for maternity leave and what advice can you offer to other moms who are expecting their first child?
I do not say this lightly: your life is about to change. You will now have to make room for another person in your schedule. You’ll have to prioritize their needs and wants, scheduled feedings, nap time, and a lot more. It isn’t going to be easy, especially in the beginning. Just know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and ask for help. Enjoy the time with your little one. This is your time to rest, heal and, most importantly, embrace this new bond.
How long were you on maternity leave, and what was it like to return to work?
Ultimate offers 10 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, and I am so thankful to have been able to take full advantage of that. I returned to work in April 2019, after my second child was born. Although this wasn’t my first “returning to work” experience, I still wasn’t fully prepared for all the complexities that came with it. I had to fit in daycare drop-offs and pickups, two to three pumping breaks a day, sick kids, feeding schedules and sleep training into my full schedule that already included caring for a five-year-old, back-to-back meetings, brainstorming sessions and work travel. Thankfully, we have an extremely supportive culture here at Ultimate, and there are a ton of resources to help mothers adjust to this new way of life.
What type of perks does Ultimate Software offer to new and expectant mothers?
Ultimate has numerous resources and benefits for expectant mothers, nursing mothers and new parents. For example, we have on-site “Mommy Rooms” with private areas and hospital-grade pumping machines. In addition to offering paid maternity, paternity and adoption leave, Ultimate also encourages remote work as needed post-FMLA (depending on the nature of the work). The flexibility here has helped many of our new moms adjust to the new realities of life without having to consider leaving or temporarily pausing their careers. Ultimate’s range of benefits also includes subsidized back-up child care, both in-home and center-based.
How has your morning routine changed since becoming a mom?
My pre-mom routine included a morning workout, a long shower and a power smoothie. Now, I kickstart my day with a cup of tea, followed by waking up the kids and getting them to eat while constantly humming nursery rhymes, interspersed with yelling at everyone to hurry up. Mornings are crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Why do you think your company is a particularly great place to be a working mom?
I am beyond grateful to work for a company that truly does put its people first. Our excellent benefits include but are not limited to: 100% employer-paid healthcare premiums; a 45% dollar-for-dollar match on all employee 401(k) contributions; unlimited PTO for salaried employees; and paid parental leave: maternity/adoption (10 weeks) and paternity (4 weeks). Our fantastic maternity policy allowed me to adapt well to the new baby without having to worry about not getting paid, unlike my first pregnancy, which was before I worked at Ultimate. Even after returning to work, there was a tribe of new parents to lean on and get support from.
Another reason why Ultimate is such a great place to work is our employee-resource groups, which we call “Communities of Interest.” My favorites are the Women in Leadership community, which supports all women at Ultimate, and the Women in Tech community for women in technical roles throughout our company. They put on so many fun activities and educational events where we can all support each other and reach our maximum potential.
How has your role as a new mom made you a better employee?
I bring my whole self to work and empower all my team members to bring theirs as well. I trust my team members to always do the right thing and take care of business. And I’m able to find ways to step away from either work or life without having to compromise, sacrifice or favor one over the other, and I enable the same goal for the people I work with.
What’s your go-to stress-relief activity or routine?
I like to do hot yoga a few times a week to relax the mind and body, while sneaking in a power workout.
What kinds of boundaries do you follow (if any) to separate work and family time?
I keep dinner-time distractions to a minimum to allow our family to come together, decompress and have fun together.
What are you especially good at as a mom? What about at work?
I believe in creating a safe space for my family, my coworkers and my team members. So I practice this both at home and at work. It is alright to try and to fail. When my son does poorly on a test or an assignment, he knows that we will work on it together and he will do better the next time. I use the same philosophy for my team members at Ultimate, and it definitely fosters innovation and collaboration.
What’s your No. 1 tip for new moms who are navigating the delicate balance of working and mothering?
You’re a superhero — take pride in that. There will be days (especially nights with infants) when you’ll feel like quitting, but know that there are many like you who are in the same place. Find your tribe, and lean on them for support and encouragement.
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