"How does she do it?" is a question we frequently ask ourselves every time we see a parent effortlessly juggle it all. A home, kids, a career, and even time to unwind and follow the heart! As parents, curious to find out the best tips and tricks, we decided to simply ask them! That's how this series was born! #HowShe/HeDoesIt throws the spotlight on men and women, dads and moms -- who seem like they have it all. We ask them for their secrets, their tips, their place of zen, and ultimately, what keeps them motivated to keep going - in the hope that we can use them along the way in our parenting journey.
This week we meet with Maya Hari, Managing Director, APAC, Twitter and mom of two.
Maya Hari likes to keep things real, is ambitious and is unapologetic about enjoying her work. But with a demanding job where she is required to frequently travel, how does she strike the right balance between work and home?
My core identity is as much that of a professional as it is a family person. In my mind, there has been no other way to live life. I love my kids & family and in equal measure, I love my job. So it has always been about finding ways to make it work. I have learned to get better organized around the home.
My husband has a demanding career as a digital CEO as well. We have both always been hands-on with our kids. Our kids know & understand what we do in our jobs so they adapt to the life we have as well. My work travel takes me to different countries but I am always back home for the weekends. When I do have to travel, I take night flights when I can. I get the kids to sleep before I head on a trip so the kids feel like I was home one more full day in their minds.
We found schools that have like-minded kids and parents - we get homework & regular updates from the teachers including photos & class notes on email. This helps someone like me cope with not being able to attend every coffee morning with the parents or have a daily chat with the teacher when the kids get picked up. We do talk - we do it over email and when I volunteer for parent activities.
I am also acutely aware of the choice of work cultures I have stepped into professionally - I have normally chosen companies that understand the need for flexibility as a parent. This has allowed me to make time to ensure I volunteer at the kids' school for storytelling or fiestas at school without being apologetic at work.
There is a storehouse of great ideas right there! How would you define your career the way it has been before your kids and after your kids?
Career before kids - My primary identity along with being in a great relationship & marriage.
Career after kids - Shared identity, sometimes a duality. I feel like I am a full-time juggler now. I am not a natural multi-tasker. So, it has been a bit of a struggle to do this without getting stressed.
Every successful woman needs a great support system. Who do you count as your biggest support system and how much of what you do actually depends on them?
My husband - My career and my family life wouldn’t balance if it weren’t for my husband. 50% of the credit goes there. From changing diapers to giving kids a bath to doing our taxes or attending school activities - he and I will split it all constantly based on who is available. We ensure one of us generally is.
Let's get down to the brass tacks. As parents ourselves, we know juggling home and work is no easy feat. Wouldn't you say?
It is a lifelong juggling act. You get better with practice.
Take us through a typical dilemma you face and the steps you take to make a choice.
A typical real dilemma I face - I need to be at my kid’s performance at school & have to be on a business trip in the same week. The kids would be crushed if I couldn’t make it. I have CEOs and CMOs to meet and making the meeting would make a big difference to that account and our business.
My first port of call is to see if I can have my cake and eat it too. With some planning & juggling, I have managed to choose this option at least 50% of the time.
I would attend the school event, take a flight after it, make it to where I need to be, step off the flight and be at the meeting within 90 minutes of landing. This means, I don’t get time to have a good night rest before the meeting but thank god I can sleep on flights.
Should such an option not work, I try and pick a different week to travel if it were possible. I am unashamedly honest with my colleagues on my challenges with my kid's schedule and most people around me understand and support my choices.
There are times when I really cannot change the meeting date or time and in such a case, I would check if my husband can cover for me at the kid's events, apologize to my kids in advance and try and make it up to them with a different school event.
How do you find your zen in all of this? What do you do to escape and unwind?
Me-time is about Urban farming, working out & Carnatic music. If I can lose myself in any one of these for at least a half hour to an hour each day, I am in bliss.
We love talking kids and work but we often tend to leave out the spouse. How do you and your husband maintain a healthy relationship in-spite of such high-pressure jobs?
We have known each other since we were in college and have been a couple for over half our lives now. We try to get away and watch movies or shows after the kids are asleep. Our latest addiction is to binge-watch shows we both like on Netflix. That said the hangover from binge-watching Netflix is hard to deal with when you have an 8 am conference call the next day!
You live in Singapore, does the city itself determine productivity and efficiency?
I have lived in San Francisco, in Mumbai & now in Singapore. The big benefit that Singapore affords is a predictable & stress-free commute. While I left work at the same time both while working in Mumbai & in Singapore, I get home a whole hour earlier in Singapore in the evening than I did in Mumbai. That is a whole hour more of family time and quality time with the kids.
The flip side to this is that jobs in Singapore are often regional in nature and require much more travel than ones in India.
Let's indulge in some labelling! Tell us how is Maya the mom different from Maya the woman and Maya at work?
Maya the mom is quite a strict but loving and conversational mom who loves playing football and jamming with the kids.
Maya the woman is light-hearted, (online) shopping crazy and loves long and meaningful conversation.
Maya at work is a bit more formal, friendly and funny.
With so much pressure from home and work and travel, do you ever feel like you should give it all up and head for the hills! What keeps you going?
Yes – there have been times I asked my self if it is worth the effort of keeping everything in balance.
At times like these, I also remember how bored intellectually & socially I get when I am away from work for extended periods of time. Given this, I feel like the effort it takes to juggle everything is worth it.
Assume that you can manage both – There are several of us who do it, so can you– with that assumption and conviction, focus on how rather than whether you can balance it all.
It is also useful to have an open & straightforward conversation with folks at work explaining that you are excited and passionate about being back at work. There may be times when you need some support from the company (accommodating doctors visits/school days etc) and that you hope you can count on their support.
Your advice to women who want to have babies but are delaying it to achieve their career ambitions
I had my kids when I was 29 and 34. I believe having had kids sooner worked out better for me. That said, I honestly don’t think your career should define the timing of parenthood. Promotions will come & go. Great jobs will come & go. When you are in the thick of it, it seems like a big consideration. Finding the time that is right in your life to have your baby when you are emotionally ready for him/her is paramount.
We just have to ask, is mom guilt real?
The right question to ask is when do I not?
I have had to learn over the years to deal with my guilt. I am aware of it. I try and minimize it. My coping mechanism often times is my husband who reminds me of how I feel much more guilty about the kids than he would at the same instance.
What are values you want your kids to imbibe?
Humility & respect for others are values that we talk to our kids about a lot. We also really want them to think without constraints and develop their creativity & imagination.
Small things you and your family do every day to ensure family bonding time?
We always have dinner together. We make this happen more than 80%. We have fun making up stories before bedtime and say prayers while going to sleep to help them feel secure and grateful.
Your response to "Women can't have it all"
It's fun to have so many women proving that statement wrong.
If I had more time I would
Join a hip hop dance class.
I wish people would not...
...stop investing in “me” time, once they have kids.