Work Life Balance

The first question I get asked after I mention about my full time job to anyone is “Who takes care of Neo while you are at work?”. I reply as a matter of fact that we live together with our parents. They are there for him when we are away.

This arrangement is not what I had in mind when I was about to have Neo. I had a standard solution that is popular in metros — Get a full time help or look for the best daycare available.

This was despite the fact that both me and Ayush’s parents had mentioned that we can depend upon them for any help. I did not want to bother either of them.

I did not see this as a help in raising the kid. I saw this as a help in pursuing my professional ambition. I did not intend to take any help for that. I wanted my future success to be my own. I did not want people telling me that I could be a successful professional only because I had “family support”. This would belittle all my efforts. I thought I was better off without their help.

Also I suspected a lot of “interference” in how to raise a child. I wanted my freedom.

With due course of time, none of this turned out as planned and I cannot thank God enough for this.

Me and Ayush decided that I would quit my job after maternity leave. I wanted to give Neo’s early years my best shot. A year or two’s break can be made up for in the long run.(Taking this decision in itself was a struggle. Will keep that topic for a different post)

After 18 months of blogging, reading, writing and countless unanswered job applications for part time positions, we decided that I would start working full time again. As was the plan, I soon started my hunt for best daycare and full time help as well.

But as we explored these options we realized the importance of seeking our parents’ support. They were always ready for it. Mom came over to stay with us. Papa would visit us over weekends whenever possible. During that time none of us was sure if this is a temporary arrangement or a permanent one. We did not have a definitive plan of action. All of us were just sailing through it without thinking too much about anything. After a year and half of commuting back and forth, and trying to live in two places at once — we decided that it best that we all live together — Ayush’s Dadi, Mom, Dad, Ayush, Neo and me.

This transition from two of us to three and then to all of us had its own highs and lows. After living together for about a year and half now, we know the mantra for success. Its me and mom working together as a team. Without that, all of this could fall apart.

We have had a good number of disagreements in the past– some minor and some not-so-minor. But with time we have learnt to look past those arguments. We know more about each other now. We are able to overlook the flaws and are able to handle stressful situations better. We have come to respect each others personal space. And the most important part, we are able to do this without being indifferent.

The so called ”interference” that I was worried about, never actually came into play. Mom gives her best advice but respects my decision even if she disagrees with it.

We know where we are the best fit (say shopping) and where working together is not the best solution (say in the kitchen). We relish the shopping together and avoid being in the kitchen at the same time.

The best daycare that I had in mind for Neo is nothing compared to the love he gets today at home. Her approach is different. I would have done it differently. But I guess that is precisely what I intend to teach Neo and also learn it myself — that when goals and intentions are aligned, we should be able to respect a different approach to achieve it. There cannot be a singular path to achieve something awesome.

Living with grandparents has made Neo a very social kid despite having almost asocial parents. He loves meeting new people. He goes on long trips just with his grandparents and would not care to ask for me or Ayush. This independence is something I always wished my kid had but never knew how to develop.

His independence allows both of us to work with dedication without looking at the watch. Our occasional late stays don’t bother him. Ayush can manage to go on business trips abroad even for as long as a month, because he is assured of peace back home. I can take up a year long executive course because I know that when I am occupied on weekends in my classes, he is in good hands.

We can also manage to go for dinners dates, movie nights, comedy shows while he stays home with them (and we are able to do this almost guilt free). Our parents have developed their own new routines. They go for long morning walks, have a new social circle here. They meet relatives, attend family functions — local and otherwise, while Neo And Dadi stay with us.

We have been able to strike that balance which makes the environment at home conducive for healthy and happy living. This balance helps us to be productive at work and happy at home. It helps us give Neo the attention he deserves. The beauty of this arrangement is that there is no nagging tension in our minds all the time — something that we were afraid of when we were first contemplating this idea.

They often say that “Health, work, family, friends are four burners — In order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.” But when we turn off two burners or even one, we dont take into account the cost it will have later in our lives. For anyone who knows how to cook or has read about it would know that meals prepared on high flames are undercooked and unhealthy. It is better to keep all the burners up and adjust the flames as and when required. It is better to look at these “burners” as one framework instead of independent entities. Any improvement at one can lead to overall well being. Its all about knowing how to balance it all.

The Team

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