As the COVID-19 crisis also had a strong impact on parents around the world, we are starting a new segment on our blog where we feature stories of employees of FREE NOW who are parents. Here we will dive into questions surrounding how they juggle their careers and parental life.
In conjunction with Mother’s Day in Germany, we are kicking it off with Carolina Magan, a product manager at our Barcelona tech-hub. Caro, as she likes to be called, is originally from Caracas, Venezuela, and has been living in Barcelona for 10 years now. She has been working at FREE NOW for two and a half years as a Product Manager for the Driver Experience and Driver Operations teams. She is also a mom of a 4-year old human and 12-year-old cat. According to Caro, they both keep her very busy in different ways!
It was Mother’s Day in Spain last week, did you do anything special?
We still couldn’t go out so my partner made the most delicious lunch for us: clams, prawns and rabbit. My son made me the softest and cutest cotton heart on a black paper (my favorite color). It was a very chill day at home. Exactly what I wanted.
What is a typical day for you like?
Before COVID-19, my day started at 7.30 am. After getting ready together, my son and I walked to school and after I’d continue to the office. Once I arrived, it was work at full speed. When I get into “the flow” it’s hard for me to stop. I am lucky to work with a very energetic and funny team that helps me stop and relax. I try to leave the office around 6.30 pm so I can be on time to give my son a bath, dinner and put him to sleep. We always read a book before bed, usually with my mom on FaceTime.
Since COVID-19, the routine is similar, only we don’t leave home. I go to the studio where we have a working space, since my partner has always worked from home, and my son usually follows me for a while. My cat too. He’s my supervisor. He’s also constantly trying to walk over the keyboard or simply standing between myself and the laptop making it impossible to do anything other than petting him.
Of course, now I have to add the interruptions of my son coming to show me things or to tell me what’s on his mind. Or just to see what I’m doing and if I’m on a call, he’ll pop his head in and do some silly face.
I am still not good at breaks, even with these interruptions. However now I get to have lunch with my family every day, which is not something I did before and I treasure it.
How do you balance your time between your work life and being a parent?
Before COVID-19, I spent around 3 hours a day in total with my son which made me feel pretty guilty. Since my partner works from home, he’s the one who picks up our son from school during lunch hour, then takes him back to school and goes again to pick him up. I think we’re lucky that way. My son is growing up with a very present and involved father. But I feel I miss out sometimes. Although I value my work life so much. I love that I have something else that defines me, beyond just motherhood. I love being able to show my son that the role of a woman is not limited to home life. Weekends, however, are all about family. We spend every waking moment together. Here, I try to catch up and compensate.
The very little time I keep for myself I spend going to concerts, or with reading. Sometimes I take a break to go get my nails and hair done. So, long story short… I don’t think I’m very balanced at all!
What are some challenges that you face while working from home and being a fulltime parent; and how do you go about it?
Focus for me has been a challenge. My boy hasn’t really developed his patience yet ;). So waiting 2 minutes for me to finish something before I can pay full attention to him is the end of the world. Staying in the flow with so many interruptions is hard for me. Which is why I’ve tried to be extra organized or else I just lose track. I’m keeping a daily to-do list rather than weekly. I’ve found this helps me manage my time better and find little pockets to be able to play with my son and help him do the activities from school. Also to give my partner a break. Most of his projects were paused because of the confinement, so he’s focused on being a dad so I can continue to work more or less at the same pace as before. I know I’m very very lucky to have him and that he’s able to do this. Otherwise, I think we would have gone mental.
Managing my son’s expectations has also been a challenge. Having both mom and dad at home at all times has been the best thing for him. Permanent holiday! But he struggles to accept that though I am home, I’m not available all the time for him. This makes me feel a bit guilty as well, but as I said before, I really try to find moments that are just for him during the day.
How is your team/ manager supporting you through this process?
My manager is also a woman and a mom so I’m lucky she understands and shares most of my pains. Even before COVID-19, she has always supported me with trying to find this delicate balance between motherhood and our professional lives. Not just motherhood and work, womanhood in general. I keep saying I’m lucky to have the people I have in my life, but I really am. And with my manager, this is also true. There’s always been understanding and support when I’ve had to leave the office early to take my son to the doctor or when I’ve had to pick him up from school. Or when I’ve had to stay home when my partner is out of the house and I need to take care of our son’s schedule. I’ve never felt judged negatively when I’ve had to do this. Always supported. This is the same as my team. There are some parents in it too, so we all support each other and understand. It’s a blessing to be able to have this work environment.
Has your perspective on being a parent changed in the last months?
I have realized how much I was missing from spending more time with my son. A simple thing like having lunch together has added a lot to our relationship. Those crazy conversations we have over lunch are priceless. I have also realized that we’ve been living these hectic and busy lives chasing something that I’m still not sure about. We’ve been forced to slow down and to live with only what we have in the house and we’ve managed to survive it! It really is not about how many things you have, or how many toys my son has to play with. It’s about the time you have together and those memories.
Do you have any advice for other mothers who are returning to the workforce?
Take it easy! There’s no silver bullet. And what worked for me may not work for everyone else. My advice is to always follow your instinct–to do what feels right. Have your priorities and goals clear, so that when the time comes to negotiate or make a decision, you’ll know you’re making the right one.
Also, ask for help when you need it. There’s nothing like having a good support system that can have your back. Even if all you need is to talk and vent. You don’t have to do everything and more just to prove motherhood is not making you worse at your job. I think motherhood makes us find ways to work smarter. Not less or more, just better, more efficiently, more focused. So we can find time to do it all and conquer the world while we’re at it.
As a parent working in a tech company, how do you approach parenting when it comes to technology?
I’m so partial to technology and I believe it’ll play an even bigger role in my son’s life as he grows older that I want to make him feel comfortable around it. I keep apps on our devices that can help him with his development. It’s hard to not get carried away with screen time though, so we try to keep it controlled. We also talk a lot about gadgets around the house and how things work. We’re super into science and do experiments at home. It’s all about balance I believe. While trying to make him familiar with technology, we’re also trying to reinforce the analog side of things. We see a video about a bug and then we try to find it in the garden!
Do you think there is still a stigma around mothers working full time? If so, how do you navigate around this criticism?
I do think there’s still a generation or two that criticizes us for not being homemakers–that don’t understand why we would have ambitions beyond motherhood. But luckily it’s the older generations. I do feel a shift from that with my peers and the younger generation too, where both parents are equally responsible for homemaking and parenting. In my opinion, this is the healthiest approach and I hope we see the results of such collaboration in a generation of kids that are inclusive, non-judgmental, and more equal.
It’s hard to navigate through this and what I try to do is to speak through actions. I’ve rarely ever had success trying to change people’s opinions through a discussion so now I just try to show results. Accomplish all goals in the office while also having a healthy and loving relationship with my family. Nobody should be able to argue against facts.
Is there something in particular that you would like to do with your son once the restrictions have been lifted?
So many things! I want to go to the beach, go for a picnic and to an amusement park. But also just to travel back home to my partner’s town to visit friends and family, and eventually to the US to see my family too. Living in the city is great and comes with many perks, but it gets lonely sometimes being so far from family.
Liked this article? Stay tuned for our upcoming feature of Krzysztof Urban our General Manager in Warsaw, Poland.