Dealing With Working Mom Guilt ft. Nags!

About two weeks ago, we hosted our very first guest, Nags of Edible Garden on our instagram account. We would be lying if we didn’t mention that Nags is one of our favourite people on Instagram. Both Akshara and I have been following her incredible food blog for years now and we’re massive fans of how she juggles multiple balls in the practical, no-nonsense way that she does. Remember, Nags is not only a superstar food blogger, she’s a working mom who heads a team at one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

We spoke to her about what it means to be a working mother today, the pressures we face and the ways in which we can deal with all pervasive working-mom guilt. Here are excerpts from our conversation [excerpts because technical difficulties prevented us from saving the insta Live!]

Talk us through your experience of getting back to work post-baby. What was going through your mind then?

Although I had healed physically, I still had the blues and my own doubts about getting back to work. I had been a working woman and now I was a mom but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be a working mom. We’d planned for this child and she was a child we wanted, so I was like, what is the point if I go to work now? I was even contemplating a break. But my mother, who is very wise when she has to be, told me to give it a try. Just try it for two months, she said. So I tried it…and I knew I’d made the right decision by coming back to work and there has been no looking back since.

There are good days and there are bad days. The good days, we love but the bad days can impact our mood when we’re with our child. How do you deal with them?

I find it hard to compartmentalise or “switch off”, so if I had a bad day, rest assured everyone at home will know that I did! But the ways I cope are by venting to my husband, who works in the same line as I do. Venting to someone who gets it makes all the difference to make you feel better. I also take the support of my amazing work wives because they really understand me and where I’m coming from.

Me time is everything when you’re a mom. How do you find time for yourself and all that you enjoy doing?

I’m a planner. I plan for everything, days and weeks in advance. It’s who I am. One of the ways my husband and I make time for ourselves is to ensure our calendars are updated in advance. If I’m going for brunch with my friends, it’s in his calendar. If he’s going to work out, it’s in mine. So we are always kind of in the know of what the other has going on and we make sure that we are available to take care of the other things. And planning makes that possible.

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way and the time to do it.

Nagalakshmi Viswanathan, @ediblegarden

One of the ways you can find out how to make time is to simply write down how much time you spend on an activity – any activity – in a day. That’s when you realize the amount of time you spend on silly things when you can, instead, spend that time on doing what you really love and what you really want to do. Just write it down!

What do you do when you and your partner have different parenting styles?

When it comes to parenting styles, my partner and I are very different. I like doing activities with my daughter, taking her to the bookstore etc whereas my husband likes to do more outdoorsy things with her. And differing styles are always a good thing because your child gets a really diverse set of experiences this way! So we really divide and conquer when it comes to our parenting styles and our daughter is better off for it.

How do you get over social media guilt as a working mom?

I spend a lot of time consuming content on social media, across instagram, twitter, pinterest and facebook, so I would be lying if I said that social media didn’t affect me. Especially when the discourse is so absolute and the information overload can cloud our judgements. But this is when I think about our parents’ generation. They weren’t perfect – I saw a ton of TV and ate a lot of sugar as a kid, but does my mom have guilt? No! In fact, she thinks she did a great job with me and she’s right! Why can’t we be like that?

What are some tips you’d have for moms who’ve taken a break but are looking to re-enter the job market?

Stay in touch or re-ignite old connections with your former colleagues and former managers. You can open doors to opportunities simply by staying in touch with and being visible to your network, especially on Linkedin.

And that brings us to the end of our chat with Nags! We are so grateful to her for taking the time out for our community to share her thoughts and for the real and refreshing conversation. Thanks again, Nags!

If you know someone who you think deserves a platform and we should speak to, please do take the time to let us know. We are constantly looking for ways to amplify the incredible women in our community and we’d love for you to show us the way.

How To Deal With Creative Burnout

The pandemic has been exhausting for all of us and burnout, which was once something you’ve probably heard about or have even gone through. This is why burnout – and getting over burnout was one of the first topics that we discussed on our instagram channel.

So what does burnout even mean?

Buzzfeed had a viral piece from 2016 which talked about millennials being the burnout generation. The writer describes burnout as a kind of paralysis – a condition where you just can’t get yourself to do even the most simple things. While that’s a fairly generic definition – it manifests in many different ways for each of us. Here’s what it’s felt like for the two of us:

  • The inability to ideate or be creative, despite being able to complete tasks
  • Hating everything, even the things that would otherwise spark joy and interest
  • A lack of interest
  • Physical and mental lethargy
  • The feeling of being “blocked” by yourself or by someone else
  • Not wanting to participate in casual chats/react to jokes

Why is it so important to recognize burnout?

The pandemic has made us feel – and has forced us to come to terms with our emotions. And one of these emotions is burnout. Burnout makes it practically impossible to be happy or find joy in the everyday. Being burned out is also a symptom of a much larger issue that might be troubling you – and that’s why it’s key to recognize it and prevent further exhaustion.

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How do you deal with burnout?

Burnout, in general, needs long term, systemic fixes, but there are ways to instantly feel better. If you’re finding yourself unproductive in one sphere, you can still make yourself productive in another! Working out and baking, for example, are instant fixes. Or even just taking time of to read a book or maybe learn watercolours. Anything that you know makes you feel better.

But that’s just a short term fix. In order to really fix burnout, especially work related burnout, here’s what you can do:

  • Take the time to introspect – what’s stopping you? Is it process? Is it a person? Is it a specific aspect of your job? How can you fix this? Can you talk to your boss about this? A colleague?
  • Set boundaries – with the pandemic work from home situation, it just feels like we’re working just all the time. Assign working hours and block out your calendar for conscious free/family time.
  • Say no to meetings you don’t have to be a part of!
  • Ask for help – If you’re drowning and unable to cope, ask for a helping hand from your peers/manager. Sometimes, people are not aware of your workload unless you communicate it to them and in this WFH situation, we’ve all become islands. Actively seek help. You’ll be surprised by how quickly you get it!
  • Learn to delegate – Help doesn’t have flow upwards, it can also go downwards. At some level, as women, we aren’t great delegators thanks to years of conditioning and being told that we’re multitaskers and ought to ‘do it all’. Most women prefer to do a job themselves than go through the process of delegation – but how about we delegate instead? If you’re in a mid-management role, this is especially important because it allows you time to focus on what’s really important while giving your team members a chance to shine.
  • Take a day off – If none of these steps are helping, take a day off! We take days off when we’re physically unwell. Mental health is no different. If work is really messing with your head, take a day to disconnect so you can get back to work with fresh perspective.

So that’s all the wisdom we have! Please do take the time to watch our instagram live where we speak about burnout at length. And if you have found ways to cope with burnout yourself, let us know in the comments!

Our Top 3 Productivity Hacks

Confession: Productivity does not come naturally to me. In fact, it’s a daily struggle. However, I have discovered that by using certain techniques and methods, I have been able to get through my to-do list in a far more efficient manner. Here’s what I do to ensure that I’m on top of my to-do list.

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Check your calendar the previous night

This isn’t to say that I get started on work the previous night [nope-itty nope, please don’t do that] but I do check my calendar the previous night to get an idea of how things will be the next day. Some days are unpredictable, but most days aren’t. Looking at my calendar in advance informs me of the mindset that I have to be in for the next day – so if it’s going to be a stressful day with a lot of deliverables/meetings, I know how prepared I have to be, if I have to make any additional arrangements etc. Basically, this makes sure that I have as few surprises as possible during the day, that I don’t flounder from meeting to meeting and that I’m in the right frame of mind to tackle the day. The mindset is what does the job for me on most days, so something as simple as checking my calendar in advance and knowing what kind of day it’s going to be ensures that I stay on track!

Atomize Your To-Do List

To atomize your to-do list is to break your to-do list down into the smallest possible tasks. While this means that your to-do list will be longer, you will notice that your tasks become specific and more importantly, easier to tick off! And the faster you tick items, the more motivated you’ll be to work through your list. Also, it’s always better to have 20 tiny tasks that can be ticked off, versus three things that you stare at all day. So do try breaking your to-do list down into as many small items as possible!

The Pomodoro Method

This is something I’ve followed for a very long time. The pomodoro [which means ‘tomato’ in italian], is essentially a productivity technique where you do focused work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break and then do three more 25 minute work/5 minute break cycles, after which you get a half an hour break. What this does – for me at least – is that incentivises productivity with breaks. I get through my work because I know a break is right around the corner. I’ve always found success in the pomodoro method, because of how simple it is. There are apps for this, chrome extensions or you can even just use a good old phone timer. Using the pomodoro method, I’ve found, has also resulted in me concentrating better for longer periods of time.

So these are the productivity hacks that I use. Our community has some great tips too! Here are a few of our favourites.

“Clean to be more productive. To cook a dish clear the kitchen bench top. To do office work clear desk or bed or sofa. I start a 10 min playlist of songs for cleaning up and by the time it’s over the place is set”

“My hack is I make my environment a little more fun to do an otherwise mundane activity for e.g when I have to fold / organize clothes I turn on some nice peppy music. And keep something that I can look forward to /a treat after that particular activity is done like I’ll have my cup of vanilla chai latte after I’m done things like that get me motivated and ready to accomplish a task.”

Eat the live frog! I complete most challenging task first thing in the day!”

“I also try to keep the most intricate task or something that involves a lot of cerebral input to be done at a particular time of the day when I know I am most productive. In my case it’s post 1 PM. I am not a morning person so I am most efficient between between 1 and 3 PM”

What are your productivity hacks? Tell us in the comments below!