Hey-lo! I’m back with another Diary of a Working Mom Q&A! And this one is by someone I really admire and respect, Ruchika Sanyal. Ruchika is a working mama to two cutie pies and someone who shares her passion around meditation and mindful living on Instagram. In fact, that’s how we connected!
I highly recommend following Ruchika on Instagram. She shares the most rich information. I always leave her page with a smile on my face and new insights to help me be a better parent and person.
With that, let’s chat with Ruchika about all things motherhood…
Tell me a little more about your family – number of kids, names, ages.
I live in New Jersey and have two daughters, a 4 1/2 year old and a 4 month old. My husband and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary this year. Both of us were born and raised in India and moved to New Jersey about 15 years ago. For the past 1 1/2 years though, he’s been living in Michigan for work, so I’ve been solo parenting for the most part, and called in reinforcements in the form of my mom and/or hired help many times!
2. Tell me more about your line of work, role, responsibilities, etc.
I’m a business technologist and work in a large financial services firm in Manhattan. More specifically, I’m a product owner responsible for managing various software, processes and tools to reduce the firm’s information security risk. I’ve been with this company 12 years and have loved everything about it, including the opportunities and flexibility it provides me. I find my job challenging and fast paced – there’s never a dull day really!
3. Walk me through a day in your life.
My day typically begins at 6am – I usually wake up and say the words “Jai Gurudev” which means victory to the Big Mind (as against the small mind which bickers, complains and feels stuck) – this sets the tone and intention for the day. My life these days is governed by my pumping schedule, so the first thing I usually do is pump; if both kiddos are still asleep, I get in my morning meditation during this time. I have a babysitter who gets my older daughter ready for school and drops her off; we’ve had this arrangement for more than 3 years now because my commute into the city is 1 hour 15 min, so dropping off my older one to daycare was not feasible for us. And more recently, after baby #2, we have hired a live-in nanny to help me due to the solo parenting situation. It’s true that it takes a village and I’m not afraid to admit I have help because that’s how we make things work for us. So the kids are in the hands of the nannies in the morning while I get ready. I’m out the door between 7:15am-7:30am, usually listening to the radio or podcasts, catching up with family or just letting my mind wander during my commute! At work, I typically have back to back meetings all morning. These days I step away from my desk at around noon to pump in the lactation room, in the past I used to just end up eating at my desk and working through lunch. In the afternoons, I like to block my calendar to catch up on emails, presentations etc, and do “deep/thinking work” a couple of times a week. If I don’t block it, the time gets eaten up by meetings! It doesn’t always work though but it’s good to have it. I leave work between 4:45pm-5pm, pick up my older one from daycare by 6pm; back home, we both spend a few minutes playing with the baby, then she eats dinner while I bathe and change the baby. We then catch about 10 minutes of bedtime reading together before both girls fall asleep, usually between 7:45pm to 8:15pm on most nights. I then have my dinner and do another pump, then prep for the next day – lunch prep, pump parts prep (!), clothes prep etc. Usually between 9pm and 10:30pm, I catch up on my to-do list, Instagram e.t.c , then one more pump before I go to bed! Boy, I’m going to be glad when my pumping journey comes to an end! 🙂 One caveat in this whole thing though – I’ve learnt from the first time around that there’s no such thing as routine with an infant around! So yes, our days can be vastly different and look nothing like the above many times – but we roll with the punches and do our best!
4. How has becoming a mom influenced your role at work?
One significant change that I think has come about in the way I handle my work after becoming a mother is that I ruthlessly prioritize and have become much more comfortable with delegating work. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to delegate but now I realize two things – I need to trust my team to do their best, and that delegating actually helps me clear mind and time space for more strategic work. So it’s been good for me to grow into a more leadership role!
5. What is your favorite tip on how to integrate work and life?
It’s all about looking at the long game. I think of it in weekly chunks, not on a daily basis – some days of the week the focus will be more on the job, and other days it will be more on the family/volunteering (e.g. doc visits, Instagram etc.). If it evens out at the end of the week (or two!), it’s all good.
6. How do you handle mom guilt?
This is a huge topic to unpack but I’ll speak to one specific thing – the guilt that comes from taking help because of the myth of the superwoman who “does it all”. However, I have recently come to realize that if I were asking for help at work, it would be seen as team work. So why not treat motherhood the same way – as teamwork with the trusted people around you, and there’s no reason to be guilty about that. Hire the right people, delegate and give them credit – just like at work!
7. What is the most surprising part of being a working mom? And the most rewarding?
The surprising bit – how many people will understand your time constraints and need to look after your family on some days as long as you communicate it well. The rewarding bit – knowing that my daughters will grow up seeing all sides of my personality and identity.
8. How do you carve out ‘me’ time? What does ‘me’ time look like for you? On that same note, what’s your guilty pleasure?
Me” time has been hard to come by lately, so I’ve been using my pump sessions as me time nowadays! During this time, I meditate if it’s quiet, listen to podcasts, write Insta posts, chat with family, or sometimes just watch reruns of Friends! I also love to treat myself to a silent meditation retreat once a year.
9. What’s your mama mantra?
“The days seem long but the years are short” – my friend told me this after my first daughter was born but I didn’t fully understand the truth in it until much later!
10. What’s the best piece of advice you received when returning back to work after having your baby?
You do not need to do everything, you need to do the important things. Hence, prioritize!
11. What advice would you give to mamas-to-be about returning back to work?
Prioritize what needs to be done today vs. tomorrow vs. next week. And communicate! If someone sends an urgent email at 4:54pm and you need to leave office by 5pm, let them know you’ve seen it and will get back to them by [be specific – e.g. tonight, or by 10am tomorrow morning]. Most people will appreciate the prompt acknowledgment and communication of timeline even if it’s not a prompt answer to the actual question.
Thanks, Ruchika! It was so great to get to know you better. You’re little family is so lucky to have you!