A Mother’s Day amid a pandemic — a phrase that’s unfortunately not dystopian fiction and definitely not one that anyone thought they’d utter in their lifetime. As the COVID-19 crisis increasingly becomes the new reality, many mothers, along with their partners, are juggling work from home, house chores and child care all at once. It’s a proposition that’s challenging even for the best of us. But despite the obstacles, and over a month into the lockdown, many are finding ways to make it work.
On Mother’s Day, we asked our Flipster moms to share their stories, learning and advice on the new balancing act of parenting in the time of a pandemic. Read on.
Learning to love unconditionally from my daughters
Poojitha Jawahar, Senior Manager, Internal Communications
When the lockdown and the mandatory work-from-home was announced, my first thought was, what am I going to do to keep Ayana and Ziva (my twin daughters who turn 4 in August) engaged and occupied!
I’ve been with Flipkart for over 5 years now and 3.5 years out of those as a proud Flipster Mom! My team has been like family. Flipkart has a very supportive culture and is a mom-friendly workplace. Before the lockdown, Ayana and Ziva would walk into the office like it was their own!
Now while working from home, they pop in to video calls to say hi. The other day they asked me ‘‘Mama, is your meeting on Zoom?” And I love that I don’t have to apologize to anyone for the noise in the background or anything of that sort.
I joined back at work 8 months after my daughters were born — I worked from home for a long time and transitioned back to the office full time last year.
They turn 4 in August and I hope they don’t have a quarantine birthday! Before the lockdown, they went to play school so a big chunk of their time day was at daycare while my husband and I worked. They really miss it – they once asked to see the CCTV feed from their school to make sure that no one was really there!
But the good thing is both of them are great company to each other and they play by themselves often. It’s challenging though because their attention span to play by themselves or each other is limited. To expect them to understand that you can’t play with them all the time is definitely difficult. They need your undivided attention and there’s always that guilt when you’re unable to give it to them.
As I work in the Internal Communications team, there has been a lot of work during this period. So meals are often later than usual, we’ve dropped the kids’ midday nap because they don’t get much physical activity and they have a lot more energy. Our home is on an always-on mode.
My husband, Steven, is a hands-on dad and partner. While I do feel bad about it, his schedule has been more flexible than mine during this lockdown so he has been doing a lot. He reads a lot with the kids (sometimes even 10 books or more a day!), he cooks and keeps them involved in it. That’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to manage since it’s just both of us taking care of two young kids.
I’ve kept the pandemic explanation straightforward for them — that there is a Coronavirus and it’s making people sick and they need to stay home. They understand. They often say, ‘When Coronavirus is over we’ll call everyone over ok?’
I’ve also had some help from the online community of moms. From observing them to interacting, it helps to know that we’re all sailing in the same boat. Both my daughters were born premature so even during that time, it helped to be part of that community.
Right now, I look up a lot of kids’ activity ideas on Instagram. Right after breakfast my daughters ask me:“What activity are we doing today?” So there is a lot of art and craft and messy play at our home. We do things that we can put together fast — we’re stocked up on cards that we made together to give to people once the lockdown is over!
One of the things we’re doing is involving them in everything we do — dishes or cleaning up — even if that means we have to do that task all over again. This is also a good time to learn life skills. My team at Flipkart has been arranging virtual workshops like art and craft for kids, baking, and cooking for all Flipster families. We also had a virtual pet party that Ayana and Ziva really enjoyed. There’s always some activity happening.
Some days, our schedules are so packed that it feels like we’re just operating. But my husband always reminds us to slow down because we may not get another opportunity to spend time like this — a chance to have your kids with you all the time so you don’t miss the special moments,the new words or new things they learn and so much more. It can be amazing sometimes. The last time we were together like this was when they were babies.
We now always have lunch together as a family, which we never did before because we would be at work and the girls would be at school. It’s probably the favorite part of my day and I’ll surely miss this once we come out of the lockdown.
They are so young and the situation is beyond their understanding. But then again, I find myself learning so much from them. I’m learning to love unconditionally again. And, of course, I’m having to learn a whole lot of patience!
For Mother’s Day this time, we have zero plans right now. With the lockdown, sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the days!
Acknowledge the privilege to stay positive
Nandita Sinha, Vice President, Customer Growth and Engagement
For me, staying at home has been positive in a number of ways. You are able to take away a lot of things that have become compulsions and you as a family are left together. You are enjoying each others’ company and doing it with the most basic, minimal things.
Be it a home-cooked meal or board games or even watching Netflix, you’re doing it together and you’re being kind to each other because everyone is in a tough situation, whether you verbalize it or not. Especially the kids — we underestimate how sensitive they are and how they are absorbing this.
The good part is that you don’t have to stick to regimented things. Everything does not need to be perfect — you can be in a slightly dirtier house or eat a meal that was cooked a day before, it’s ok.
I think at Flipkart, even when we were not working from home, there has always been flexibility. In a large way, you are expected to be in control of your own schedule. People are empowered to ask for their own time and make changes to their schedules as needed.
One of the things I do now as we work from home is I take a half-hour lunch break. In the office, it’s easy, you can just walk to the cafeteria and grab something. But now, I need that half an hour because I’m also cooking.
Being able to give yourself a schedule that works for you, both as team leaders and as moms or even parents or not, is important. Flipkart has always been a place that has accommodated these needs. My team has been super supportive to ensure that we all are able to have a better work-life balance even in these times.
And I also say all the time, I do what I do because my husband is an equal partner and an equal parent.
When we started the lockdown, my son, Tuvya, said something very relevant and telling. He asked, ‘Why does my generation have to face something so drastic when we are so young?’ In his mind, neither his parents nor his grandparents have had to face a pandemic at such a young age. But they as kids have had to face it as 8- and 10-year-olds. I really believe that our children will emerge different at the end of this.
All the kids that I’ve spoken to have been incredible in their ability to adapt and be positive in the face of everything. For example, my son has a Zoom call with his friends where they play Pictionary. Or they cycle with their masks on because that’s something our society has allowed.
We often discuss at home that we are in a situation where being positive about it is a privilege. Kids are very aware of that privilege and that there are people who are less fortunate. They ask what we can do as a family or part of society. Tuvya wanted to play a chess tournament and he said, ‘Maybe if I win something, I will donate it.’ So I think kids will be very different from what they would have been had this not happened.
Joint family, joint responsibilities
Sonali Thite, Automation Product lead
As a Product Manager, I always like to say — writing strategy for a product is easier than it is to come up with a plan to keep my kids busy!
But in all seriousness, when the lockdown was announced, my first thought was how do I keep my two sons, Vivaan (who is almost a year old) and Yug, 5, safe and busy. And how do I manage work while also doing this?
It’s been both a challenge and an opportunity for me. I thought it would be tough for the kids but they seem to be adjusting well.
One of the first things we did was try to keep our routine almost the same. My older son wakes us up at 6 am so we don’t have a choice there! But this also helps all of us get our chores out of the way earlier in the day. Plus, there’s no 1-hour commute to work so we spend this time with the kids and plan their day too.
I stay in a joint family, which has been a big advantage for me during this time. In our home, no one is of the belief that the mom or the woman does all the domestic work. All of us have divided the chores — my husband does the laundry, my father-in-law cleans, and my mother-in-law and I do the cooking.
These are uncertain times for both kids and adults alike. So having a bigger family around has also helped keep everyone positive. There is always someone there with the kids, reading, doing craft or even just playing.
I lead the Automation Product team and my workday is busy with meetings through the day. I keep a closed workspace and try to work either 10-5 or 11-6. In between meetings I try to fit in some time with the kids.
At Flipkart I have the flexibility to work my way and right now, meetings are also efficient. My team also has the awareness and understanding — I’ve had both my kids while at Flipkart and if I have something to attend to something personal and I need to move a meeting or something, my team has always been supportive.
Especially right now, there have been so many virtual activities, not just for Flipsters but also for their entire families. This gives out a great message — it shows that we are all family. The art and craft and video competitions are also an opportunity for all of us to connect during a time we might feel isolated.
Amidst all of this, I do try to get some me time – I do 30 minutes of yoga or walking. But I’ll admit it is difficult!
One of my biggest takeaways lately has been that my children are so much more adaptable to change and mature than I could have imagined. My elder son has been watching educational videos and cartoons to learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic. He also watches more ‘grown up’, serious videos and knows so much by now that I could learn about the Coronavirus from him!
Bringing families closer in these tough times
Prajakta Kanaglekar, Senior Director, Centre of Excellence
When the lockdown was in place for a short time and you knew when it was going to end, it was easier and you could plan for it better. But the longer it has extended, the more difficult it has gotten, especially for those that have a young child or older parents at home.
At work, I have multiple Centre of Excellence teams reporting to me that are doing some amazing work. In such unprecedented times, I need to be there to support them more too. So right now, my workday begins around 9.30 am and meetings go on till 7-8 pm or later. A new skill I have developed is multi-tasking. There are times when I’m doing chores while attending a meeting!
My daughter, Anvi, is going to turn 10 in the next few days and she’s quite independent. It’s been difficult during the week to spend time with her. But at night, we make it a point to sit together as a family and play games, whether it is Snakes and Ladders, Uno or Pictureka. Anvi also loves to paint so recently we painted together and she taught me how to make an oil pastel painting. Baking is another hobby of ours.
I’ve also taken her out grocery shopping recently, following all safety guidelines, to show her the reality and help her understand the situation.
The great thing is that she loves to be at home and has adapted well to this situation. It helps that we have two cats that are great company and she is excited that she doesn’t have to study right now!
We have reinvented how we connect with family and friends too — technology has been a great enabler. My daughter also gets to speak to her friends & cousins. One of my favorites is a recurring weekend video call chatting with 8 cousins spread over 6 India and international locations on everything under the sun.
Through the lockdown and with the new way of working, the Flipkart ecosystem on the whole has been very understanding. For example, it was my birthday the other day. I discussed with my manager about taking leave and switching off although I was just going to be home. He said absolutely and my entire team wished me that day but made sure not to discuss work.
The pandemic has been a deeply troubling time for the entire nation, but leveraging the time we have together has helped bring my family and friends closer. It is important to make the best of every moment with your child. They treasure it too and love the attention. Being disciplined in allocating time for home and work is the only way to ensure you are not left with a feeling of guilt. Having some me-time helps to unwind too — my me-time is usually with a book.
It’s important not to let it get to you. Mothers, as they say, are superwomen but superwomen also need rest, so taking care of ourselves is crucial.
This Mother’s Day, we’ll probably order in and watch a movie while eating popcorn!
No wrong way to motherhood
Sripriya Subramani, Director, HR, Emerging Businesses
Before the lockdown, there were times when I would get up at 5 am and still not have time for my morning routine. I would spend 3 hours in traffic on my commute to work.
Now I get up an hour later and have time to finish my workout and meditation, and set a timetable for Hridaan, my 11 year old son. There’s less travel stress so that, for me, also means more clarity of mind. I use all of that time, energy and clarity for home or work.
I’m celebrating the time that I get for myself and the time I get with Hridaan. We’re all going through a transformation right now. I know it’s not been a positive time, to say the least, for many across the world. For me fortunately, it’s given me a lot of motherhood and self work time.
I think one of the things that helps is that my parents are always around and are able to share the workload at home.
My workday usually starts at 9.30 am. I have a team of 5 people who I love as much as I love my son!
Despite all our teams working from home, we are still in sync and raring to go. Our meetings are effective and focused, they start and end on time. I think one of the reasons Flipkart was able to adapt to this change was because of the agile culture. We have a young workforce that adapts very quickly, especially to technology.
Some work days are long — work goes on till 9 pm — and some days are good, where I wrap up by 6 pm. On those days, I get to fit in 2 workouts, often one with Hridaan in the evenings. On most evenings, I also like to read with him — he reads the “Wimpy Kid Diary” series and I just completed reading “The Power Now”. He has a set timetable everyday so he gets enough play time, study time, TV time, and time with me. He and I also get a lot of time with my two dogs Benzo (a Shitzu) and Hulk ( a presa canario). Hridaan doesn’t miss his social life at all, as all his friends are gamers like him, hooked on to Fortnite. In a way I am thankful that he likes gadgets. I’m not sure how I’d keep him busy otherwise.
I do miss one thing though — I used to run 10 km every Sunday. I miss going out to the park and doing that.
To all the young moms out there on Mother’s Day, be proud of yourself. Many times I’ve been told that this is the right way of parenting and this is the wrong way. I don’t believe in any of that — your truth is yours. You are a mother and you know what’s best for your child and what’s best for you. So keep your chin up and continue your journey.
Don’t forget to invest in yourself — stay fit, work on your mind and stay your course. You’re doing a fabulous job juggling so many things as a mother so it’s important for you to be happy in whatever you do.