HOW TO CURATE A QUALITY WORK-LIFE
Working Mom Secrets With Malvika Vats
true-blue Googler, working & living in NYC, Malvika Vats shuffles managing accounts for one of US’s top-ten ad agencies and being a doting mother to her 19 months old son, Aveer. Armed with a realistic approach and refreshing self-awareness, she navigates life as a working mother in a fast-paced and competitive field.
Over seas, borders, and cups of coffee, Malvika fills us in on what it’s like making it work at home as a new mom, assimilating with changes during a pandemic and what brings joy in her day-to-day WFH life.
How has your job changed due to rapidly shifting realities?
"Advertising priorities for many clients have shifted from traditional media such as TV and sporting events to digital advertising. "
My job as an account manager has not really changed much. We still have quarterly sales targets and work steadily to ensure good client relations. The product I work with is Google Ads, and we're seeing accelerated success with our clients due to the current crisis.
Advertising priorities for many clients have shifted from traditional media such as TV and sporting events to digital advertising. At Google, we have continued to highlight opportunities for our clients and helped retailers bridge the gap between in-store and e-commerce.
Tell us about the changes in your day-to-day work life. How has the transition to WFH been like for you?
"I have structured my day and curated my routine carefully."
My transition from a normal work routine to a WFH situation, while being tough at first, has also had the additional challenge of taking care of a toddler at home. I have structured my day and curated my routine carefully. I make it a point to stay on top of my emails at all times, ensuring that I make the most of my mobile devices. I keep my calendar regularly updated.
I start my day early, and I place great value in keeping an organised schedule, even through WFH times. My husband and I take turns focusing on our son; I block the first half of the day for Aveer and am only available for any client calls that may come in between 10 AM to 1 PM. We switch during the second half, and he assumes the primary care-taking role as I then get fully engrossed and dedicated to my work.
What did you grapple with the most, when you started WFH?
"I was quite nervous initially as to how I was going to manage his needs with my work..."
I am sure many parents say this, but my son is a very picky eater! He is also at a crucial age when he is just starting to learn how to speak and has started to copy our actions and mannerisms. It is so important at this stage that he gets the right nutrition, learns all the new words, and receives the attention he needs. I was quite nervous initially as to how I was going to manage his needs with my work and without our nanny, when the pandemic started.
What role has your husband played in helping you manage work & motherhood in these trying times?
"I believe that motherhood as a working woman is a success when the father is equally involved."
I believe that motherhood as a working woman is more easily a success when the father is equally involved. As a parent, I think it's co-parenting that makes a child happy and helps them enjoy their childhood. I am very grateful that my husband has been equally invested. His active engagement has helped me balance my work and parenting better.
Initially, even Aveer went through an adjustment period with us and the new situation. But we’ve together learnt to make it work. I started to look at this challenging phase as a blessing in disguise - I get to watch my son be so happy through it all! I may have gotten a maternity leave of only 5 months, but now in 2020, I get to spend all day with my son.
Have the blurred lines between home & work-life impacted you?
"I do go through phases when I feel quite lonely..."
Yes, for sure! Since I am a very social person, reconciling that side of me with the current times has been the hardest part of it all. I do go through phases when I feel quite lonely and find myself reminiscing about going to the office and meeting my friends at the cafeteria. I get my energy from people & WFH can sometimes leave me feeling drained and unmotivated due to how isolating it can get.
Google office, NYC
How are you dealing with the social isolation and the emotions that come with it?
"My son has played a huge role in keeping my spirits high."
I am still in the process of overcoming this challenge. I talk to my friends, who are also going through similar things. That really helps. There are times when I feel quite low and my emotions are extremely vulnerable.
My son has played a huge role in keeping my spirits high. I see him be so delighted by the simplest of things - such as a cardboard box - and it reminds me how comforting and liberating it is to think like a child at times. Children are such a positive driving force and can teach us a lot in turn.
What are the activities that you pursue with Aveer that bring you joy?
"I make a point of savoring and enjoying these family activities..."
Fortunately, the number of COVID-19 cases in my area has sharply declined. So, I am comfortable taking Aveer out for a walk with a family that we are friends with, who have a child his age. This gives me a ton of motivation - I look forward to our 6 PM walks every day!
Also, I enjoy teaching Aveer new words, watching him comprehend new emotions, colouring with him. These are the joys in my life presently. I make a point of savouring these family activities to the fullest.
What is your recommendation for maintaining a healthy work life when also juggling motherhood as a working mother?
"It is so important to give yourself the space to look after your mental well-being, especially in the midst of such unprecedented times."
I use technology & some amazing Google tools to the fullest & it helps me stay very organised in managing my work alongside home life. Also, it is very important to have clearly defined & reasonable work hours. It is easy for me to draw that line as a parent. However, I would recommend this to all professionals - especially ones who don’t see the blur and work for over 14 hours because they may not have very distinguishable responsibilities at home. It is so important to give yourself the space to look after your mental well-being, especially in the midst of such unprecedented times.
How supported have you felt in your career journey so far as a working mother?
"...gender parity in the workplace is more smoothly achieved when there is gender parity at home and in house-hold responsibilities."
Google as an organisation has been quite supportive, and has advocated that families come first. This has been especially true during the pandemic. Likewise, my husband’s company has also been very flexible and supportive and that has truly helped. I also feel supported by my team-mates at work, who are more than understanding if I need a break or if I am unable to work for some reason.
However, I think that your partner’s support at home is the most important factor. From house chores, to taking care of the baby - I wouldn’t have been able to manage all of it just by myself during the pandemic if it hadn’t been for our equal participation at home. I absolutely agree with the fact that gender parity in the workplace is more smoothly achieved when there is gender parity at home.
How do career-advancements and goals pan out as a working mom?
"You need to set the right expectations with your team, co-workers, and superiors."
At the end of the day, it is upon each individual professional to decide on her priorities. You need to set the right expectations with yourself, your team, co-workers, and superiors.
If a promotion and career advancement is desired, then you have to manage giving in the required hours and go the extra mile for it. If your current priority is family and you are fine with being in the same position for a while, you can work on auto-pilot and efficiently do the required work & then switch off.
I had the full-time support of my in-laws in 2019 and was hence, able to give a lot of time to my work. Nobody expects it of course, but if you want to outshine, then you have to work extra.
How are general attitudes in work spaces regarding working mothers, in your experience?
"Women are judged for being too involved in their careers when they have a child - and on the flip-side, I have also seen women being judged for prioritizing their families. "
Ambition comes in varying degrees based on everyone’s personal choices and no one should be judged for it. Women are judged for being too involved in their careers when they have a child - and on the flip-side, I have also seen women being judged for prioritizing their families.
It is a common occurrence for women to be overlooked for opportunities and big projects because they are working mothers. I believe it is not right to make these assumptions without asking, and open communication on both sides is key to avoiding such situations. I have been sometimes assumed to have too full a plate to take on certain responsibilities. At such times, I make it a point to be assertive and express my willingness, while also giving them the assurance.
Do you think that there are any systems & provisions that can help ease time at the office for working mothers?
Google office, NYC
"Here, we are close to 5000 full-time Googlers."
I understand that New York’s property prices are extremely high. Here, we are close to 5000 full-time Googlers. I cannot practically expect them to have an in-house daycare with these numbers- if even 500 of us have kids, that’s a lot! Still, that would be my ideal situation.
Having said that, Google’s NYC office does have tie-ups with day care centers, but it is not possible to quickly visit or check up on my child during lunch hours, which would have been a great source of comfort to me.
Tell us a little about your current workspace at home.
"Yeah, we do have cozy work corners curated to boost our productivity at home!"
Manuj and I have our own work-nooks in a separate room. We did quite a bit of research on how to make the space more conductive to a prolonged WFH situation - from comfortable chairs and a big screen, to ergonomic keyboards and updating our devices. Yeah, we do have cozy work corners curated to boost our productivity at home!
And lastly - let’s go through a few of your day-to-day favorites!
Current skin-care obsession: Kama Ayurveda.
Ultimate comfort food in quarantine: Ice-cream.
Fave app during WFH times: Netflix
Recently watched & loved TV series: Aarya on Hotstar.
Every member of our family of working women is inspiring and amazing in their own special ways & giving them a voice to share their stories is a priority for us at TBD! We love hearing from you - write to us at email@example.com for feedback and to share your experiences if you wish to be featured. See you next-time!
Neha Sane is TBD’s resident foodie, a literature lover & an advocate for inclusivity in fashion & media. Fuelling a drive to work with meaning & purpose, she is her happiest when interacting with new faces from our inspiring community.