A Fine Imbalance
From working in someone's home office to working at the top architecture firms of the country, I have done it all, while being an ArchiMom. Fourteen years ago, when I went back to work leaving my seven week old daughter under my mother's care, there were worries, there were doubts, and then there was a huge learning curve of adjusting to the work culture in a new country. With the help of flexible schedules, I started work early in the mornings, and my husband left home after taking care of our daughter's morning needs. At the stroke of four, the only thing on my mind was that beautiful smile that lit up my daughter's face when she spotted me.
Fast-forward fourteen years; the smile is still the same when she spots my car in the curbside pickup. I have two girls; eight and fourteen, and both go to different schools. One of them is in a public school close to home, but the other one goes to a STEM magnet school twenty miles away. Both of them have seen me go from working to an elite corporation to being temporarily unemployed to starting my own consulting firm. I lean in only because they, along with ArchiDad help me lean in. They know when to get into the car quietly while I finish my call, and they know when to borrow the Staedlers, the Sharpies and the Prismacolor and never bother about returning them.
My everyday moments of truth:
- Since I am a consultant, I have the luxury of flexible hours. But since I am a consultant, I am also the solely responsible for the deadlines. Depending on the amount of work to be done, and the school/ extracurricular schedule, I start working early, or stay up late night. If I am working on a set of construction documents, I start early in the morning and continue throughout the day, but if it's design, I start in the evening and reliving the glory days of architecture school, staying up late at night. Some weekends end up being working weekends if the fine balance of the scheduled items is disturbed. But, before I burn out, I take a break.
- My children have seen me paint a masonry block for a color board while I helped my husband get through the morning rush of making breakfast and lunch boxes. They tell me which gray goes better while buttering their toasts. The older daughter helps me type up responses to the RFIs, and sets up excel sheets for unit-mix calculations when I do storage projects. The younger one has spent time verifying the parking numbers from as-built drawings and double-checking my calculations. They are very involved in my life, not just limiting themselves to wearing my hard hat and pretending to be mommy.
- Not every day will be a well-planned and well-executed success story. There are days when I come home stressed from work, after spending considerable amount of time in the traffic, and all that greets me is a sink full of dirty dishes. Some days, my children pick up their clothes directly from the dryer because not all weekends have enough time to get organized for the week ahead. I like to prepare double batches of meals and freeze them, and I use my slow cooker a lot, but still there are days when Chipotle seems to be the only quick and easy option. On days like those, I go with the flow. I take care of what's on top of the priority list, and what bothers me the most, and let the rest go.
- Always keep some snacks and a hardhat, and construction boots in your car. I learned this valuable lesson the hard way. One day after working on a set of drawings overnight, I took them to office hoping to drop them off and come home for a quick nap before I picked up the children. But, one thing led to another, and I ended up driving straight to pickup. I realized that I didn't have my purse when I pulled over in the parking lot of a restaurant. Hungry, tired and frustrated, I learned a valuable lesson. I carry enough water and snacks to outlast a famine in my car.
- I try to do a little something everyday that's not related to my projects, my business, my children, my marriage, or my IDP and ARE exams. I like to read, write, cook, sketch, workout, or just catch up with an episode of “How I met your mother” with a glass of wine. You need more "you time" than you imagine. Some time alone, everyday if possible, without multitasking. A stack of magazines and fifteen minutes in the bathroom were my sanity savers when the children were young, and I had to work from home during their vacation days. I blog also, documenting life as is, mostly my worries, and frustrations.
- One day I want to start attending AIA events, and network with other architects. But life where it is now rarely allows for any such commitment in the real world. I try to catch up with architecture related articles, and blogs, and read architecture magazines. I am using social media to connect to others in the industry. One day I want to be more involved with the causes I attach myself to, volunteer my time and efforts to.
- ArchiDad, who is actually a TechiDad is my rock. When I moved to California to be his wife, I was on a Dependent Visa. During the "Y2K" days, it was easy for anyone with any educational background to take a quick course in coding and get employed in technology sector. I don't tell him this, but ArchiDad is the reason why I stayed ArchiMom. When he helps me with parenting responsibilities, it's mostly because they are our children, and this is our home and our household. But he is truly my rock when he encouraged me to volunteer and learn until I got my citizenship to get legal employment, or get a distance learning degree during my pregnancy, and promptly adds me to his health insurance plan when I am unemployed.
Meghana Joshi @meghanaira