Straddling two worlds
Delhi-based Neha Singhal is managing her job, family and her two kids all at once
By Anagh Pal
For Delhi-based Neha Singhal (32), managing her job, two kids, Rishit (9) and Kaira (2), and household chores are all in a day’s work. A history teacher at a private school, she has to juggle between her roles as a working woman and a mother and a wife. Due to certain health issues, she had to take a six months break during the birth of her younger child in September 2013, but she was back to her job in March 2015. “This time I had decided to take a longer break compared to when Rishit was born as I wanted to spend more time with my little one. It was a challenge to join back— emotionally and physically also. You have to leave your kid after a long time, work hard at your job and also take care of household chores.” Neha could make it possible as she made the right moves at right times and also planning much in advance both in terms of her career and finances.
She had taken a 9-month break when Rishit was born in 2007. At that point of time she was working for a bank which meant that she was part of eight to five corporate routine. In 2010, she made a conscious decision to shift to the teaching profession. “I am a Masters in History and did a B.Ed course alongside which opened up my career as a teacher,” she says. Consequently, she had to go for a much-reduced salary at that point of time as she was a newcomer in that profession, but she made a wise decision and knew how important it was for her. “My work gets over by 2 pm and it is about the same time my son comes back from school, so I can spend the rest of the day with him. I realised that making a career shift was a right decision as I could spend more quality time with my kid.”
Neha’s husband Saurabh (38) worked in the hospitality industry before quitting in 2014 and then started a hospitality consultancy business which is into providing advisory and service resources to the hospitality and leisure sector. The couple had planned their second kid with a considerable gap for both career and financial reasons. They made sure that Saurabh’s business was established and he was earning a steady income which meant that they could take care of increased expenses. For Neha, having spent a few years in the teaching industry meant that she would not find it difficult to get a job even if she took a longer break than what her maternity leave would provide.
“I was confident of getting a job. I was not absolutely disconnected to my network and knew that my subject always has a demand for teachers. I started applying for a job in January just after Kaira turned a year old as that is the time when job advertisements come out in newspapers. That I had many years of experience behind me helped, Neha says.
Not only did she find a job, her new job was close to her home and her commuting time got reduced. The couple had also planned their finances. Since her husband manages all the major household expenses, Neha’s income has always been a cherry on the top and had almost entirely been put away into savings. “We had saved up enough and we knew that our finances won’t hurt when we had our second kid and I took a break. We knew that we would spend around Rs2 lakh for the maternity expenses and this is something my current insurance would not cover. So we saved for it separately. When it comes to expenses, we knew certain expenses would go up—doctor visits and vaccinations, all the various requirements for the baby including diapers and baby food, clothes and so on. The gap between our first and second baby meant that we were financially prepared and that I would not feel guilty about taking a break. Of course this was the time to differentiate between luxury and needs, to cut down on expenses especially on entertainment and eating out, whose frequency had anyway reduced due to the busy schedule,” says Neha.
Now Neha has set up a routine for herself and her kids, which goes like this: Rishit is up by 6.55 am and leaves for school by 7.30 am. Shortly afterwards Neha leaves for her school. Her mother-in-law takes care of Kaira, bathes her, gives her breakfast and sends her to Neha’s mom’s house which is just opposite their’s. Rishit comes back to meet his sister directly. when his school gets over at 1.30 pm. Post work hours, Neha drops in at her mother’s place and is back home with both her children by around 2.30 pm. Post their lunch and afternoon nap, it is Rishit’s play-time at 5.30 pm. Once he is back, Neha spends time till dinner with the kids, helping Rishit with his studies and also manages to finish some school work. By 10 the kids are fast asleep. “This allows me to spend a lot of time with them. If we have plans to go out for dinner or the kids have a birthday party, I skip my afternoon nap and complete my school work. My job offers me a lot of flexibility.” The time when Neha took a sabbatical and now when she resumed her job, the unconditional support from her parents and in-laws has helped her a lot in managing so many different roles.
“Till last year, we had a 24X7 maid. More than the money we had to take into account the trustworthiness. Now we have a part-time maid. The first year is very crucial for a baby with all those baby massages and other specific things and it was important that I be with her. Now she has a routine which can be handled by others even during the few hours I am not around. It was a mutual understanding with my family and they were OK with my joining work again.” Kaira has also joined preparatory school from April 1.
When it comes to investments, Saurabh and Neha are risk takers. Apart from savings in PPF and money back life insurance policies, Saurabh invests in equities to meet their future goals. Their main investments are, however, into property. They currently stay at Saurabh’s parents’ house, but have always looked at property as an investment that can give them good returns. This has often meant buying property on EMIs, selling it off when it has improved in value and having bought another one with the proceeds. Property investments come with tax implications that can affect profit and it has only helped that Saurabh’s parents are in the property business and have experience in this fspace. The couple are covered under life insurance and a family health plan of Rs5 lakh each.
Handling a job, family and kids is not easy, but Neha believes that proper planning can make things fall into place. “I got married at 22 and it gave me a lot of time to plan my career and family life. For women who marry later, this is something that they need to plan for even before their marriage.” For her, career is no doubt important but equally important is bonding with her kids and spending time with them. “It is all about striking a balance, being positive, discussing your decisions with your family and not feeling guilty about any decision that you have taken and about giving up a few things to achieve what really matters to you,” she says. What does she do during her free time? This is one question Neha answers with a straight bat. “I stay so busy all day; I do not actually have much free time. But I listen to some music to unwind after a long day. And there is nothing more relaxing than spending time with my kids,” she adds with a smile.
Dealing with work and family
In today’s world, many women have job commitments in addition to family responsibilities. If you are one of them, you know how stressful it can be to balance your professional and personal lives. There are ways to make this easier for you by paying for some facilities.
Look for dependable childcare
Whether you need a day-care centre, an after-school centre, or a part-time babysitter, both you and your child have to feel comfortable. Consider your child’s unique needs and your own— related to time or travel schedule—when looking for childcare.
If you have elderly family members staying with you, they may need to be taken care of; look for caregivers and professionals who can handle this in your absence.
Flexible work arrangements
Many employers are allowing employees to work compressed workweeks, check for such options when scouting for a job or explore such options with your employer.
Talk with family members and caregivers about the responsibilities you need them to take on. You can’t do everything, so make sure everyone in the house pitches in.