Just 7 weeks into motherhood, Jyotika is an encouraging example of how a supportive manager and corporate culture can set up working moms (and dads) for success upon their return.
When we spoke, she frequently cited her manager as instrumental to her pregnancy, “from little bits of advice of how to handle morning sickness at work, to bigger career decisions.”
As a product manager at Facebook, Jyotika was offered challenging assignments all the way into her third trimester, which ultimately led to receiving a promotion during maternity leave.
“I felt supported and recognized, and like everyone around here believes in me and I can do this,” she says, describing how she rounded out her pregnancy with a “fulfilling 6 months” on a high visibility project.
The boost of confidence Jyotika received from her team has allowed her to embrace the early days of parenting with a similar tenacity. She’s even found her data-driven approach to come in handy with a newborn.
“I keep looking for pattern recognition,” she says about tracking her baby’s eating, sleeping and diaper changes. “My husband always laughs about how I’m product managing my baby.”
Joking aside, Jyokita has quickly discovered how complementary parenting and professional life can be to one another, when given the circumstances to thrive. She wants anyone who’s considering the idea of starting a family, but worried about what it will mean for their career, to take heart.
“This is going to make you a better and stronger professional. It’s going to give you more perspective. It’s going to help you prioritize better,” she says.
“Staying calm through a 2-week-old screaming in your ear, your heart racing, will make you better at crisis management.”
Even when the nights are long and Jyotika has moments of doubt, she gains solace in the fact that so many parents around her are making it work.
Helping Women Succeed in the Workplace
As a manager herself, Jyotika understands the natural inclination to help employees during pregnancy by reducing their workload.
“When someone on your team gets pregnant, a lot of well-meaning, well-intentioned managers try to support the the woman by taking responsibilities off,” she says.
“On one hand, it helps because pregnancy is physically and emotionally challenging. But at the same time, seeing your scope reduced or your responsibilities taken away can create a lot of anxiety and introduce self doubt.”
“The best way to support someone who’s pregnant is to give her the choice,” she says. “Let her decide how much or how little she wants to take on.”
Jyotika also recommends that managers talk about it openly, ask what your employees need, and (if applicable) share your own experiences of parenting.
“Both very senior men and very senior women on my team are vocal parents,” she says. “When you hear a director of engineering talk about how his baby doesn’t sleep through the night or is having a hard time eating, it normalizes it,” she says.
Mark Zuckerberg’s own experience as a new dad has certainly helped pave the way for this open dialogue and inspired equal parental leave at Facebook and beyond.
“The thing that has kept me sane and the biggest source of support has been having my husband home,” she says. “There’s nothing that compares with having the father home from day one.”
Paternity leave “helps the father and baby bond in a way that nothing else other than time can accomplish,” says Jyotika.
“If you can make it easier for fathers to stay home it’s one of the best ways to help women at work,” Jyotika says.