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How we share the load at home: Part I

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How we share the load at home: Part I

Figuring out the division of labor at home is never easy. From those very first days when we nervously bring our fresh little human home, there are seemingly infinite decisions to make about who does what, when, and how often. We partnered with our friends at Bumkins to interview three full-time working #MINDRMAMAs about how duties are shared in their household (and got some scrumptious snaps of their families using the Bumkins gear that can help get them through the day.) First up in this three-part series is Jessica Wey, a creative director in a Manhattan advertising firm.

Talk us through your typical weekday, at home and at work.

My husband, Jon, and I live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with our adorable almost 2 year-old girl, Max. I work as a creative director in a Manhattan advertising firm, and Jon is an attorney with a home office. 

Jessica’s daughter Max is pictured with Bumkins’    Junior Bib    in Watercolor,    Silicone First Feeding Set    in Marble, and    Silicone Grip Dish    in Marble.

Jessica’s daughter Max is pictured with Bumkins’ Junior Bib in Watercolor, Silicone First Feeding Set in Marble, and Silicone Grip Dish in Marble.

Our weekday is pretty typical of most city-dwellers. We wake up, pull together a quick breakfast, and get ourselves ready for the day. (Recently, Max has finally grown enough hair to be gathered into some semblance of pigtails, which is rather exciting!) After we’re ready, we set off toward our daytime destinations. Twice a week, Max gets dropped off at her friend’s place for their nanny share, and three times a week the share is hosted at our place. 

I commute to the city for the workday, which is filled with meetings and calls, and often cross-country travel. Fortunately, I can define my hours such that if I leave early (before 6 pm) I have time to get home, eat dinner, give Max her bath, put her to bed, and then log back on afterward to wrap things up before turning in for the night. 

I wish I could better routinize exercise into my typical weekday. My husband and I have been strategizing on becoming early bedtime/early risers to potentially incorporate runs or yoga in the morning.

What does the division of labor look like in your home?

My husband and I are very conscious of sharing the burden. Since he has a more flexible work schedule, he takes care of childcare drop-off, pick-ups, and meal prep/dishes. I’m typically more involved with managing bills, household purchases, and general cleaning. I weirdly love doing laundry and find it therapeutic.

Did you actively decide on this balance, or did it just kind of happen that way?

The division of labor naturally fell into place as I returned to work. While my work has some flexibility, I have a significant commute, which is why Jon takes on the lion’s share of time-sensitive childcare responsibilities (pick-ups, drop-offs, meal prep). Since I am more available in the evening, I take care of Max’s bath time and bedtime routine.   

Is there anything you think could work better about how you share the load at home, and how do you think you could go about achieving that shift?

For the moment we are doing OK, but we are expecting another baby girl in January! Our lives will be totally upended for as we figure out how to temporarily restructure our time with less sleep. We do want to tweak our schedule so Jon can devote more continuous time to his work; my home presence during maternity leave will provide an opportunity for us to try rebalancing the load and experiment with what works.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for reducing the workload at home?

Family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, you name it. If you have the privilege to have family in proximity, that is! Parenting with just one other person on your team is tough. Whether it’s family, friends, childcare providers, etc, build up your network of support. Raising children is a collective effort and it is reassuring when you’ve got a loving team at the ready.

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Parentrepreneurs: Sydney Hinds of The Village Anthology

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Parentrepreneurs: Sydney Hinds of The Village Anthology

While recovering from a car accident that left her with a traumatic brain injury, #MINDRMAMA Sydney Hinds made a conscious decision to surround herself with beautiful things that made her smile. Her quest to share joy with others led her to start The Village Anthology (TVA), a curated collection of clothing and home decor items that are globally sourced and hand-chosen to brighten your day. Her passion for helping others is inspiring - both in the way that she shares the stories of her artisans and in her role as a mental health advocate. A portion of every purchase at TVA goes towards combating the stigma of mental illness and to raising awareness of the issue through her philanthropic partner, The Seleni Institute. We spoke with Sydney about her road to creating The Village Anthology, the problem with "perfection" and her tips for parenting 3 boys under 3 (Luca, 2.5 years, Ravi and Severiano 4 months). We are also thrilled to note that TVA is featuring Mindr Founder Sarah Lux-Lee on their site today - head on over to check it out.

Share with us a little more about your journey to creating The Village Anthology. How did you get to where you are now and what choices led you down this path?

When I was a graduate student at Tulane, there was an opening for a Teaching Assistant position in the social innovation and entrepreneurship program. At the time, it was an opportunity to fill in some free time in my schedule. Fast forward to the car accident that disrupted everything. While in recovery, I realized my passion for this emerging field. Initially, I was just trying to stimulate my mind as I worked to heal my brain injury. But before I realized it, one thing led to another and a business was born.

We love that you are curating a global collection of beautiful items aimed at bringing joy and telling a story of their origin. How has this philosophy affected the way that you parent?

I have always had an insatiable curiosity for traveling and learning about other cultures. Since becoming a mom, I’ve appreciated the way other cultures parent and it's led me to seek an open-minded view in raising my own children. I believe it's so important to know the roots of something - whether it’s your own genetic roots or the origin of the clothes you wear. I care about the well-being of those involved in the political economy of the goods we bring into our home. The energy an item holds that was created with love and passion under sustainable conditions versus the alternative, has so many implications, both subtle and long-lasting. I hope to keep that conversation going in our home with my children.

The Village Anthology has been described as a "social enterprise that started as a passion project." What advice can you give to our community of #MINDRMAMAS about following their own passions?

I think there’s a misconception that when you follow your passions you’ll never work a day in your life. In reality, it takes blood, sweat, and tears to succeed. It's important to have a working environment that is filled with reminders of your big picture goals and to take moments to check in with yourself to make sure that you are staying true to your vision. You also have to think strategically in case you need to make any slight shifts in the process to get there. Boundaries are also important, because you can find yourself so consumed in your work or conversely- making excuses and never giving yourself any time to work on your passion project.

How has becoming a parent changed or impacted the way that you approach your career?

My children are young, so they’re growing fast and hitting milestones nearly everyday. With that in mind, time spent working is time spent away from them, so I strive to make sure that I'm being as productive and efficient as possible at work.

At Mindr, we are focused on building community and tackling tough topics. Speak to us a little about your role as a mental health advocate and your efforts to normalize this often taboo topic.

Personally, I try my best to integrate mental health into everyday conversations - even if it's just being transparent about when I am on my way to a therapy appointment. My hope is that my candidness will help others to be more open and honest with themselves and those around them.

As a society, I think we're still operating under the expectations that we have to be perfect and do what's expected all the time. The idea of “perfection” is everywhere, as we constantly celebrate sports achievements, social media influencers and celebrity status. It’s great when those in the public eye use their platform to chip away at that false perception, but I also think the normalization needs to occur at the local level and within our immediate communities.

What are some go-to strategies that you've relied on as a parent?

Since having my twins, I have learned to ask for help and I’ve experienced the necessity of having a support system. I have also realized that those in my support system cannot read my mind, which has forced me to feel comfortable with articulating my needs as a mother of three children under three years old. I never truly understood when people would say, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” until now. I can’t be the mom I strive to be if I don't take care of myself. In order for me to be the best mother for my sons, I need to prioritize my needs to ensure I'm of sound mind, body and soul. It will look different for everyone, so it's important to create the strategy that YOU need to function at your best.

What is something you think needs to change about the way our culture treats motherhood/parenthood?

I've learned that the best parenting philosophy is the one that works for your individual situation and lifestyle. There are so many differing opinions in the parenting world and they can be dangerous to a parent's mental well-being. I hope that we can support each other more with a unified view that we're collectively raising a new generation, and shift the attention away from this public standard of unattainable perfection.

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Was I right to quit my job to start a family?

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Was I right to quit my job to start a family?

When #MINDRMAMA Ashwini Rao left a prestigious career in management consulting to focus on raising her children, it wasn't without trepidation. Now, she reflects on whether it was the right move.

Apparently, having been born in 1986, I’m a millennial. What images come to mind when you read that? Is it me, iPhone in hand, carefully posing for a Kylie-esque selfie for the 'gram, in a hipster coffee joint where a flat white costs more than $6? Cycling to my job at a tech startup where I'm launching the latest must-have app that offsets your carbon footprint while delivering you daily inspirational quotes?

When I’m up at 2 am feeding my 5 month old son, I sometimes wish that was in fact me. As I scroll through Facebook, and come across another Money Diaries on Refinery29, I’m always reminded of how different my life currently is from four years ago when I left the workforce. Not good or bad - just different. And yet, a tiny niggle in my mind always asks: could that (or should that) have been me?

I guess you could call me a real international kid. I was born in India, raised in Belgium and Singapore, and settled down in London... via Berlin. I have a German husband, two boys and a plethora of truly multicultural friends and family. Being the “good Indian girl” that I am, I studied engineering at university and graduated with a respectable job working in management consulting.

When I quit my job to raise a family, it was a conscious decision. But I didn’t imagine it would mean the end of my career and more importantly, the end of my self confidence.

Yet here I am. When I quit my job to raise a family, it was a conscious decision. But I didn’t imagine it would mean the end of my career and more importantly, the end of my self confidence. Initially, I expected that I would find another job once my son turned one, however circumstances including the birth of my second son earlier this year meant I stayed in the role of full time carer and household manager.

I have friends who returned to working full time post maternity leave and I look at them with a mix of awe, envy and pity. They are not fully and solely defined by their children, husbands or families but rather their role in society as a professional. They get respect and a sense of self-worth from their achievements at work. And of course they earn their wage and are not ‘dependent’ on their other halves in the way I am. However, I feel sad when I see their constant state of rush and lack of flexibility. That mental and physical pressure must be exhausting and in turn, I do cherish those moments where I can have a lazy pancake breakfast with my kids on a Wednesday morning before nursery.

Sometimes I wonder: Is it a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side,” or are my feelings a reflection of how society values (or rather doesn’t value) how hard it is to raise young children? Many people seem to assume that you are lazy, privileged or uninteresting because you aren’t doing paid work in an office (a male ex-colleague actually once said to me: “Don’t you want to work? Won’t your brain turn to mush if you don't?)

It's because of these attitudes that, every time I meet someone new and they ask the inevitable question - “so what do you do?” - I almost want to curl up and shrivel away with embarrassment because my response of “I’m not working right now” feels like a cop-out. It feels like I’m secondary to my husband and it feels like I must not be smart enough or good enough to handle “working in the real world.”

But really, I know this is not true. I recently did a three month project working for a former boss, and it felt incredible. Incredible to get emails from people that weren’t friends and family - people who wanted my professional opinion on something. Incredible to spend a week 'traveling' and not dealing with the daily grind. Incredible to have the luxury of coming and going as I needed to, knowing my children were well taken care of - by somebody else.

I see the unseen work of raising children and maintaining a household - including all the mental load of planning and organizing the family life - every day.

Because I have lived it, I see the unseen work of raising children and maintaining a household - including all the mental load of planning and organizing the family life - every day. The unfortunate truth is many people do not appreciate the fact that without those of us who commit our selves to paid or unpaid care work, they wouldn’t be able to commit themselves to their careers in the way that they can.

So going forward, I want to change the mentality that those of us who choose to prioritize care work are intellectually inferior or somehow less capable or that our contribution to society is of less value than those who work full time. I commit to doing this by holding my head high the next time I’m asked what I do, responding confidently that I’m raising the next generation and supporting my family in the best way I can. This is right for us at this point in time. But most important of all, I commit to reminding myself of this at the moments when doubt strikes.

Ashwini Rao is an ex-management consultant, South London dwelling vegetarian #MINDRMAMA of two boys who loves cooking and spending time with her friends and family. She thrives on meeting people (in person rather than online!) and one of her biggest strengths is making connections with people and places.

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