Have the courage to ask. To speak up and ask for extra time off or a modified work arrangement if that is what you need to be a better mum and employee. Ask yourself if the arrangement suits your needs. If it doesn't work out, there is always another solution. Happiness and sustainability for both your professional & personal lives cannot be bought.
Leading up to Mother's Day, we speak with a couple of amazing WONDERMOMS - entrepreneurs, fitness instructors, corporate warriors, and making time for their children & family. More importantly, they prioritize their own health & wellness + their family's.
In Conversation with Usha Joyrama-Jain – “I am a regulatory lawyer at a global investment bank. I was born in Kuala Lumpur and spent considerable time in Australia. I moved to Singapore 2.5 years ago from New York with my husband. We now have a son, Rishav who has the most vibrant and loving personality. In my limited free time, I ride at CruCycle, strength train at F45, and dance Indian classical Bharatanatyam at Bhaskar Arts.
Our little family travels like it’s going out of fashion. Rishi has collected more passport stamps in his short life than I ever did until I was in my 20s. It is a luxury and I am ever grateful we are fortunate to be able to build these memories together. I love to read and admit to staying up horribly late to finish off a book. The baby is hardly to blame for my tiredness. We lead a mostly plant-based diet but I will never say no to a big bowl of chili pan mee. My next immediate goal is to learn to play the ukulele so I can serenade my baby!”
No. of kid(s): Son Rishav aged 17 months
Favourite type of workout: Any kind of boutique fitness as I love working out in a group! My current favorites are CruCycle and F45. I was a huge fan of megaformer during my time in New York and only wish I had easier access to those killer classes here in Singapore.
Favourite healthy eats café: I eat healthy home-cooked food most of the time. So when I eat out, it doesn’t need to be healthy, just yummy!
Favourite productivity tool: Together with my outlook calendar, I have written lists of all sorts everywhere – the shopping and meal planning list is on the fridge; my office notebook contains my work to-dos; and my phone contains a lineup of restaurants and books I would like to get to.
What is a typical day like for you?
I live a very fulfilling life with work, my son, and my husband taking up most of my time. A typical weekday sees me up early in the morning for play with my son, and then off to the office for most of the day. I leave work fortunately when the sun is still up and make it home for more quality time with my vivacious toddler; before the dinner and bedtime routine commences. My favourite part of the day comes when it’s time to nurse my baby to sleep. We have a bit of a ‘chat’ about our day and snuggle till he falls asleep. I then ninja out of the bedroom for some TV and relaxation time with the husband.
Did motherhood change you?
Motherhood has been a pleasant surprise! Much of being a parent is modelling the behavior you want your child to adopt, so I can truthfully say that Rishi has made me kinder, more patient, more compassionate and overall, a better person.
Parenting is challenging - when you think you’ve overcome one hurdle, another comes bounding your way. I have found it helpful to remember that the good days do outnumber the not-so-good ones. Rishi overwhelms me with joy so I try and find that feeling especially when the going gets tough.
What did you find most difficult while being pregnant?
I had a pretty uneventful pregnancy – I exercised as much as I wanted (a lot), I ate everything I wanted (more than a lot). Though it wasn’t easy dealing with water retention in the later weeks, and I could have definitely done without having to go to the loo 1000x a day.
Did you keep relatively active and healthy during your pregnancy?
I was an exercise bunny pre-pregnancy and was thrilled that my ob-gyn (obstetrician-gynecologist) encouraged plenty of physical activity too! Apart from going easy on ab-heavy moves, I maintained the same workouts throughout, including CruCycle (we can attest to that!), yoga and weights training. I also went for weekly classical Indian dance classes and added pre-natal yoga to the mix around the second trimester. I was as strong as I ever was, which helped tremendously during the long labour I experienced.
Was it tough to get back into the swing of things at work after giving birth?
I took six months off work – my firm offers 16 weeks paid maternity leave and the rest were vacation days / unpaid leave. I remember being terribly anxious and sad to leave my baby behind, yet that was coupled with excitement to get back into work I found similarly fulfilling.
The initial days were hard and tearful, but I found comfort and support in fellow mums who’d gone through this before me, including my boss. In addition, there were strong policies at my global firm to ensure mothers are supported, including the availability of flexible work arrangements once maternity leave ends. I arranged for a setup which allows me to work two full days from home. I also learnt to write down everything – the post-partum memory loss everyone talks about is real!
Was it difficult to get back into an exercise routine?
Whilst my labour was terribly long I had a strong and natural delivery, and was up and about soon after birth. Nevertheless, I needed to give my body time to heal and not be too hung up on losing the 50lbs I happily gained during the pregnancy. I sought the advice of a women’s health physiotherapist to guide me through strengthening exercises to avoid diastis recti and pelvic floor issues.
I recommenced indoor cycling at CruCycle and yoga at around 6 weeks post-partum. I was (and still am) nursing on demand and it wasn’t always easy to be apart from baby in the early months. I’d always skip cool-down to rush home after class, or have my husband bring the baby to the studio so that I could nurse baby immediately. My favourite workouts were the interval training sessions run by Bloom‘n Fit at the Botanic Gardens. I could take baby with me and tend to him whenever he needed me (his favourite spot in class was in my trainer, Mel’s arms!)
Do you think women and/or especially moms, are subjected to many societal ideas on what a woman “should” be or what moms “should” do?
The challenges women face transcend marital status, family situation, age, race, and creed. Women are constantly fighting for what we deserve and what we believe is right, so I don’t think mums necessarily face judgment any more than other women do – the issues are just different. It certainly isn’t worth debating women choosing to work over staying at home as we’ll end up arguing who’s right till the cows come home.
I think the world needs more compassion and understanding - that we are all doing everything we can for our loved ones and choosing what works best for our families.
What is your mantra and/or words you live by?
Always be kind and respectful, and that the world is immensely beautiful through our children’s eyes. We just need to come down to their level, both literally and figuratively.
What is your top piece of advice or learning point you’d like to share with other Busy Women Corporate Warriors who are looking to start their own families too?
Parenting takes teamwork – so find your village. I am a better mum because my husband and I are in this together. The going does get tough so be kind to one another and have each other’s backs through thick and thin.
I’ll also give a second piece of wisdom – and that is to speak up and ask for extra time off or a modified work arrangement if that is what you need to be a better mum and employee.