A working mother for twenty years, EPAMer Regina Viadro is no stranger to the challenges of balancing work and her personal life. As VP and Co-Head of EPAM’s North American Region, Viadro is responsible for running a geographically distributed team across the East Coast and Midwest, and directing business execution of product engineering and consulting services across a diverse Fortune 500 client base. At home, she is a daughter, wife, and mother of four. To put her high-paced life into perspective, Viadro opened up about her experience as a working mother and the difficulties that come with that:
How EPAMer Regina Viadro is Continually Searching for Work-Life Balance During a Pandemic
“It is hard for me now to place myself into my pre-pandemic schedule. I used to travel so much for work that sometimes I would forget to tell my kids that I have work travel plans coming up or what city I plan to go to. There were times when I could be talking to them after work but would find myself not fully present because I was thinking of an email I needed to respond to. There were social events, kids’ sports commitments to support, things to do, places to be. My life was packed to the brim, and I had developed a system for making it work through a web of childcare arrangements, help from family and friends, and rigorous scheduling and calendar management (or perhaps over-scheduling).”
The pandemic introduced new complexities related to the sudden need for her family to support children’s education from home and continue to be a high performer at work.
“Practically our entire workforce at EPAM shifted to working from home over the course of one weekend. It was a humbling experience to recognize that we were successful in doing that. In terms of my work, I didn’t skip a beat.”
But quarantining in a household of eight (Regina shares the home with her husband, four kids and her elderly parents) presented a whole new set of challenges. As the world started to change around her, and the children began remote learning at home, Viadro became overwhelmed. How was she to be a leader at work, a mom, teacher and supportive daughter to her parents all at the same time?
“It was a challenge at first, especially with the kids in school. In the spring, it was a new process for the children being remote, and young children especially required a lot of help, and it was quite trying to balance being present in work meetings and not feel like you are abandoning your children’s education. Now that we are in the fall, the schools are a lot more organized, and I feel more prepared and have well-functioning arrangements to keep the kids occupied and learning and during my working hours. The fact that I am home every day now and we can have family dinners together and I am always present for the bedtime routine has been a welcomed change of pace and allowed me to feel much more connected to my family life than before.”
Regina acknowledged that not all parents have this kind of support. Working parents often find themselves in a predicament, trying to juggle children and work without help, while carrying a high degree of responsibility towards both, especially children’s education. “It’s important to keep talking about this issue, as there’s no easy solution; sharing ideas, hacks, and learning experiences about how we are balancing the demands and aspirations we have for both work and family is important so we can help each other and provide moral support to the parents who need it.”
While all parents must navigate in these unprecedented times, women especially are impacted. In McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace Report for 2020, researchers found that 1 in 4 women are leaving the workforce or considering downsizing their career due to the dynamic of this new world we find ourselves in.
“There has been a lot of dialog about this topic in social media and mainstream press lately, and I find it very important to discuss and learn from each other, and continually offer support and encouragement to the women in our networks. There is already a shortage of women in the tech space and the pressure to drop out of the workforce to focus on kids is very high. This is something I think about very often: What can we do to help?
My advice to women is to remember that you they not alone and to find ways to push forward. Build a network, at work and home, and rely on your friends and neighbors. The concept of community is so important, especially in these times. Keep pushing forward.”
As working parents continue to balance their careers and families, they have also been challenged with easing into the new world the pandemic has brought. Here, Regina provides some of her working mom and work-life balance hacks:
Working Mom Hacks
- Manage a calendar for your kids, build it for the day ahead of known classes, assignments, and figure out how to fill the gaps. I print mine out and leave multiple copies in all the places I know they will see it.
- Identify what causes the most stress about your kids progress and focus on that. My six year-old is bilingual and has trouble reading. When I have time to sit and help her with schoolwork, we focus on reading.
- Be transparent with your teachers and family members about your needs. I learned that they’re just like managers and are willing to support you when you speak up.
- Share with your kids the time slots when you cannot be disturbed because of important calls. Post your own schedule on the door of your home office with clear markings of “do not enter” times. Compliment them often on allowing you to focus on work when they follow your schedule.
Work-Life Balance Hacks
- Identify a small network of people you find dear and stay connected via Zoom calls, texts, or outdoor activities that allow you to social distance. Equally as important, find time to spend alone. Sit on steps, go for a bike ride or walk. Even get in the car and listen to music. Find activities that bring you joy and repeat them.
- Get dressed in the morning as if you have somewhere to go. I always make sure to go through the motions of going to work and on calls, I always try and leave my camera on.
- Be flexible about your habits. I found always trying to experiment and learn new things has kept me engaged.
- Don’t become distracted with abundance of actionable and consumable content that is available and is coming from every direction. Prioritize what is relevant to you that day.