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Home, work, and me — balancing the three
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Home, work, and me — balancing the three

While women juggle multiple roles, they should remember to take time for self-care, failing which, their health could be compromised
Discussing work-life balance in the panel discussion in Happiest Her
Dr Madhuri Vidyashankar, Debjani Mukherji, Dr Sakshi Arora and Sunila Benjamin talk about work-life balance at a panel discussion in the‘Happiest Her’ summit by Happiest Health in Bangalore. (Photo by Goutham V/Happiest Health)

With women’s biological clock and career clock being at loggerheads with each other, they are faced with tough choices. The threat of declining fertility looms large, so they are often forced to put their careers on the back burner to pursue motherhood. At the ‘Home, work, and me — balancing the three’ panel discussion in the ‘Happiest Her’ summit organized by Happiest Health in March 2024 in Bangalore, women from various walks of life shared their experiences of maneuvering multiple roles, their challenges and how they came out stronger. It stressed the importance of work-life balance, self-care and asking for help.

Women in leadership from different professional backgrounds took part in the panel discussion. Debjani Mukherji, vice president, global strategic alliances, TalentSprint; Sakshi Arora, a PhD-Stanford-national board-certified health coach; Sunila Benjamin, director, NielsenIQ BASES and Dr Madhuri Vidyashankar P, consultant gynecologist and laparoscopic surgeon, Motherhood Hospitals, Bangalore, voiced their observations on striking a work-life balance.

Balance is the key

As a young doctor in her formative years, Dr Madhuri would work for up to 36 hours at a stretch at times, juggling between hospital and home. As a result, her work-life balance went for a toss. She also enrolled for her super specialty in laparoscopic surgery when her daughter was three years old. Going down memory lane she says, “It was a very stressful period in my life, as I was shuttling between my course, OPD and also attending to my child.” 

While recalling her initial days as a mother, Benjamin spoke for many new parents when she shared that she would prioritize the baby over herself. However, she soon realized that self-care and handling her own needs made her feel calmer and more equipped to cater to her child. “I define myself as a mother who works and not a working mother. I would also occasionally take a day away for myself. I was not devoid of guilt, but the break was necessary to reset myself so that I could continue giving my best,” Benjamin said.

Don’t neglect yourself

Recalling her journey, Arora who had a high-flying career as a techie with Apple in the US shared how her professional peak coincided with a personal milestone — motherhood. “While I was promoted at work, I also received a promotion at home,” she quipped “I was determined to do it all by myself and would not ask for help,” she said. “For over a year, I barely slept for two hours.”

Her pursuit of perfecting multiple roles came at a huge price — her health. Arora saw her world come down crumbling when she was diagnosed with three autoimmune disorders in her early 30s — lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome. “Due to my autoimmune illness, there was a point where I couldn’t even walk to the restroom, as my knees would hurt. My mental health was also in shambles,” she recalled. Her journey of struggling with and overcoming her conditions served as an awakening to delve deeper into health and self-care. Having overcome her own challenges, she became a health coach. Now, she helps people-in-tech prevent burnout and manage their health amidst busy schedules.

Dr Madhuri recalled that she had her share of health issues, being diagnosed with renal tuberculosis while she was pursuing higher studies — she was diagnosed just a day before her exams. “My creatinine levels were high and I was on the verge of getting a transplant,” says Dr Madhuri. Fortunately for her, she could manage the condition with timely treatment.

Find your passion

Among other topics, the panelists discussed the importance of encouraging women to find their passion. Mukherjee, who has a career spanning 30 years, believes that accepting stress as a part of life and seeking help has helped her tide over the many storms in her life. “We don’t have to do it all by ourselves.  Reaching out for help from your spouse, partner, or family members, or even seeking professional help can go a long way,” she said. She added that she did not restrict herself to traditional roles. Instead, she ensures that she devotes ample time to her passion for rescuing animals, including stray cats, dogs and snakes. A trained herpetologist, she has rescued venomous snakes and spread awareness about coexisting in peace with all life forms. She said that finding another purpose helps her manage stress better. 

Dr Madhuri added that as part of her self-care, she religiously takes 10-day long treks to the Himalayas twice a year. “The trip acts as a de-stressor from the daily hustle and bustle. It also keeps me on my toes and pushes me to be active throughout the year as part of prepping for the trek,” says Dr Madhuri, an avid yoga practitioner.

Takeaways

With too many things on a woman’s plate professionally and personally, self-care and work-life balance can seem like an impossibility. However, neglecting oneself in the pursuit of perfecting the many roles can have long-term consequences in the form of compromised health and well-being. Women leaders discuss their challenges and what helped them in their journey.

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