Himaja Ganti on Becoming a First-Time Mom During a Pandemic

Apr 2, 2021 | People Stories

Returning to work after maternity leave can seem daunting, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Thankfully, Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America (MBRDNA) has made the transition as smooth as possible for their employees in order to ensure that they feel supported and comfortable.

First-time mom and Software Engineer, Himaja Ganti, recently shared how the company has been supportive of her journey from preparing for maternity leave and returning to work after giving birth. “I was never under pressure to attend all meetings, it was okay for me to miss some if I had to, and I am really thankful for having this kind of environment and work culture” she says. She also shares how MBRDNA has stepped up during the pandemic to prioritize its employees’ wellbeing: “Especially during the pandemic, the company has offered wellness days every other Friday, which is really helpful. “

Read what she had to say about how MBRDNA supports women while being candid about the challenges she faces as a new mother. She also shares some tips on how to navigate the delicate balance of working and mothering.

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 
I have been with MBRDNA for three years. This is my first job after my Master’s degree in Computer Science.

How did you prepare for maternity leave and what advice can you offer to other mothers who are expecting their first child?
Being a first-time mom is extremely overwhelming. You are never fully prepared for what to expect. I have had the privilege to have amazing co-workers and HR team, who helped me through the process of preparing for my maternity leave, during the pandemic. Two months prior to my due date, I reached out to my HR team to find out the process for taking a short-term leave. An HR team member gave me detailed information on how to apply for WA State Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, how I will be paid throughout the leave, and also the necessary paperwork to be done. I also reached out to my co-workers who have gone through this process before and they were helpful in answering my questions. My suggestion for new mothers who are expecting their first child is: “You got this! Feel free to reach out to new moms, ask any questions you have. Make a list of things you need to do before going on leave.”

Some of the things that I did were slowly ramping down and handing over the tasks I was working on to my team. I talked to my manager about the tasks that I would be interested to do after returning to work, finishing up my paperwork, packing all the stuff needed in my hospital bag, etc. This made it easier as I was prepared and didn’t need to hurry at the last minute. I really wish I had known more about postpartum. Now, I share my experiences with expecting mothers to help prepare them.

How long were you on maternity leave and what was it like to return to work? 
I was on maternity leave for three months. Honestly, it was a completely different feeling returning to work, as I am on-call 24/7 now. One upside of working from home during the pandemic is to be around my kid. I juggle more work now but I am slowly learning to improve my productivity with less time.

What type of programs did MBRDNA offer to new and expectant mothers?
MBRDNA offers a ramp-up program when returning to work after maternity, or other short-term disabilities — this includes 8 weeks of flexible working hours. I have worked it out with my manager and planned my tasks ahead of time. MBRDNA and my manager were flexible and supportive — I was given enough time to catch up on what I had missed. I was never under pressure to attend all meetings, it was okay for me to miss some if I had to, and I am really thankful for having this kind of environment and work culture.

How has your morning routine changed since becoming a mom?
My routine overall has changed quite a bit after having a kid. One thing that helped me is establishing a routine for my son. My most productive time is when my son is asleep. So, I plan around his naps and do the tasks that need my full attention during his naps or when he goes to bed at night.

Why do you think MBRDNA is a particularly great place to be a working mom? 
MBRDNA is a great place for working moms and I can vouch for it. The company offers three to three-and-a-half months of maternity leave to employees. They also offer 6 weeks of flexible work hours after returning to work. It is nice to be surrounded by understanding managers and co-workers. MBRDNA insists on having a good work culture and culture add is one of the main attributes we look for while interviewing candidates. Coming to remote work options, the company is very flexible in supporting the team to work from home if needed. For example, I can work from home and take some time off to take my son to a doctor’s appointment. Especially during the pandemic, the company has offered wellness days every other Friday, which is really helpful.

How has your role as a new mom made you a better employee? 
My role as a new mom taught me many things. The most important thing I learned was prioritization — it really helped me improve my productivity.

What’s your go-to stress-relief activity or routine? 
One thing I would suggest to new mothers is to have some “me” time every day. This is really essential for any mother’s mental health — happy mom = happy baby. I sometimes work out on the cycling bike and watch a Netflix show in parallel, or I meditate in the morning or take my kid out for a walk on a sunny day. Sometimes, I just do mandala art coloring. Take at least 20 minutes for yourself in a day, it helps in the long run.

What kinds of boundaries do you follow (if any) to separate work and family time?
I make sure I start my work at 9 AM sharp every day if I don’t have morning meetings and end at 5 PM. Working from home sometimes can be tricky, as we tend to spread the work throughout the day. Make sure to follow a schedule and separate work and family time.

What’s your #1 tip for new moms who are navigating the delicate balance of working and mothering?  
Sometimes it is really difficult to balance both and some days are harder than others. My advice to new moms is “Don’t be hard on yourselves. You are doing great and it is not so easy to be a pro on balancing work and mothering. Take some time off if needed, to plan out how you want your typical day to look like. Following a schedule might be difficult for a week but when you get used to it, it makes life much better.”