Working Mom Blues | Going Back to Work After Baby Ep 19
We are here today with Kathy Rugier and we can't wait to dive into this whole topic on how to unload as a mom going back to work after baby. So, Kathy, we are so excited to have you here on our podcast today.
Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited.
Yeah, so Kathy is the founder of Empower of Postpartum Support services company specializing in all things postpartum. She's a certified postpartum doula, but comes at things with a very modern take. So before realizing that her calling was to support new moms and their families, she spent over 20 years in corporate insurance which she believes in so to her clients gives her the added empathy to support the modern woman and in their family dynamic. She helps now new moms to transition through what she believes are the two toughest transitions of their lives. First, it's becoming a mum and then becoming a working mother as well. So, Kathy I'm all ears being a mom to a little baby. She's my second one but still I am here with a notepad and pen ready to take notes.
Well, you’re pretty amazing, I mean you're such a busy working moms as it is I should probably take tips from you.
I can't wait. So yeah. So tell us a little bit about your journey. Then. You came out of the corporate world and pivoted into something so beautiful and so meaningful. But tell us a little bit more about how you got there. Sure.
So I guess it kind of all goes back initially to moving out to Asia. I moved out 2011 So just over 10 years ago now I moved out with a suitcase I'm planning on you know, working on my career. I was in my early 30s. So yeah, everything was all about me and my career and where I was going to take that. And then then I fell in love which wasn't on the cards. I didn't think Asia was going to be the base that was necessarily going to happen. But I joke and I say I do the one and only thing in my life that I did was follow my heart as opposed to follow my head and I moved to Bangkok to be with my then boyfriend who's now my husband and father of my daughter. And I guess that was where the corporate journey started to slow down and came to a very abrupt and not end as such, but came to a very abrupt kind of stop. When I had my daughter. I actually I talked about that on my website how it felt like it was like a monumental full stop in my life that I really kind of wasn't prepared for. I was lucky I had a birth doula in Bangkok. And she introduced me to kind of a network of support. And that's where I kind of learned to thrive as a mom, although I was still finding it tough. In actual fact, the date that we're recording we're the day after World Mental Health Day. And it's I'm quite passionate about stuff like that because I absolutely recognize that I suffered with postpartum anxiety and because of that I found it tough to go back into the corporate world. And I did ultimately when we move back to Singapore, I did ultimately go back into the corporate world. But I always had this kind of calling. I had this feeling like you know that I was meant to be helping mums. I had studied to be a post-partum doula I had done all of the back work or I'd done the volunteering. I'd supported many, many families I put my hours in and then during the just after the lockdown of COVID I would found myself a bit of a juncture with my corporate Korea and literally overnight I decided to leave the corporate world and set up a business and that this is what I was going to do.
That is amazing and so courageous as well.
I guess it was I mean, part of it was all of a sudden I could clearly see a business path to something that was a passion. During COVID It was so obvious that families needed support and that they couldn't get that support. travel restrictions were in place people couldn't get, you know, their mothers, their fathers, their grandparents, their sisters, their cousins, even confinement nannies for you know, the Chinese or the Malay community here. It was really difficult to get that support. First time ever I could also see what what had been lacking before to enable me to make the jump is that I can see it made commercial sense as well as I you know, as well as my heart making sense. I can see that my head could make sense of it, because there was a real need and so the it was an interesting time to start a career like this.
Absolutely. Yeah. And also I mean you are and that and that space, and if you're all in it, where we're abroad, right we're away from our family from our support network from even like, like things like going into hospital and being able to speak that particular language or communicating right and then going to find the things that you need in a country that's not your own language that's not your own, with nobody around you. So having that kind of support is priceless is extremely valuable. Yeah, absolutely.
And I felt that with every client. It was I mean, it was an easy conversation to have with so many people that had previously not necessarily thought to pay for this type of support. It became an a much easier conversation to have, it became obvious that people needed this help.
Exactly. And sometimes they don't think they need it right. But then once they have it, they're like oh my god, where have you been?
Don't get me started on that if I would be a very rich woman, if every woman that had now had kids, you know, they all say to me, I needed you back then.
I just, I just had my second daughter and in Kyoto and Japan and hospital. Were due to COVID my husband wasn't allowed in Zion a birth all by myself kind of thing right? Like it was just that whole thing of and you're in a country where like nobody spoke English and the only doctor that spoke English, which was my doctor was not on duty on the day I gave birth. Obviously, that happens that way. And so yeah, it was very interesting.
And that's always the case as well of, we don't know what we don't know. Right? And with the whole pregnancy journey, I feel that it just, it has like this goal posts that they keep getting moved as as we reach them, because then we have a new perspective on things. So, at the beginning, it's always about given birth, and that's the end goal. How will it look like what will happen to me? You know, all this anxiety and uncertainty around it like what is that right? Will I be able to get through it and all of this fears, but then once that is over and baby's in your arms, then a whole as you said a whole new transition happens and for you becoming a mom and now you know this little bundle of so much joy but also so vulnerable. You don't know. You know what to do? There's no manual, right? There's no manual there.
Exactly.There's no manual. Yeah.
We try and create manuals these days
and then we worry, though, that it doesn't follow those steps.
Yes. Yes. And this is this is something that I talk about a lot with my clients is to remind them that if I can talk about myself in the same generation as my clients, I'm probably a bit older than them a lot of the time but you know, we're the first generation that was we were told we could have it all. So as a result, we've worked really hard. Our entire life has been about KPIs, you know, from school grades all the way through to salaries. You know, we've we've been working really hard to rub shoulders with, you know, everybody else out there. When in actual fact, if you looked back, only a generation or two women hung out with women almost exclusively. So as a result, we saw mums becoming moms. We saw people feeding we saw births happening we supported them, it was it was normal life, you know, your cousin, mom's your grandpa, your granny like, you we saw it, we didn't need to. We didn't need to learn how to do this stuff because we were experiencing it all the time. We were in it, whereas now we're not in it. So it's no wonder we're like to win the user manual like have never seen it before. Oh my God, it's so true reminder, that that's why we're where we're at why a lot of the anxieties that we have in our generation, at least it gives us somewhere to kind of not go back to but you know, it can calm people a little bit to know that this. A lot of this is instinctual, instinctual, is that a word? But yeah, to try and take that pressure away from you know, this aspect of parenting, which I totally get and we do it a lot and I know it helps a lot of clients. But I think it's quite grounding sometimes to realize why we've got to where we've got
And there's something else that I know that you're going to be sharing with us, Kathy and diving deeper into, like what are those common mental loads? You know that working moms have tied up to the scenario as you say where they're coming from a life experience that doesn't allow them to have fully seen all these women before them doing it and how natural it is and how instinctual it is so, so So then so then it adds another layer to that right.
Yeah, absolutely. Because they're always judging themselves. And they always feel like they're being judged because of you know, these apparent user manuals that were meant to be following. So yeah, I think one of the, one of the big things is, is first of all recognizing and embracing where we are, you know, that that the world has changed significantly and the actual fact a lot of what we are predisposed to think of is as bad in terms of technology and all of those things to stop using them to our advantage, you know, to actually use them to worry less as opposed to worrying more about it. So that's like some really quick top tips that I give mums when I do back to work consultations, to help them work out what a day can look like and where we can strip away some of the worries right? So something is simple as lots of people don't even realize that we have WhatsApp out of office replies like on WhatsApp phone like a really? Yeah, yeah, and this sounds so crazy, but I encourage a lot of my clients to look and go on to their WhatsApp and use that out of office function. So it's like an auto reply function.
Oh, yeah, learning something new. I did not know that existed. Yeah,
So to use that function can literally avoid some of the most awkward conversations that we have, you know that that quick, you know, Can you can you do a call now, or can you answer a question now, you know, when it's actually bath and bedtime, right. And instantly you're like, No, I've politely told that person that I'm busy right now, just like I would have done during the day if you had a really important meeting. So that can simple things like that can really just help you like No, I know my answer. Really good. Yeah, that's fine out of office.
Yeah. It's a great one. Yeah.
It can it can be quite relieving. Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. See that? Yeah. Such a simple thing and you do it in the office, but you know, to think about doing it to protect your your home time.
Because sometimes we only tend to think about it when we're really having like this holiday like this really blocking out a section of time right where we say I'm definitely away, right? You're not reach me. That's when we think about this auto reply of out of office. But it's good to have it during today, as you say because there are moments where you just want to be bonding and connecting with your kids and you really don't want to be invested in in something else taking away your bandwidth from that time.
Yeah. And if we simply just ignore our phone, yeah, that's what most of us would try to do. We would put our phone into one side or you know, maybe even in another room, but we still, you know, we still have that kind of, kind of semi negative energy insiders. Well, we know it's out there. We know it's ringing. We know it's buzzing you know, it doesn't enable us to truly focus on what we're doing. And like you say, get that connection in the in the moment with what's happening with our family. Yeah. So I love I love that like super quick tip. And I know my clients like it as well. The other one that is good for anyone actually is using our calendars as our to do list. I don't know if you've ever tried this, but it's really amazing. for actually making you realize how long something will take you. Because if everything we everything always takes us longer than we think it will Yeah, like the number of times that I can quickly knock out that email or I can quickly do this. I can quickly prepare the kids dinner. When in actual fact we nearly always underestimate it. So using your calendar to plan your day quite systematically, so it doesn't suit everyone. But it's an interesting exercise to go through is to really, really put everything that you want to get or need or want to get up literally block it literally block it out. Because it's it's such a visual like oh wow, like Well, that's not possible. You know, you will invariably get halfway down your to do list and be like, Well, I haven't gotten up
And then you end the day being super frustrated. Right? So someone did tell me as well before try to put everything on your To Do lists like I work a lot with Trello for example, like all the To Do lists, slot them into your calendar, and if it doesn't fit that doesn't fit, and then it's true, then you've got to say okay, priorities then this one has to fit into tomorrow's schedule. And you've got to organize and you're right, because at the end of the day, you will feel a lot more accomplished rather than like, I only got to do half the things I planned to do today and it's yeah, it's frustrating.
And then there's the other part of also taking into account Kathy, for example, if you have out of home activity and things to do the commute time that we don't we don't take it into account, right. If that's, you know, 20 minutes to get there. 20 minutes to come back. That's 40 minutes. Where you thought you had available I don't know to do something and you're like No, actually no, maybe this time I can actually be more productive and listen to that podcast or you know, quickly reply to some messages if I'm on the train for example. But it allows you to plan better right rather than say, oh now I'm not near my computer I I forgot who I needed to reply and what was that about? And so the time is lost.
Yeah, yeah, very much so and I love you say about the commute actually, is that sometimes where I say is as much as I don't like admitting it's hard to find time for ourselves because it should be easier that I very much say that that that is an opportunity to listen to that podcast.
Yeah, I look forward to picking up my son from school because I'm on my bike. I'm here with my headphones I'm putting on my favorite podcasts or listening to friends’ messages and B do what moms do voice messages right? Because we know it's easier. And it's like I like really look forward to these trips that what tips or advice do you have though for like, let's say time buffering, because another thing now I have a little almost 10 month old and obviously like the things I put in my calendar. It's like she dictates a lot of my time and it's not very predictable as we’re not very much on a schedule or anything. So it's a lot of we take it as it comes and like that can be a little bit frustrating for me where I'm like, but I've blocked away my time but now it's you know, I have to let's say, feed her there instead of writing that email for example. And what tips do you have around like buffering that schedule properly moving.
Yeah, I think I think when it comes to having the littles My first tip is I understand everyone's different and you know, some people are much happier going with the flow than like working to strict routines. And I have lots of clients on both ends of the spectrum. But the two the two things I do encourage everyone to think about First off is the mornings and the evenings. Because if you can, you know open the curtains singer morning song at the same time every day. It benefits everyone in the house, you know everyone gets it's like the alarm clock. It's a soft alarm clock. We all know how our body can get used to the alarm clock. And then the same thing at the end of the day, making sure that you know the same routine at the same time and something that is easy to do anywhere so I try and encourage like bedtime routine that was like you know make sure when you're fine like
Mornings and evenings begin the same way and end the same way but it's like the in between, you know when the big ones in school, and you're like okay, this is my work. Yeah, but it's not really because I also have a little one at home. So that dynamic.
Yeah, I think then it's time blocking. But actually and this kind of leads into one of the other big things because I think you can apply it to your children as much as we can to our partners is the concept of thinking less about time and thinking more about tasks. True. So if we think and we I think we often feel we get to the end of the day and feel like ‘Oh, I haven't spent enough time with my child’. When whereas if you have like a kind of a toolkit of tasks that you'd like to do with them, you know, then you're able to look back on your day and think so Wow. Well, we did this and we did that and we built this and she learned that So switching your mind lock that mind. Was that time you spent It's quite freeing because also towards the end of the day, if you if it's meant that you have moved a lot of your kind of work to do items, you know, if they've been buffered and buffered and buffered. If you don't think about completing them in terms of time, but you think about completing them in terms of tasks, you'll get a mini endorphin surge every time you do that. So even if it is 10-11 o'clock at night, every little thing that you can still take off will make you feel that little bit happier as opposed to thinking I'm going to do an hour of work now. Oh my god, I got to do an hour's work now you know,
it seems more overwhelming. Yeah, yeah. Instead of thinking I'm gonna do that email later.
I think I'm gonna probably take you to the task is rather than like so much of like the time spent. Yeah,
Absolutely. Absolutely. And this is the the big thing that I talk to clients about with their partners and how to shift that dynamic that we often find ourselves in where we want more help. But the way that we're asking for help, isn't resulting in that we want all that we need. And I always give a fantasy and this is a real life example chatting to a client who told me and I worked with them from the from the early days. So I'd been there in the trenches with their baby so I knew their husband as well. And they were wonderful family and we got chatting she was going back to work and she said well, you know how great he is really involved. Dad is wonderful. And I was like, yeah, totally. And she said that every Saturday he takes the kids down to the swimming pool for me and it's brilliant. I get like an hour to myself. Like I love it. I was like fantastic. I said who gets the kids ready to go down to the swimming pool? And she's like, What do you mean? It's like, well, who gets them ready? She's like, Well, I do. Alright, and who remembers that? If they don't take snacks downstairs. They'll have a meltdown. Well, I do
or the water bottles, right?
See, and then some hand lotion and you know, who remembers what side of the swimming pool that the kids should set? Because where's the shade and when you know, depending on the time of day, and all of these things that you set up for them to go swimming. He's like, Oh, I do. And then when they come back up who gets the kids out of their wet? I do. You know we go through this. I was like so that one hour that you thought you were having to yourself? Sounds to me like it's almost created two hours of work. Yeah. Yeah, she's like, wow, I hadn't actually thought about it and it's such a simple but easy example to show that if you actually switch from thinking about the time so she was thinking I get an hour to myself. Whereas if she switched and thought I'm giving the task of the kids going swimming to my partner, and do it from what I would call soup to nuts, you know from the start to the finish, get them ready. Get them showered at the end of the day.
Take ownership of that. It's so true. I remember in one previous episode as we spoke about this as well, like, sometimes we say oh you know, I get help with that. Time. But who sets up the towels? Who picks them out? Right, the clothes that gets taken off? Where is it, is it laying on the floor who picks it up? Or sometimes, you know, the husband is like, Yeah, I do bath time, meaning I put them in the bath in the shower, I get them wet. But where are the towels? Can you get me the towels so you're, you're not fully unloading that time you're actually co doing bath time because now you also have to get the towels that they forgot to put together to finish right so it's so true about owning you know tasks on its own and saying like, Hey, you are responsible beginning to end.
Yeah, I had a client recently that was worrying about how they were going to talk to their partner about the fact that she needed extra help. It was their third baby and she's like, I need a commitment that he's going to come home, you know, X number of times a week on time and not do you know, client meetings or whatever. And I said well don't talk about it in terms of time. Because if you say I need you home at six o'clock, you know, three times a week. It's a kind of indefinite do you I mean time isn't indefinite and what you actually need it and want him to do is help with bath time and bedtime those days. Yeah, that's the thing. Is a grown up. They know what that involves. So don't say I need you home at six o'clock to do bath. I just say on Monday Wednesday that Friday. I need you I need you home or nope don't even say I need you to do bath and bedtime. I need you to do bath and bedtime. They know what that entails. They can time that themselves now the frustration normally we would feel is we would lead up to that task. We would be self planning we would be you know throughout the day making sure things were in the bathroom where they are all of that. And for us in our mind, we probably think bath time needs to start at x in order for it to be a nice casual calming experience. And quite often our partners somehow I don't know how they managed to fly in through the door. Make it one big whirlwind of activity probably, you know, an hour later than we would have started but they still normally achieve the task. They still get the kids back in their way and that's okay. Yes. So, so the conversation she ended up having with her husband was so much more simple. It was Hey, babe, can you commit to two or three nights a week doing bath and bedtime? Okay. That's the quiet stage. less overwhelming on both ends, right?
Okay. That's less overwhelming on both ends, right?
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And like I say, if we were not around, and you know, and our spouses need to do it, they would have to figure it out on their own. So, so, sometimes, you know, we feel like, well, I should be around just in case but, but really allowing ourselves to also, I guess, sign out and say no, like, it's on Zoom. It's fairly on Zoom. And however they get there. Obviously, it's not going to be my way but it's, it's a different way, right? It's someone else's personality, energy put into the mix, that the kids also need to get used to. Right. It's not always the way mommy does it. There's also another partner in the equation that gets to do it their own way.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And once you get on board thinking of terms of tasks instead of time, the nit-picking goes away as well. You know, like in terms of because if you if you say I want you home in time, at such and such a time, so that you can do bath time you've given kind of two dynamics to that. So you're going to be a little bit annoyed if they don't come home when you say but they will. You're also going to be annoyed if they don't kind of do bath time, you know, the way that one when in actual fact there really is only one goal out of this, which is that you don't have to bath right, or whatever there is or swimming or whatever is, you know, yes, yes, but it can be it can be a really nice feeling to actually then sit down at the end of the day, both having had the endorphin you know, tech of completing tasks as opposed to your day being an endless game time.
And then, don’t forget also Kathy which I think it's also important to add to the conversation that you know, your spouse is not, is not oh, you should help out. They're also responsible for being there, right. It's a shared responsibility throughout so it's not them doing us a favor is it's about two adults coming into a relationship and a new family unit. We're, yeah, right. It's never going to be 5050 we get that right. We're also not talking about the has to be 5050. But there has to be a sense of at least what you say to have that peace of mind to know that they can also handle it. They can also do it even if it's their way. But it can also get done. You get to have that pair of extra hands because they are also committed to this right. It's been done in in a partnership. Yes. Right.
Yes, absolutely. I think it's interesting when you said the phrase like 5050 and the fact that it's normally not going to be 5050 and we accept that. But that in itself normally in our brains when we think 5050 We tend to be thinking of time again, and yes, we do. Tend to accept that more time might be spent by the mother doing things in a very atypical type of setup. But again, if we switch ourselves out of thinking about time, and think in terms of tasks, then you can really start to potentially rewrite that 5050 And it might even look like 5050 at the end. You know, and also if you stop using the word help, like you said, it's not helping and I think that like can you help me between six and eight o'clock tonight, as opposed to can you do X Y Zed?
Right, right? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that's, that's great. This is this is really wonderful for all those moms who are listening, planning to go back to work as well and knowing that the household things also still need to get done. The kids still need to get fed bathe, you know put to bed all of that that is still ongoing that does not end or change just because we are going back actively into having, you know our careers back or jobs back, etc.
No, super helpful. So this is great. So we learned about the three tips of how to use your technology that we have already. We don't have to add anything new things we have things we can use to our advantage. And of course then, you know talking to our partners very clearly. And I think that is really a wonderful way of easing back or going or transitioning into that that second stage of becoming a working mother without the anxiety and without the pressures. So thank you so much for sharing all of that. And you also have a freebie for everyone that is listening today. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that?
Absolutely. So I as you can tell, I get a bit passionate about trying to help moms when they're going back to work. So I have I do back to work consultations, which can be virtual or in person where we run through not only what we've talked about today, but we also run through the dynamics of feeding and weaning. And breast pumping. And, you know, literally down to what attire can you wear that's going to make life easier. So he's consultative, take a diet. Yeah, they take a really interesting direction sometimes based on really bespoke factors that a woman is handling and her own mental load based on her own dynamic. And so I absolutely love these sessions because they really empower me and they empower my clients as well. So I'd love to offer a $50 discount to all the Momergies out there.
Yeah, I would love to reach more people, because people don't necessarily know that this support and these techniques are out there. And I think it's pretty empowering to have that extra bit.
Yes, of course these are very much needed conversations. For anyone that learns, as you say, you know, having some sort of inkling on, you know, what, what should I be on the lookout for right as I head back? What are the things that preemptively I can start, you know, putting them on my radar so that it becomes more seamless more easy, right? The transition of this new dynamic going back to work still having a baby at home. And what does that entail? And Kathy, one last question, and we write it off the back of what we were talking about. Like 5050, finding that balance with our partners in the relationship and all of that but when it comes to, you know, as moms in all the things that we want to do in all the different roles that the hats that we wear, right also the word balance might seem a little bit too charged, because, again, we're striving it somehow implies a bit of perfection in all areas which we know it's impossible. So we resonate more with the word harmony because it's more flowy it's more with you know, we ride the wave of what is in the moment. And we do so depending on the seasons that are coming up for us. So we wanted to ask you, what is your biggest takeaway or tip for the moms that are listening on how you are able to get this harmony going for you in your life, as you approach all the different facets that make up Kathy and and your life and you know your role as a mom as a spouse, friend's sister and all of that
I can easily sum that up than it is to ask for help when you need it. That is such it's such a powerful thing to do. And it can literally be life changing, you know, coming off the back of yesterday. Well Mental Health Day and surrounding myself now with mompreneurs that we keep each other uplifted because we ask for help. Ask your friends. Ask your colleagues. Ask your partner I know we talked about you know not using the word help when it comes to our partners. But you know, knowing knowing where you need that support, knowing what to ask for and asking for it. And it's very brief.
It's the bravest thing that we can do right is not trying to be a superwoman but actually saying, Hey, I'm raising my hand before I burn out Yeah, and I bring everyone down with me right? It's a matter of saying no, I actually want to reach out and find out how I can empower myself and uplift myself in the processes of learning. So we want to thank you so much Kathy for chatting with us today. If you want to connect with Kathy you can find her on Instagram @empower.sg We're also going to be sharing the links to her Facebook, her website, her LinkedIn contacts, and of course the you know the link to having this beautiful work consultation call that she has. So, you know, wonderfully shared with our listeners today. So thank you, Kathy, so much for being here with us.
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Kathy is the Founder of Empowa, a Postpartum Support Services company, specialising in all things Postpartum. She is a Certified Postpartum Doula, but comes at things with a modern take. Before realising that her "calling" was to support new mothers and families she spent over 20 years in Corporate Insurance, which she believes, and so do her clients, gives her the added empathy to support the modern woman and family dynamic. She helps new mums transition through what she believes are the two toughest transitions of our lives, becoming a mother, and then becoming a working mother.
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