Our Chief Product Officer, Petra Vaškových copes with a lot of changes in her work style since she became a mother. We talked with her to get some tips and tricks for handling work from home with a child around, but also tips for handling a career and motherhood while being surrounded by mainly men.
Petra shared, “Our crew is getting older and we are transforming from punk to parenting – that is also one of the slogans from the Grow.kiwi.com program. While in the past it was more about work and parties, “work hard, play hard”, nowadays, as our crew is transforming and getting to family life, also the supporting initiatives from the company should be different. Therefore, let’s flourish! Let’s support our new parents even more.”
You are a parent but also a part of the Executive Board at Kiwi.com. How do you shuffle in between these important roles?
The “shuffling” actually started before our little one was born as one of the toughest decisions in my life so far came when I got pregnant and I had to decide whether I really wanted to stay at work or not and how to combine my career with maternity while not giving up some basic principles I wanted to have as a mother (such as breastfeeding or not having a full-time nanny for the tiny newborn). Oftentimes, working parents of babies or toddlers say that they have two full-time jobs instead of just one and it’s true but although it might sound a bit negative, it is not meant that way. I do enjoy combining the two worlds of my work and family. Having the mindset set well is very important, however, as your priorities might change quickly, plans are sometimes destroyed and there is a lot of invisible organization behind as well. And of course, I would not be able to do so without the great support I have at home.
You talk about combining two worlds. Would you say you are able to balance work and family life?
I’m not a big fan of the phrase “work-life balance”, because, for me, it’s more about work-life integration. Sometimes there are ups and downs, and you need to spend more time in one of these mentioned worlds. What is working for me is that we have a clear and open communication set both at work and at home. I am not hiding at work that I have a small kid at home and how important it is for me to have some time during the day for her and vice versa. When I’m going to work I explain it to her and she understands. I also made a deal with myself that being perfect in all of the areas is not possible. For me, it is more important to enjoy it rather than have everything all perfect. I don’t like taking things for granted – it’s a privilege to do what we do, to be where we are, and to have what we have.
You are mostly surrounded by men at work. How do they react when you take time for family duties?
Everyone was greatly supportive and genuinely happy when I announced I’m pregnant. Even though my maternity leave was shorter than it is usual in our country, I of course had to prepare a plan for how my responsibilities will be delegated and handled once I am off and what should happen if something goes wrong. That being said, some of my teammates had to take over some more high-level responsibilities and actually, looking back, this allowed them to grow a lot professionally as under normal circumstances, I would keep some of those things and the delegation would not be done that quickly. Thanks to this, I actually realized that waiting too long with a delegation can harm the team and it helped me to have a more structured approach towards this.
Some women tend to stay one to three years at home, but you decided to come back after a much shorter time. What was the reaction of people when you announced that?
I come from a small village so at least there the reactions were mixed. I don’t think I’m stealing something from my child and I believe all the babies shall spend more time with their dads as well, especially that fathers shall realize how much work around a child is actually needed but more importantly, the kids just need both parents. Although the reactions from people who don’t really know us varied, we had great support from our families. In general, we get a lot of questions on topics like who is doing all the work at home, who is cooking, who is cleaning the windows and ironing etc. I find it also a bit stereotypical because some people still tend to think it’s only a woman’s job to cook and do all the housework. We never had that in our home, my partner is actually a much better cook than I am! Generally, whenever you do something differently, some reactions won’t be supportive, and some people will even look at you like you are completely crazy but I believe that if you know what you want and it works for you, you should not be blocked by other people.
Did maternity change you as an employee and in what ways?
In terms of daily work, the biggest difference was that once I became a mother, I started to choose the networking events more wisely. Obviously, I can’t be at work till 8 pm every day or go to some happenings directly from work. That was not acceptable for me. Now it’s easier because she is older but there are not many working events due to the pandemic. When talking about office hours, I changed my schedule quite significantly so I am able to do all the work, be available for the colleagues when they need it, and also spend some time with my daughter. It requires some good effort in planning and also changing the approach. My usual schedule starts earlier in the morning at home when I check the latest news, slack, and emails, and then I come to the office later than I used to (around 9:00), this way we have a little family time in the morning. And then I usually finish around 5:30-6:00 pm in the evening and walk home which helps me to clear my mind and spend quality and focused time with my family. And in case I need to finish something at work, I do that once I put my daughter to bed.
Do you manage to have some time for yourself?
I do! I have to admit it was one of the things I limited myself from at the beginning. I counted the networking in the office as my personal time but now I’m allowing my entirely alone time. I love that I can walk to and from work so I enjoy listening to audiobooks, or I decide to run there instead of walking. I really believe it’s important to have some time for ourselves, doing sport, reading, or simply doing nothing.
We have come to the end and I have only one more question. Do you have any tips and tricks on how to handle a home office with kids around?
I installed a working station in our bedroom and I was working only from there, not from a couch, even though it would be sometimes more convenient for me. I wanted my daughter to understand that I’m working, so I can’t play with her and she got it very well. We had it divided and she knew that whenever I am on my “working” table, I am having calls or need to work and whenever I am around the house, we can play. I would advise everyone to schedule the tasks in a smart way. In our company, given how flexible we are as an organization, it doesn’t matter if you do some of the tasks at 7 am or 7 pm. A good schedule, setting up the rules for kids, and quality time with them is very important. I really admire all the people who have kids and have no place to set a working station and close the doors. It’s hard for them but probably even harder for the kids so hopefully, the kindergartens and schools will now remain open for a long time!
What do we do to support Kiwi parents?
Grow.kiwi.com program was founded in 2018 and since then it has been helping Kiwi.com parents to stay in touch with the company by proactively organizing initiatives and activities. Currently, we’re organizing grow.kiwi.com activities for almost 60 parents on maternity/parental leave, as well as ladies who are expecting to give birth in the near future. The activities we organize are varied, such as thematic workshops, English lessons, mentoring/coaching, social events (e.g. St. Nicholas Eve, flea markets), first aid training, as well as babysitting services during various events. There is also a dedicated handbook for our Kiwi parents where they can read what to expect before the baby is born, what are the steps with the birth registry office after having a baby, allowance, conditions for foreigners for parental leave, tax reliefs, and working during parental leave & returning back to work.