Ep 10 - Navigating Caregiving and Careers: Insights from Working Moms

WLE Ep10 YouTube
In this candid conversation, working moms Casandra Williams and Aurore Joshi open up about the challenges and joys of navigating careers while juggling caregiving responsibilities. Casandra, a first-generation college graduate and mother to a 2-year-old, shares her strategies for effective co-parenting and staying organized. Aurore provides a moving account of her 20-year journey as the "sandwich generation" caregiver – supporting her ailing single mother for 11 years, and then her father's declining health shortly after the birth of her first child. The two mothers offer invaluable insights on mindfulness, prioritizing self-care, finding moments of joy amidst hardship, and giving oneself grace during life's intense seasons. They discuss the importance of supportive managers, affordable backup care, and building a nurturing "village." With refreshing vulnerability, Casandra and Aurore emphasize the lessons of gratitude, self-love and acceptance that their caregiving journeys have taught them. This powerful episode illuminates the daily struggles and resilience of modern working parents striving to find harmony across work and life.

Read the full transcript

00:00:05 - Commercial
Welcome to The Work-Life Equation, hosted by Priya Krishnan and Paul Sullivan. During this episode, you will hear from working parents just like you who understand the daily struggles and triumphs while finding our unique work life equation. Now here are your hosts.
00:00:24 - Priya Krishnan
Hello everyone and welcome to The Work-Life Equation podcast. I'm Priya Krishnan. I'm the Chief Digital and Transformation Officer at Bright Horizons.
00:00:33 - Paul Sullivan
And I'm Paul Sullivan, founder of The Company of Dads and your co-host.
00:00:37 - Priya Krishnan
Today's episode is really unique. We have two working parents who truly represent what it means to find the work-life equation. We have Casandra Williams and Aurore Joshi joining us. Casandra comes from a large Hispanic American family of six and 48 nieces and nephews. As the first in her family to graduate high school, she went on to study chemical engineering at Notre Dame. Her career started at Accenture as a technology consultant, driven by her ambition and not initially seeing herself as a parent. Fast forward to today. She's a mother of an adorable two-year-old son and she maintains a great co-parenting relationship and we're lucky to have her as a bright Horizons parent ambassador. Welcome Casandra.
00:01:24 - Casandra Williams
Thank you. Nice to be on.
00:01:27 - Paul Sullivan
We are excited to welcome Aurore, marketing director here at Bright Horizons. She's got a unique French Indian background. Having grown up in France, she moved to the United States 15 years ago. She's the mother of two daughters, but her caregiving journey began at the young age of 24 when her single mother, who had longstanding health issues, became critically ill. Despite a thriving career, she put it on hold to become her mother's primary caregiver for eleven years until her passing in 2017. That was just months after the birth of her first child. Years later, her caregiving journey amplified again as her father’s declining health required her to take on his caregiving responsibilities, which she has done over the past three years. This intense juggling act led to burnout about a year ago, prompting her to learn invaluable lessons and develop coping strategies to manage such complex care situations. Welcome Farrar.
00:02:24 - Aurore Joshi
Thank you. So glad to be here.
00:02:26 - Priya Krishnan
We wanted to start off with our first question, which was, can you tell us a little bit about yourselves and your caregiving journey?
00:02:33 - Casandra Williams
Yeah, sure. Again, thank you for having me on. I'm happy to be here. Always happy to be able to have a chance to tell my story. I got to do this quite a bit in college, being on scholarships and being funded by different avenues to be able to get my education, especially as a first generation. Again, just happy to be able to tell my story as you mentioned I did get a chance to study engineering. Through various mentorships and support systems. I was able to make it into college again through scholarships and various funding avenues. And after that point, I was just very focused. I was the, you know, I'm number five of six in my family, and all of my siblings had multiple children in their teens. And so there was zero pressure on me to have any children anytime soon. As a matter of fact, my mother told me to wait as long as possible, you know, and just thrive into, into my career. And so I guess from that perspective, I was really heads down on trying to, you know, be a role model for my nieces and nephews. As you mentioned, I have 48 nieces and nephews. We have a very large family. And I would say I am a role model too many of them. So I was really focused on my career. And then during COVID my career was actually starting to really skyrocket. I became senior manager during that period. And very shortly after we found out we were pregnant with a blessing, our daughter Vera. And she actually just turned two exactly a week ago. So that was an interesting experience. Again, I wasn't expecting to have children maybe ever. And again, just super focused on my career and on my family. And then Vera came along and she's totally changed my world and taught me so much already. And she's my biggest teacher so far.
00:04:10 - Paul Sullivan
And then, Aurore, maybe you could just pick up there and share a bit of your backstory with the listener.
00:04:16 - Aurore Joshi
Sure. With pleasure. So, as you mentioned, I grew up, I'm half French, half Indian, so I grew up in France. I moved to the US about 15 years ago. I used to be a journalist back home, and I have been a family caregiver for about 20 years. So my parents never lived together, and I'm an only child. So when my mom, who was a single mom with no family support, fell very sick, I had, you know, naturally became her primary caregiver. I was, I think, at that point, 22, 23, and she was sick for about eleven years. So I was 34 when she passed away. So this was also the time where I was trying to build my career and a life for myself. But, you know, honestly, I constantly had to make sacrifices, difficult choices. And that came with a lot of frustrations and lots of tears, too. Like, I felt like I could never win right when I focused on my career, I was feeling guilty because I was so far away from my mom. And, you know, I knew that I was her anchor, the one and only person she felt comfortable with. But on the other hand, when I was waking up at 04:00 a.m. to talk to that doctor in France before a full day at work here in Boston, or when I was spending all my vacation days hanging out in a nursing home, I was. I was angry. You know, I also wanted to have the life that my friends had. I was missing a lot of opportunities. I mean, just to give you a few examples, I spent, like, my 30th birthday talking with three doctors and friends at 03:00 a.m. in the morning because I had to. Because I was in the US or at the height of my career, I had to resign to go back to France because my mom needed me. Then, you know, I got married, had my first child. My mom died when my daughter was ten months old. So, you know, lots of conflicting emotions here. And then a couple of years later, I had my second child, which was a blame, but the pandemic hit, so we all know how that goes and how that went for everyone at that point. I just moved to a part time job for a while. And fast forward three years ago, I was ready to refocus on my career, go back full time, and I started my working at bright horizons. And two months into it, my dad had to have a surgery in France. Six months later, he came to visit and literally fell in my arms at the airport. When I said literally fell, he fell. Because he was so skinny, so weak. He was not coherent. I had to move him right away. With me, there was no other choice. And I had to figure out health insurance, file for his green card, manage all his administrative stuff in France, knowing that he's Indian. So that adds a layer of complexity. And we also had several scary health issues and falls. And my kids were there, and they could see all of that. They were frightened. And my elders started having nightmares, anxiety crisis. I was not present for them as they were used to. I was stressed, I was unpleasant. It was difficult. And at the height of that, my dad was diagnosed with dementia. So my mom had dementia, too. And I knew exactly how bad things can get. So for me, psychologically, sorry. It was really hard. I always took care of my mom in some way, but my dad was my rock, so losing him was honestly my biggest fear in life. And I had to deal with very complex situations nonstop when I was processing a lot of a lot emotionally. And to be honest, I was grieving, too. So I managed to do it for a while like a robot. I didn't sleep. I beat myself up because I couldn't do it all. And I could feel that my own mental and physical health declining. But, you know, so what? At that point, you're like, I have to do what I have to do. Like, you have to keep going. I was not going to let my family down and there was no way I was going to give up my career one more time. But that led to, you know, what is inevitable, which is a burnout, because I was only human. It was not pretty, but I had to figure out just for the same people, my children, my dad. I had to figure out a way to get better, how to navigate the situation in a more sustainable way. And that's what I've been trying to figure out for the past year. I don't have all the answers, but I have a few learnings and I'd love to share some of that with you because, you know, more and more people are in this situation today, I think, and they need, people need to know that they're not the only ones struggling, that it is a real struggle, but also that there are ways, I think, that we can find silver linings in these, these very difficult situations.
00:08:35 - Paul Sullivan
You know, I like to thank you both for sharing your stories. I mean, come back to Casandra. I like to kind of follow up with a question about co-parenting. And you've talked how, you know, you're two years into this almost exactly as we're talking about you turning two years old. And, you know, I know you've used some calendars, some different, you know, techniques that have worked, but maybe you could share with the listeners what you've done that's been effective as a co parent with strategies as they relate to you and the father of your daughter and also you yourself. And also, if you're comfortable, share with us perhaps some of the strategies that you tried that didn't work as well as the successful ones.
00:09:19 - Casandra Williams
Yeah, sure. Thank you for asking. I guess I'm fortunate. We're fairly like minded. We're both consultants. Vera’s father is a strategy consultant. We both work in the technology space, typically in innovation. So we're both open to new apps, different tools. Of course, all of the apps haven't worked. Nowadays, when you're breastfeeding, there's timers and there's different things you can use and apps and systems. Something that we do is we regularly rely on our community and our village friends and family who are also like minded and into new tools to tell us what's the latest tool they're using or what's the latest book, or who's the newest expert, right? And we're willing to kind of divide and conquer and do that research. So Vera's father will take some topics, and he'll research, and he'll come back and say, okay, I think this is a great app, or this is a book, or this is something we should lean into, or, you know what? I'll go ahead and pay for this subscription because I'm really interested in the learning for children within this system. And likewise, I'll take on some of those. So I would say we both rely heavily on technology. And then, as you mentioned, our staple, our main source that we use to keep everything organized and connected and aligned is our shared calendar. So we have a shared Google calendar that we use. It's loaded nowadays. It's in your phone, it's on your iPad, right. You can integrate it with your work calendars, things like that. And so things like daycare drop offs, if we're doing any activities around the city, right. Chicago has a bountiful amount of activities for families. So if, you know, we're going to the museum, we'll put that in the calendar. You know, who's doing pickup, what time are we meeting at the museum, things like that. So the calendar is definitely a savior. And I will say not all apps have worked. Some books I kind of, like, opened up, flew through them. I was like, I don't know if I'd recommend this to my friends that are coming up, that are having children. So I would say not everything's been great. Some systems I wouldn't pay for. Again, I'll put it put it that way. But for the most part, yeah. The calendar has been the best staple. And, of course, like, from a psychological perspective, that agreement that it's a drama free approach. Right. So the kid is always first. Whatever is going on outside of that doesn't matter. You come to the table. We have recurring regular meetings where we check in on her development, both physically and mentally. And then, of course, we do regular conversations about her experience at bright horizons, which, thankfully, so far, it's been amazing. She's thriving. We get a lot of compliments on her development, so definitely grateful for that experience as well.
00:11:46 - Priya Krishnan
Sounds like a fantastic approach, and congratulations on putting that together. Rory, I'm going to switch over to you. For our listeners who don't understand or perhaps haven't heard the term sandwich generation because they might get a different life stage, could you explain what that means and how that impacts your day to day?
00:12:06 - Aurore Joshi
Sure. So the sandwich generation is a term that we use to describe the circumstances in which we have an adult who's providing care on both sides of the age spectrum. So you might have a child or children you're taking care of and an elderly loved one that you're helping to care for as well. Your parent, your mother in law, your father in law, or any other dependent. So you're sandwiched between an older and a younger generation. That's the definition. And actually 25% of adults in the US are categorized as sandwich generation caregivers, which nationally, if you think about it, is between 55 and 65 million people. So that's a lot of the caregivers are female, 60% about. And a lot of the caregivers are working outside of home too. So at this point, I think today a lot of people refer to those working caregivers more as paninis rather than a regular sandwich because they're really. Preston, how it affects my life, I don't know. My to do list is probably double than any other working parents. And with a lot of the items that are very urgent, the amount of time I have to spend at the doctor's office with DeR, with financial advisors or lawyers is just insane. Half of the time when I go to the office, I have to pay for extra care for my dad because I can't leave him alone. I can go on vacation or if I do, I just run between trying to please my child and keep my dad safe. You know, the relationship with your partner can suffer also in those situations. And I'm not even going to go into the financial aspect. So, you know, there's a lot of challenges you have to manage in the daily life, including your fatigue and all this. But I stop there.
00:13:53 - Paul Sullivan
I'd love to put this next question to both of you. We had a guest on earlier in the season, Joanne Lublin, award-winning author, former Wall Street Journal columnist, who talked about this concept of work life sway. And what she means by that is you focus on whatever the thing is that you're doing, be it. Be it work, caregiving, or caring for yourself until something else comes up. And then you sway into that and you do your best to be 100% present in whatever that thing is, be it work, be it being out to dinner with your friends or partner or kids. Casandra may just kind of go back and forth. Go to you first, but I'd love Laura to hear your answer to this second. Casandra, how do you, do you ever think of work life sway? Or how do you think of what you and your co parent are doing around your daughter and work and how you, you know, do as best you can to be 100% focused on that one thing in the moment and then sway to the next thing when you have to.
00:14:56 - Aurore Joshi
00:14:57 - Casandra Williams
I would say prior to five years ago, I didn't sway. I thought I was multitasking, but I was really a hot mess. And I was fortunate to get an experience to go and do some regulatory consulting in Japan, and I was essentially plucked out of my environment and plopped into Tokyo, didn't speak the language. I had a translator that I spoke to for a couple of hours a day, but that was essentially it. So I was effectively in silence during this period. And it was a period of six months. And it really allowed me to heal from a lot of my, you know, traumatic childhood that I had experienced. You know, I moved around a lot as a child, had to be very adaptable and agile, I would say. So, going into Japan, I was able to heal from a lot of the trauma from my childhood or even some of the stuff that I had incurred throughout my adulthood. And one thing that I learned there was, I would say, in the Japanese culture, they do one thing at a time, and they do it really well, and they do things with great quality. I'm a Toyota owner, not to promote any products, right. But I will say that, like, I've experienced it physically, mentally, but also, like, you know, I ride in one every day, right. And I feel secure putting my child in there. So I say all that to say, I learned a great deal about mindfulness and intentionality when I lived there. So when I came back to the US, I promised myself that I would implement that in my life. Right. So taking and being intentional about meditating as much as I can, learning about meditation, what does that mean? And really just knowing that I can do one thing at a time and try to do it the best I can. So I think that's my perspective of sway as I've learned it so far in my life.
00:16:31 - Paul Sullivan
And, Aurore, I love you. To answer that, I'm glad you used the term panini generation, because I was thinking that in my mind of sort of the pressure that you're under, and I'm in a situation where I've got three daughters, my wife runs our own business, and we have my father. We take care of him. And I thought Panini almost sounded too cheeky to say, but that's really how it feels. You're not just a sandwich loosely put together, but you're really being melted all in one, and you reference your own burnout. But have you been able to sway between one thing and the other in your life.
00:17:06 - Aurore Joshi
So I'm still a work in progress. Let me just say that and be very honest here. But I think I have come a long way since the burnout, which was about a year ago, and I will echo what Casandra said. I think mindfulness was something that really helped me. For me, I think one of my biggest challenge was I couldn't stop my thoughts. I was doing something, but I was thinking, but I need to do this thing next and this thing next, and if I don't do it, then I started building all kinds of scenarios leading to anxiety. So, just like, yes, mindfulness breathing exercises were very helpful for me, also something that helps me as movement. So I tried to fit those in a little bit more. And then the practical way I did this also was to come back to what Casandra said before, is I started using this color coded spreadsheet. So for me, I needed to prior. Like, I needed something where I could see that I was prioritizing. But also what I think I understood at some point is that I wouldn't be able to give as much attention to my eight year old, to my five year old or my dad all at the same time, and that I needed to focus on the person who needs me the most at that moment. And so I would do that. But then with my spreadsheet that I had, I would plug in my to do lists and based on priorities and deadlines, and I tried to have, like, an equal color or time allocated once a week to my three dependents. And so that's not a perfect solution. But it kind of helped me, visually, to. Not to feel overwhelmed and to feel that I was kind of trying. Like I was spreading myself more equitably. Sorry, that's my French coming back and making sure that I was not letting someone go, so let someone down completely. And that also helped me delegate more easily and also calm me down, because when I was actually putting things there, I could actually see my plans. So I guess that's my. My tip. But work in progress.
00:19:14 - Priya Krishnan
And I think it's really. It's refreshing to hear how both vulnerable you are about how you're calling yourself a work in progress. But that's what all of us are, right? It is. We are trying to work through this, and it's a tough challenge. I think we all have our versions of to do lists, right? And it could be work to do lists, it could be home to do lists, it could be panini to do lists. What can we do collectively? I think to support working parents and especially, you know, parents who have exceptional situations and dependents, personally and professionally. So how do you see, you know, your employer stepping up or your village stepping up? As Casandra sort of alluded to her village rocker, get started with you and Casandra. I'd love to hear from you on how your dependents, you have a daughter and your co-parenting, but you have these 48 nieces and nephews and you have these interests outside where you want to mentor and sponsor. So I'd love to see how you find space for that as well. Perhaps we could get started with you.
00:20:21 - Aurore Joshi
Sure. So I think the personal level, one thing I had to learn is to ask for help and to show that I couldn't do it myself. I think for a very long time I wanted to take it on. I thought it was my own responsibility because I'm an only child. I didn't want to put this on my husband either, because I just thought it was unfair and I didn't want him to go through what I was going through. But I realized that actually I really needed to ask for help around me, whether it was my friends or my family, because of that, because I couldn't do it all, that I would burn out and I would be there for nobody. I think that was one of the first key lessons, then, from a professional perspective, to be very honest, I think that employers and direct managers have a critical role to play. So, you know, first of all, having a manager that trusts that you will do the work and gives you the flexibility to juggle with everything is key, in my opinion, because, you know, I want to take my kids or their parents or my parents to a medical appointment and I think a lot of people want to do that, so. And we should all be able to without feeling guilty. We already have enough of that. So that flexibility, I think, is key. Number two, I mean, for me, it was affordable childcare for emergency in a childcare that I could trust at that point. And number three was, and I'm lucky to have that, is, I think, some elder care support. And for that, I'm just going to share one example a few months ago. So when I went through, after my burnout, I decided that I needed to go for one week, just one week in three years, to a warm place by the sea and just like, you know, stop, limit my caregiving activities. No, er, trips, no work, no cleaning, no cooking. I just needed to recharge after hitting my breaking point. But it seemed really impossible and way too expensive for me because I couldn't let my dad alone at home. But I do have subsidized backup care for elders. So through my work, I was able to use my backup care days during the day. So someone was coming for 6 hours a day for five days. It was affordable, it was something I could do. And I knew that I could trust that caregiver, which makes a big difference. And then the nights were divided between my cousins, my former nanny, my village, and I was able to go with my kids and my husband to this one week vacation in Mexico. And, you know, it was a financial burden, but it was such a relief on my mental health. I was recharged and we did manage to save quite a bit of money and it just made it feasible. So, yeah, I guess that's.
00:23:05 - Priya Krishnan
And Casandra, you came off mute, so perhaps you could share. And like I said, it would be great if you could talk about also how you find the time to do this for people who are not actually dependent on you.
00:23:15 - Paul Sullivan
00:23:16 - Priya Krishnan
You've made the time to support others.
00:23:19 - Casandra Williams
Yeah, absolutely. And Aurore, thank you. I just, I, you are, I guess, like it seems like a personal hero. So I'm really appreciating hearing your story. I'm really touched by your story. My parents are, I think, expecting me. I'm, you know, I'm the one that's the most stable, has the career and all of that sort of stuff. So it's, I know it's in my future. So hearing your story is definitely touching and I'm paying attention and taking notes. But I do want to echo a few things that you mentioned. You mentioned, you mentioned good managers. You mentioned responsive, effective managers. So I do want to echo that. And then earlier you called out priorities and spreadsheets, and I will say those are two tools that I use heavily. So when I have a list of tasks, I'm big on task management. That's how I address a lot of my life is okay, what's the priority, what's the due date? And which tools do I have in my tool belt to help me get this job done, whether that's a personal job or a professional job? And so taking on things that work. Back to your point about managers, all of my managers that I work with and my directors, they know that I am passionate about giving back to the community. There were a lot of people that poured into me to help me get to where I am. Right. And get me, you know, into my career and even in my personal life. Right. So one of my big themes this year is reciprocity. So I want to make sure that I'm pouring into others, right? The same way that people are pouring into me. One way I do that, again, is just through my managers. So if they know that I'm passionate about the Hispanic American community or Latinas and tech or getting more us into the stem community, whether whatever sort of minority population that might be very passionate about that. When I started in technology, I was usually the only woman, especially the only, you know, Mexican American woman on a team, right? So that is very important for me, that people feel safe and they feel nurtured in those communities. And so I do a lot of that, whether that be at, you know, in the corporate environment, I typically lead different employee resource groups at work. So that could be the Hispanic American community group, the women's group, things like that. And then in my personal life, I always take on a few mentees. And then, of course, my nieces and nephews know that they can call me for math homework when they need to, as best as I can remember it, right? Especially, like, the chemistry starting to slowly drip out of my brain. But whatever, whatever is left in there, I try to help them with. So, prime example, this morning, I cleared out my budget tracker, and I sent the template to my niece. This is one of my older nieces. She just got her first apartment, and I was like, okay, well, what's, you know, do you. Here's. Here's what we got to break it down to. You know, I met with her yesterday and we walked through what the budget's gonna look like for her and all of that sort of stuff. So I keep some templates on hand. I keep some spreadsheets handy, ready to go. I share those with my mentees, whether those are college students, young women that are looking to get into technology or things like that. I just try to keep some tools in my own tool belt. And then, of course, if there's any apps or anything that I can recommend to them, I do that as well.
00:26:05 - Paul Sullivan
You're listening to The Work-Life Equation podcast with Priya and Paul. We're going to take a short break and come right back.
00:26:20 - Commercial
What's more magical than a childhood filled with days of play, learning, exploration, and discovery? At Bright Horizons, we think of childcare as a chance to help a child experience it all. Our teachers go beyond the usual, ensuring your child has an enriching, satisfying day. They take the time to listen, engage, encourage, and celebrate the wins, big and small. At Bright Horizons, we put the care in childcare. Visit brighthorizons.com to find a center near you. Welcome back to the Work life equation with Priya Krishnan and Paul Sullivan. We hope you're enjoying this episode and are finding the stories empowering and inspirational. Now back to the show.
00:27:13 - Paul Sullivan
Welcome back to the Bright Horizons work Life Equation podcast with Priya and Paul. Thank you for joining us for the second part of our episode today with Casandra and Aurore, a question I'd like to ask both of you. You know, listening to your stories, which are incredibly compelling, I'm thinking of my own situation. I'm sure a lot of people listening are thinking of their own situations as well. You know, when I was a kid, my parents got divorced, and I always jokingly say they were bad at being married, and turns out they were worse at being divorced. The idea of co-parenting didn't exist back then. And at the same time, I saw my mom caring for my grandparents, her parents, and it was a struggle. Things have obviously changed, but it was very easy in my family for people to start to grow resentful. And I'm wondering if resentful is totally normal, totally natural. But are there any tips that you could share with the listeners of how in these moments that are highly pressurized, highly stressful, important, you stave off resentment and try to keep a sort of positive, proactive attitude around what you're doing? Maybe, Aurore, you take the question first.
00:28:25 - Aurore Joshi
Sure. So it's a tough one. But I think I would say self-care is the first thing that comes to my mind again because of what I've been sharing. And self-care is very personal. So, you know, everyone can find their way to kind of recharge and take that oxygen that everyone needs to keep going. But for me, what I did was after the burnout, is really make sure that I would take ten minutes to myself or more if I could every single day to do something that I like. So, you know, I. For me, exercising and movement is critical to my well-being, and it helps me, you know, and I can easily stress out, and exercising helps me release that stress. So I just started waking up way more, way earlier than everyone just to make sure that I had, like, those 30 to 45 minutes to start my day in peace. It sounds, you know, maybe stupid to some people, but for me, just not being bombarded or slapped with all kind of caregiving responsibilities or other responsibilities right in the morning was helpful to help me ground myself. So, you know, I drink my coffee for the first 15 minutes, I exercise for another 15, and if I manage to wake up earlier a bit longer than that, and that really makes me feel stronger after my morning routine, and that gives me the time to be alone. And as an only child, I really need that. And then before I start working, I always prioritize what I need to do for that day. And referring to that color coded spreadsheet, now that's what I do. But, you know, basically the idea is that for you have to at least have ten minutes where you can do the thing, something that really makes you feel better. I also started addressing my physical health issues because, you know, I was taking care of everybody except for myself, and I started having back problems due to stress. I couldn't exercise anymore, which was very hard. At some point, I couldn't move or even play with my kids and forget trying to lift my dad up from the floor after a fall. So it was all very upsetting. So I actually dedicated more to my husband at that point. I took time to make sure I would go to physical therapy. I started acupuncture, which helped me a lot. All those breathing exercises we've been talking. And this, it doesn't resolve my daily struggles, but it sure helps me address them in a more healthy way and in a more effective way without yelling around in front of everybody. And it helps with my mindset because, you know, I think when you're in the sandwich generation, it's very easy to fall into a negative loop. But so, you know, you really need to work on yourself and find the silver linings to enjoy the small victories and stop victimizing yourself. Or my. I would victimize myself quite a bit. A bit. So I use a pen and paper for that. When I'm really down, I force myself to write things I should be grateful for and including the fact that I actually get to be with my dad when he needs it the most and I get to support him the way he has always supported me. And I think that's the one idea that I hang on to in those bad moments where I'm not at my best. And when that doesn't work, I do get go to my daughters and ask them for a big, big hug.
00:31:39 - Paul Sullivan
Thank you, Aurore. And as an only child, I can totally identify with the need to be alone for at some moment during the day. Casandra, I'd love to turn the same question to you. What are some tips that you can offer when things get really overwhelming to try to keep going forward and to stay as positive as possible?
00:31:59 - Casandra Williams
Yeah, I think a big growth point for me recently is learning to not take things so personally. So if I'm feeling, you know, you mentioned, you know, be feeling victimized, which. Which I did have a thing with. You know, I had a friend one time in college. He's like, you know, you complain a lot. Oh, my gosh, do I? Okay, let me work on that. Right. So one thing that I do, I have a handy dandy notebook. It's a planner, and I carry it around everywhere I go. And it is my favorite planner that I've ever owned. It's my fifth year in a row purchasing it. And I could go on and on about this, but I'm a pretty big nerd about it. It allows you to create a theme at the beginning of your year, and then I can break that theme down into different goals, and then I can, you know, break those down into further tasks. But what my favorite part of it is, every week, you know, you have your monthly goals, and then each week, it has a journal entry. And so I've made this part of my Sunday ritual where if I, you know, I do some home cleaning, take care of some things I need to, you know, in my personal life, and then I sit down, and I journal, and I do the reflection, and then I plan out my week. I don't do the day by day planning. So within those spaces, I write one thing I'm grateful for each day, and this just helps, as Aurore mentioned, my mindset. Right. This helps me to have a mindset, an attitude of gratitude, if you will. Right. And so this allows me to just be more grateful, no matter what the circumstances in my life. I could say, hey, I saw the sun today. Right. Or. Or my car turned on. I don't know. Right. Something very, very simple that you could easily take for granted. I got to work. Okay. My daughter's healthy, things like this. So I really am intentional about that, and it's really helped me to stay positive.
00:33:37 - Priya Krishnan
And attitudes of gratitude. That's a really nice way of saying it. I think both of you are really. It's commendable that you're finding the positives and what is a difficult journey, and I think there's a little bit of the self care, but also self love is really important, and I'm glad that you found that for yourselves. What do you think has been the most important lesson as you've gone through these, the caregiving journey? What would you say has been one or two of the most important lessons? And perhaps, Casandra, we can start off with you this time.
00:34:11 - Casandra Williams
You just mentioned self-love. Right. So that's something that in my. I'd say my therapy sessions in the past year, my employer gifted us, I guess, free therapy sessions. So I was like, I'm taking advantage, right? Like I mentioned that tool belt. I'm taking advantage of every resource I have in this tool belt. And she was like, you know, let's. Let's focus on self-compassion and self-love. And I grew a lot from that, and that's been a beautiful experience for me. So I would say in this current time in my life, I would say I'm at the intersection of being patient and kind to myself while recognizing that life has ebbs and flows. Right. And that algorithm is going to change in my life as life goes, and I have to be accepting of where I am at that moment.
00:34:52 - Priya Krishnan
And, Aurore, what about you?
00:34:54 - Aurore Joshi
I love what Casandra said. I don't think I could say it any better, but, yes, it's that and this idea, it's all linked. And I think actually, Priya, we had a discussion about that, too, a while ago, and that is really important. It's the ability to give yourself some grace. So there is self-care and all that stuff, for sure, but, yeah, the self-love. I think we all need to understand that whether you are co, you know, you're co-parenting or part of the sandwich generation, a parent or, you know, it's. You are going through a very difficult period at so many levels, and you won't be able to do it all. So I think it's like you need to give yourself some grace. Ditch the guilt, because you will mess things up. That's a fact. And unfortunately, there is so much out of our control. So just, like, for everything else in life, I say, I don't know. There is no mistake, just a learning moment. And I think that if you're, you know, if you can try to think this way, it will make a big difference for you and your family. So just don't lose sight of that is one of them. And the other one, which I realized more recently, is finding moments of joy within your caregiving journey, because they are really powerful. They are. What makes the difference, what helps you find that positive, that positivity in the situation. You know, my mom had two best friends who use laughter and humor as a defense mechanism, and I actually do that, too. So, you know, when we were going from hospitals to hospitals to nursing home, often I was with one of them. Sometimes not, but we would spend our time laughing and dancing. And my mom, at some point at the nursing home, my mom and other patients greeted us with big smiles on their good days because they knew that they're going to have a little dance party or something. And when I used to go back at home these days, I could only think about those smiles and the joy on their faces. And that made me happy. I was not going back home and thinking about my mom and how devastating it was to see her like that. And, you know, because of that journey that I had with my mom and all the moments of joy I was able to give her made the whole thing just more magical and more beautiful than anything else else, rather than just the situation that can be frustrating, sad and bitter. So, yeah, that's what I would say.
00:37:31 - Priya Krishnan
You both are amazing. And do you know that the word nerd in me is coming alive. But both gratitude and grace have their linkage to the Latin word gratis. So it is self-love, self-compassion, and self-care. So it's amazing to hear you both say that. Those are lessons. And certainly I hope a lot of listeners hear from this conversation that there is ebbs and flows. To your point, Casandra, I just wanted.
00:37:58 - Aurore Joshi
To ask one point, which we're not talking about, and I'm not going to spend too much time, but I did want to share this with people. I think that the other last piece of advice I would like to give is, if you have the ability to plan ahead of time with your parents, I would strongly recommend that it's really important to have certain discussions with your parents or your elder loved ones before a state of crisis happens. Talk about finances, financial plan, last wishes. What is the care plan that you want before it's too late? Because having those discussions and knowing and having something in place when things happen is going to be so helpful versus you being in this state of crisis. And you're going to try to make decisions and you're going to feel guilty because you're not knowing whether those are the right decisions and those could also affect your mental health. So I just wanted to share that, too.
00:38:57 - Priya Krishnan
Thank you.
00:38:59 - Paul Sullivan
Well, we've gotten to the point in our episode in our podcast where we asked the same three questions to each guest. And so this time it's more fun because we get to ask questions to both of you. So I'll let Priya lead off with our first of three questions.
00:39:18 - Priya Krishnan
Can you, in your own words, define what the word or the term work life balance means to you?
00:39:25 - Aurore Joshi
Sure. I don't know if that is something that exists, but what I would say is that the key to work life balance equation, harmony, how you want to call it, is probably the ability to prioritize, let go of your guilts and give yourself some grace.
00:39:43 - Casandra Williams
I guess I was thinking of the value, I guess, like, where my values lie in this. And I think it's an acceptance of your abilities to meet your expectations as a paid employee. Right. So you do have certain things that you are expected to do and things that you receive a salary or a pay for and honoring that in alignment with your personal necessities.
00:40:06 - Paul Sullivan
Now, our second question is one that both of you touched on in different forms, but just to kind of reiterate for the listeners, when you have a moment just to yourself, no parents, no work obligations, no kids, what's the go to thing that you like to do to unwind, maybe? Casandra, you take this one first.
00:40:26 - Casandra Williams
And then Aurore, I breathe. My daughter recently, she goes, okay, okay. And I like, where did she get this from? And then I realized, oh, I do that. I just breathe, and I say, okay, what's the next thing? Right? One thing at a time. What are we doing next? And I noticed she's doing. She finishes the task, and she goes, okay. And then, you know, she takes a deep breath. I don't want to echo my breath into the mic here, but you get the point. So I would say that's the number one thing. And then I just do a check in. I take a step back and say, okay, what's going on? What does my body need? What does my mind need? Whatever, right? And then I go from there. So if my body needs me to sit down and my feet hurt, I'm gonna do that. If it needs some nourishment and I need to put, like, a good smoothie or salad or something in there, I do that. And if it's, hey, I'm new to the real estate game. I'm a new landlord to a multi unit building here in Chicago. So I've been a little bit busy with that. So some days recently, it's been, you know, I'm gonna put on some comfortable pajamas, and I'm gonna sit down, and I'm gonna do absolutely nothing. So that's been my motive in the way that I've been navigating lately.
00:41:30 - Paul Sullivan
Casandra, I love that. For years, I'm still a big breather. But for years, one of my daughters was young. I would breathe, and then I would say a nonsense word, and I started hearing her say those nonsense words. I'm like, where is she getting that? This is not good.
00:41:44 - Priya Krishnan
And like, oh, and, Casandra, I have to get advice from your body, because when I'm stressed, I clearly want sugar and salt. I don't know when it asked me for a smoothie or a salad.
00:41:55 - Paul Sullivan
Ed, Aurore, for you, is that go to thing your black coffee in the morning and your exercise or what is that good two thing for you to have in a little bit of time just for you?
00:42:07 - Aurore Joshi
Yeah, definitely that and breathing, as Casandra would say. But I do not refuse. Also sometime a good old friend's night out with a good meal or a glass of wine. I think those are helpful. I think I'm all about connection. So spending time with my loved ones and just talking about life in general is also a good alternative for me.
00:42:29 - Priya Krishnan
And what empowering advice would you guys give to working moms like yourselves who are trying to navigate this journey of, you know, work and life to succeed at both? So, Aurore, perhaps I can go with you first on this one.
00:42:44 - Aurore Joshi
I would say not to focus on what you didn't manage to do today, but on what you've achieved. And if you haven't achieved much today, that's also okay because you've already done so much that you deserve that break and that you deserve to do less so you can stock up on energy for the next one ones. And the last thing is not to forget that kids are more resilient than what we think.
00:43:09 - Casandra Williams
And Casandra, this is interesting. It's something that I'm currently thinking through. The next step for me, career wise, if you're looking at it hierarchically, is director level. And it's like, am I ready to take that next step? Do I want to make that time commitment? And so something I've just been praying and meditating on is just showing gratitude for where I am. Okay, where am I today? Where am I looking to go? How do I navigate, you know, and get there? Do I have the right mentors and coaches? Do I have, again, the tools in my tool belt to get there? And then just being present with the moment, is this the time to do it? So again, just taking space and time to be grateful for where I am and then being open, this is something that I pray heavily on, is being open to what's next. So if something presents itself, being courageous enough and trusting, I guess, the universe right to put me in that place.
00:44:03 - Paul Sullivan
So you've been listening to the Bright Horizons’ Work-Life Equation podcast with Priya and Paul. Our guests today have been Casandra Williams and Aurore Joshi. Thank you so much to both of you for joining us and sharing your incredible and compelling stories.
00:44:18 - Priya Krishnan
Thank you so much.
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About the Author
Chief Digital and Transformation Officer
Priya Krishnan comes to Bright Horizons after founding and running India's largest childcare business. She is the winner of many awards for her work in the space, including Woman Entrepreneur of the Year, Young Turk, FT1000 for Asia, and Red Herring Asia.
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