Jan 25 / Priya Santhanam

Navigating Dual Career Parenting as Immigrants

They say, “it takes a village to raise kids.”

Yes, it does take a village, but what do you do when that village does not exist?

Consider this: you moved to a land of abundant opportunity, hit all your milestones, got that A level education, that great job, home, and kids... and now you get to raise those kids and do well in your career. But wait, there’s literally no one else around to help you and your spouse as you navigate your dual-career parenting journey. Suddenly, you went from excitement and exhilaration, a sense of accomplishment, to a little bit of nervousness about truly doing this on your own!

My husband and I live a nuclear life. It’s just him, me, and our two kids (maybe a dog in the future if my daughter had her way!). It’s poetic and fun to think of ourselves as the Four Musketeers or Fantastic Four, but in reality, there are no grandmas, grandpas, uncles, aunts, cousins physically around us to watch our back or hold us when we fall. We have a lovely extended family, and they all live miles away in India, and here we are in the heart of Texas.

When I think of my childhood and all the cousins I played with, my uncles who would show up the minute my father had an issue at home or work, it makes me crave that comfort. But that’s just the mushy feeling part of it. The reality is that we struggle with managing childcare, and everything is planned to the T. There are no mom dad sick days as we can’t just call a family member to come and watch them. Whenever a hard deadline or stressful work situation crops up, that means operating in engineer and parent mode on less than 20 hours of sleep in the week.

If you can relate to what I just described above or you are in a city far away from your support system with the ambition to have a career and raise a family, consider these tips to help you navigate dual career parenting successfully.

1. Plan everything

I mean everything! When my daughter was two, she was so prone to illness that my husband and I started blocking off our calendars every six weeks to avoid critical meetings anticipating she’d be sick! We are both engineers, so it’s a bit of an occupational hazard too. But we plan all our activities on our synced calendars. That includes sharing “days I absolutely cannot take-off” or “expecting an important deliverable meeting at work” or “expect kid might be sick” blocks! 

2. Meal prep is your friend 

I’m still surprised how many parents I meet who don’t prepare their meals for the entire week! It boggles my mind! A moderately successful scenario would be to at least put pen to paper on a weekend and plan a menu for the entire week for the family. The best-case scenario would be to do all the chopping and cooking needed to enable that plan! And to those who say “... but I need fresh food every day, or I can’t spend weekends on this”, I say to you, “then don’t complain about your stress and prepare to be in constant imbalance!” 

3. Learn to trust childcare providers 

I think a large part of why I still never let my kids be with a nanny or sitter is my upbringing and cultural exposure. I let my kids go to school or be with us. No other option is acceptable! This one is for me too; we need to learn to place trust in others (after careful consideration, of course!) who can take care of children in our absence. Have to learn to let go and open up! 

4. Hustle

I wish I were more of a hustler in my 20s! It’s a skill I’ve developed as I’ve grown in my career. A big part of the hustle for me is negotiation. Negotiation with my kids about when mom is and isn’t available to play, how many books we read before we go to bed, why we are eating pasta for the 3rd time this week! Negotiation at work about why I deserve to be promoted, why I can’t go on that business trip this week, why I want that opportunity to present to leadership, etc. Hustling creates a space for us to fit our personal life in our work lives and the other way around. After all, both are a part of me, and need to integrate as seamlessly as practically possible for my own sanity!

If you made it to the end, I know what you may be thinking: Priya, don’t you have any friends?! Yes, we do! And they are a god send!! Our friends are our family and we love them. I’m just saying we miss providing to our kids what we had growing up... maybe it’s too much to ask, but there’s no harm in pining :)

How are you navigating your dual career parenting as immigrants?

If you have a personal story and lessons learned to share about how you’re owning your career, write to us at richa@pinkcareers.com.

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Priya is a chemical engineer by training. She received her bachelors degree in India and masters and PhD in the US. She has held a gamut of roles at ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company over the last 7 years including working in the lab, troubleshooting and designing for operations, building strategies for business development, software product management and teaching technical courses to early career engineers.

Priya has published over 10 scientific papers, holds 3 patents and has presented at over 20 technical conferences.

She is a mom of two young children and is constantly hustling to find that coveted personal life - work life balance! In addition to engineer and mom duties, she loves to read, write and watch movies.
Find her on LinkedIn here. 
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