“You can be who ever you aspire. Just trust yourself and you will manage to achieve everything you want in life. Take ”water” as a symbol and imagine how you can move through life and find the right shape to that perticular situation. Either you can live forceful as a river or soft as a raindrop or calm as a lake.”
Our third mum of our “Mums in tech”-serie is Monika Paule. She is currently living in Lithuania with her husband and her 6 year old son. She is an Associated Professor at Vilnius Tech University, CEO & Co-founder of two companies, one gene editing company CasZyme and one edtech company Paulai Tech who develops a platform for kids education on STEM related activities. On top of that she has also founded ’Women in Biotech’ initative in Lithuania recently. When she is not busy with above, she is spending time with her family and her son, who identifies her not only as a mother, but also as a scientist. ”My mum knows everything cause she is a scientist”, he sometimes tells her.
“We did it, I could say together”
My conversation with Monika was very inspiring. She shared her personal story and reflections of being an active professional and mother at the same time. ”It is a very though life but possible and worth achieving”, she says. Her motherhood story started when she was finalizing her PHD and working full time with several professional activities while at the same time expecting and having her son. She had a plan to finalize her PHD while expecting and having her son but the plan got prolonged and she finally defended her PHD when her son was 2 years old. She says that the aspect of having a child probably slowed her down a bit but that the main reason was not the child, but rather a demanding supervisor and the fact that she also stayed on with her other professional acitivites.”It probably slowed me down but at the same time I had the precistence to finish cause, you know, to say that you have not finished because you have a small child, I dont think its a sufficient argument.”
‘The child is a great motivator”
She continue to tell how her son actually was a motivator to continue and finish her work rather than an obsticle.
”You are in the world, not on your own anymore. You are reponsible for another person and you want to build a good life for that person, for my son in my case. It really a big motivator because sometimes thinking only about yourself, you would say ”Stop its enough”, ”I take a year off or whatever” but you can not actually do that when you have a child so it really is a motivator”.
The child also makes you prioritize your life in a different way, she says. You are not alone anymore and you have to choose were you spend your quality time in between your professional life, your family and your personal needs and hobbies. Its like a scale on if sometihng is worth doing or not, because if you do something for your family you are not doing something for yourself or your professional life and vice versa. She continues ”you also become extemely efficient”. She tells the view a professor that she met had that opened my eyes regarding hiring mothers.
“I remember one professor who said when I was expeting my son that he always want to hire young mothers to his lab and I said ”what it doesnt make sence”. Because they want to go home to their kids, they have to be extemely efficient to do the job during the day, he explained. And they want to keep the job cause they have the responsibility of their children and they need income. So they are really motivated and efficient. I do not need people in the lab who just hang around, I need results, and young mothers are the perfect candidates for that. I totally agree, that is the motivation, you have to do everything extemely efficient.”
Monika continues by emphasis on how important it is to involve your child in your work and to let them know and teach them what you are doing. She said her parents did the same with her, probably without thinking about it and now she is involving her son as much as possible in her work. She brings him to the office and to the lab to let him see how people are working. This to give him the understanding on how real life operates, what work is and to have important meetings, to have deadline etc. It also give the child an understanding of what they might want to do in the future. It is extremely important that you dont feel like you have to seperate work and homelife totally but to integrate it to some extent, she says. She also mentions that the pandemic has actually made it easier for the parents to explain and how their children what they are working with.
“You dont have to seperate everything, you know the saying ”you have to leave your work when you come back home”. It doesnt happen like that. We dont change our heads – ”I am not with my work head and now with my family head”. We are one person. If the kid know what is happening, you dont feel as much quilt if you have a deadline and can not give so much attention to the kid. If the kid understand that, its this mutual understanding that we are in this together. The same if the kid has something important happening in school, of course the parents have to dedicate time and assist. It is important that both sides understand that.”
According to EC website, Lithuania has a maternity benefit of 70 calander days prior to the birth and up to 56 days after birth while paternity benefit is paid to the father 30 days after the child birth. All paid almost 80 % of the salary. Monika explains a little bit about the cuture and situation in Lithuania from her perspective. She tells that the general understanding around parenthood in Lithuania is quite well and favorable and that she is very happy about the fact that it is also getting normal for fathers to say e.g. ”I have to end the meeing because i need to pck up my child” or ”I have to work from home because my child is sick”. The view towards who is responsible to take care of the child is getting more equal. Some employers and social groups might fall outside this but the tendency is positive. Also in her own company, they are very family oriented with two founders who have small kids – they plan their agendas taking into account picking up the kids, the kids get sick etc. Its a very important part of their company culture and they want to pass it on to their employees.
”It is a very touch life, but you learn to prioritize what is important”.
Monika went through many things when they founded the company, among others – she faced a very challanging situation having a first meeting with the strategic partners while her son got into the hospital with a very sever condition. A very difficult situation for anyone and what she learned from it (from a business perspective) was to stay calm, be transparent but still remember that you have to deliver.
“You have to stay calm, you dont have to hide from the others about something that is happening. I mean, we are all human. So as a professional, yes i will show up in the meeting and yes i might not be 100 % perfectly prepered but if you know your things, not too perfect slides wont change anything. If you trust yourself, you know how to deliver things. And sometimes its just good to pospone something. I mean if you have an important meeting but its a total disaster happening you can always pospone something but just be sencare why you are posponing it. Something has happened and we can not do that anymore. I think, after covid this will be way more acceptable – because we realize that sometimes we can not change the circumstances we are in. “
Tips for Companies:
- Hire a mum. She will be efficient when she is working cause she want to go home to her family as soon as possible.
- Get a private health insurance. This helps your employee get well quicker because they get to the doctor quicker. What you are paying for is to have your employee back as soon as possible and that is really worth doing. Also the general health situation in the company is better which is beneficial for the company.
- Create a mutual understanding between the employee and the employer. The company can be very supportive & flexible but the job still have to be done. It doesn’t matter what it is, is it family or intensive hobbies, you have to give a certain level of trust and flexibility.
- Find a balance and let your employee find their balance, then you will have understand and support.
- The saying ”you dont have to everything 100 % quality, 80 % is enough” is totally true. If you try to be perfect everywhere, you wont be perfect in anything. Unless you are doing just one thing in life, throughout your life.
- In a start-up or as a founder, try to keep things rolling and think about how you can combine your days to have half the foot at work rather than shut down completely. E.g. working partly from home while home with a sick kid.
Tips to a woman who want a career and a family
- You dont have to destingwish a hard line between work and family. Involve and explain to your children about your work and they will understand when you have a big deadline and can’t be as present, the same way as when they have a big thing at school – you will priortize that.
- Be realistic on what you can do and set up priorities. Try to focus on whats valuable.
- Get support from others. Trust them and they will help you. Trust your kid, the grandparents, your partner or any other person in your life.
- Try to plan your day and if nesseccary try to combine things. Dont leave everything to go with the flow because there is no way you can manage that.
- Try to adapt to the new situation and find a way how you can move on in all things you are doing. E.g. if you dont have time to read books – maybe you have time to listen to them while you are making your dinner
“Maybe not tomorrow, maybe you will need a little bit longer. You will reach your goals when you are ready and when its the right time.”
Author: Camilla Wikström