With a “Find your own way” approach to life, Neha is the working momma & aspiring author you are missing in your life!
Okay mommas, you know you’ve been there, that “mommy please don’t leave” moment. And although we may love every part of life, sometimes it’s hard to juggle it all. Neha is a mom, wife, pediatric dentist, bookworm, enthusiastic baker, and aspiring author! “My Shining Star” is a tribute to all working moms – “we love our families, rock it at work, manage our homes, and just hope to goodness we can get it all done with a smile.”
We are excited to introduce you to Neha Das, and would love for you to take the opportunity to learn more about her in the interview below, and take a moment to learn a little more about her “My Shining Star” Kickstarter.
*Name: Neha Das
*Kid(s): 2 girls - Enara (4), Ziana (1)
*Official work title and company:
Neha Das, DDS, MS, Pediatric Dentist, Berkshire Pediatric Dentistry
*Location: Pittsfield, MA
*Tell us more about your company/the company you work for? (How you got started, where did the idea come from, how it has grown to the success it is today, etc.)
I’m a partner at Berkshire Pediatric Dentistry in Massachusetts. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I went to dental school and discovered my love for working with children. At our office, we really focus on making trips to the dentist as positive as we can for kids in addition to providing excellent clinical care. I think that people can tell how much we care for all of our patients, and we feel very lucky to be in such a supportive community.
What has been your biggest challenge as a working mom? Your biggest reward?
The biggest challenge for me is always work-life balance. How do I make sure I’m giving my family the attention they deserve while still providing the highest quality care to my patients? I feel so guilty when I’m playing with my kids and I have to take an emergency call from my patients, but I’d feel awful if my patient was suffering and had nowhere to turn. How do you balance everybody’s needs? It’s hard to do it all while still making sure you’re doing it well. I just try my best and do everything I can to learn from each situation I face.
The biggest reward is watching my girls grow up feeling like they can do whatever they want. When they play dress up, they’ll act as everything from doctors to unicorn tamers to princesses. I love that they do not worry about what anyone thinks they can or can’t do -- they believe that they can, and I hope that means that in the future they’ll find ways to make it happen because they have that confidence in themselves.
Where do you think working mom guilt comes from and how can women overcome it?
Mom guilt is so pervasive -- it’s not just seen in working moms, I see it in all moms. Regardless of if we work or stay at home, I think we’re always driven by a need to do everything that we can for our kids. If you think about it, though, there’s just no way we can do everything. There are only 24 hours in a day, but we have an unlimited number of things we could do.
As working moms, I think we need to make sure that we remember that we’re doing our best for our families even when we’re at work. We choose to work because it’s the right thing for us. Maybe we work because our families need the money, maybe we work because it’s what makes us feel more “complete”, maybe it’s for another reason altogether. In the end, it doesn’t matter which reason drives you. What matters is that it’s the right thing for you and your family. Yes, there are other ways you could be using your time, but that doesn’t make the other ways better.
That being said, it's hard to escape the feeling of mom guilt sometimes. I actually wrote my children's book (“My Shining Star”) one day after I felt incredibly guilty about needing to go to work. Both my kids were sick, we were in the middle of packing for a move, and it was just a mess. I still had to go see my patients, though. I realized that I needed to talk to my kids about how much I loved them and that my career didn't diminish that, and I really wanted to do that in an empowering way. It's a complicated message but I think it's an important one.
At the end of the day, I take a lot of comfort in knowing that I’m doing my best at what I’m doing at that moment on any given day. Sure, there are other things I could do too, but that is always the case. We just cannot do it all. Nobody can. When I really start to feel guilty about not being in 3 places at once, I remind myself that I’m being the best me that I can be at that moment, and I feel a lot better.
What have you found to be the motivations and benefits for women that take on the extra stress and time crunch of combining work and family?
Nobody decides to be a working mom unless they really, truly believe it’s the best thing for them to do. We all have different motivations, but in the end we have to get some sort of fulfillment from doing it, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth all of the stress. I think it’s really important to figure out what has driven you to become a working mom and to relish it when it gets stressful. We need all need to center on something so we know where to focus when times get tough.
What would be your time-saving tip for your fellow working moms?
The biggest time saver for me is to get and stay organized. At home we have this whiteboard that we fill out every Sunday. We write down all our appointments, meals, deadlines, and “to dos” for the week on there. Taking that 20-30 minutes every Sunday makes the week go SO much smoother. I’m not constantly wondering what’s next, where people need to go, etc.
Who or what gives you your daily dose of inspiration?
My husband is incredible. He really gives his all to our family, and I couldn’t be a working mom without his support. We work as a team, and his strength helps buoy me up every day.
What was the best advice a momma mentor in your life gave you?
“Find your own way”
A professor of mine in dental school told me that everyone has their own way of doing things, and it’s great to learn about what helps everyone else, but in the end we all need to find our own way of doing things. What works for me might not work at all for someone else, and that’s totally fine. It is also great advice because it helped me realize that other people’s expectations about what I could/could not do should not define who I am. Just because someone else thinks I can’t do something (having a child during residency, writing a children's book, becoming partner in a dental practice so soon after residency) doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. I just needed to find my own way to do it.
What advice would you give to other working moms when it comes to balancing a career, family, and self-care?
When you feel like things are getting out of control, make sure you give yourself time to breathe. I find that when I’m most stressed, I take the worst care of myself. I stop eating as well; I don’t sleep enough; I don't exercise; I’m trying to do a million things and never asking for help. The reality of it is that we can’t be our best selves unless we are taking care of ourselves too. Without enough rest, our brains literally cannot function as well as they should. If we’re not thinking clearly, we can’t hope to be calm, efficient, and present for the ones we love. It’s so easy to spiral out of control, so when I’m most stressed, I force myself to sit down, get organized, and get some sleep.
What is in your briefcase, purse, luggage, diaper bag, that you use every day, that you live for/need, in your life in order to make it a little less chaotic?
Every day, I wear a piece of jewelry from my husband or my kids. When I’m making tough choices, I often find myself absentmindedly playing with it. It helps me feel connected to them even when we’re not together. In a way, I think it centers me and helps me think clearly.
If you go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself as a young mother, what would it be?
I’m still a young mother, so I can use all the advice I can get from all the other moms out there. :-D
As far as advice in general goes, I think it's really important to be present. I have to keep my cell phone with me since I'm on call, but I keep it on a stand in the house, and it's in a place I can hear it well. That way, I'm not tempted to start playing about on my phone when I'm with my family. Having that stand has really helped me focus on enjoying my time with the people I'm with.
If you could have a theme song for a “day in your life” what would it be?
Hahahaha, I wish I had a deeply profound answer for this, but the honest truth is "Salute" by Little Mix. It's such a great power anthem! It never fails to make me smile and pump me up for the day. C'mon, ladies … "Get your killer heels, sneakers, pumps or lace up your boots," and let's go take on the world!
Bonus: Do you have a favorite quote? Share with us if so!
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” – Maya Angelou