Spilling the tea with my boss

“Stop following me around!” Mel whispers in between giving updates at our daily morning divisional stand-up call. Everyone on the call is amused. Melanie Love is my boss, and she’s whispering to her kids, who always seem to adorably have a sudden urge to speak with her while she’s on a work call.

My boss—who hates being called my “boss”—is a self-described in-person extrovert and social media introvert, who loves to organize. She is a fashionista, who hardly ever wears the same thing twice, and has an enormous collection of 22 pairs of shoes stacked neatly under her desk. She also has a fascination with millennial terms and her favourite one she’s learned so far is “tea,” a term that means “truth” or “hidden truth” (like gossip), popularized by black drag culture. However, above all this, Mel is a charismatic and fearless leader.

“With two young kids, working from home full-time is a new reality she has had to adjust to since the start of the pandemic.”

Like many others, Mel’s responsibilities at home reach far beyond her job. With two young kids, working from home full-time is a new reality she has had to adjust to since the start of the pandemic. I sat down with her virtually to learn what it’s like balancing the act of work and life. So readers, grab your biscuits, and let’s spill the tea.

A day in the life

To Mel, each day is currently a bit like Groundhog Day, “the days are all kind of the same, but different. ”She starts her days with her exercises—push-ups, situps, and stretches—a simple, yet effective regimen. In fact, she’s now able to do 30 full push-ups in a row, and it’s possible she’ll appear in the next Michelle Obama vs. Ellen Degeneres push-up showdown. Every day, her and her husband coordinate who can watch over the kids, and when, based on their daily work schedules. The rest of her day is filled with juggling work, conference calls, and meals, until 5pm, when she ends work to spend a couple hours with her kiddies before bedtime. After they go to bed, she works again. “If I can get one hour to myself at the end of the day, I’m happy,” Mel tells me.

Mel’s top 4 tips on balancing work and at-home life

When asked about how she manages the infamous balancing act, Mel gives me a well thought-out list of 4 things that help her juggle. Here it is, in her own words.

1. Creating a schedule

“I make a flexible schedule for everyone so we all know what to expect out of the day. At first, it was a trial and error thing to see what worked and what didn’t, but now everyone has gotten used to it, including the kids. They like knowing what to expect out of their day.”

2. Making time for exercise, and/or other preferred alone time activities

“We try to make sure everyone gets a bit of time to do the thing that they like to do on their own, without interruptions.”

“We try to make sure everyone gets a bit of time to do the thing that they like to do on their own, without interruptions. For me, it’s gardening, for my husband, it’s going for drives. Everyone gets time to exercise too, including the kids.”

3. Keeping an eye out for silver-lining moments

“At dinner, we have a family tradition where we ask the kids what their favourite part of their day was.”

“I try to take a moment each day to look for a silver-lining. At dinner, we have a family tradition where we ask the kids what their favourite part of their day was. This usually happens naturally when they’re in school but since they don’t have school it’s nice to ask and to consciously acknowledge what parts of their day they enjoyed. It also helps me learn what they like and value.”

4. Saying her mantra

“If I were to look back and write a novel about my life, what part of the story would I be in right now?”

“Sometimes I face a tough hour, a tough day, or a tough week, and when those moments hit, there are two things that help. First, I remind myself, “this too shall pass.” I love reading historical fiction, so I put things into perspective with the concept of it; if I were to look back and write a novel about my life, what part of the story would I be in right now? It reminds me that all moments, even the difficult ones, are a part of our stories. The second thing is, I try to be open and honest with family, friends, and colleagues, letting them know when I’m having an off day. It’s okay to admit, ‘this day is a tough one for me’; people will make a conscious effort to help. I’m open with my kids too, and they may be too young to understand the complexity of the situation but they know when mum needs a hug, or a ‘mum I love you’ reminder, and they are the ones who pull me out of it the quickest.”

I think about how many people are facing difficult situations right now, and still trying their best to navigate the way for themselves and their families through this pandemic, and I am in awe. Things are hard enough, but when the responsibilities on your shoulders affect more than just you, it’s amplified even more. A reminder I often tell myself in trying times is that I’m not alone, and I want to take this opportunity to remind whoever is reading this: neither are you.

To conclude our interview, I ask Mel if she’s picked up any new hobbies since self-isolation began. Her response? “That’s hilarious—I have two young children,” she laughed. And that’s the tea.

 
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