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Fit moms working in IT: How they balance their jobs and their roles at home

Mench Dizon and family

My husband works in the information technology industry, and as confirmed with other IT wives, their schedules rival that of doctors on call. Sometimes these guys don’t come home, working straight to the next day, even on holidays like Christmas. Phubbing—or snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone—is something we’ve had to live with.

IT wives can’t be needy and must be just as busy, but ready to switch themselves back on as necessary. Some women get hitched to soldiers, pilots, astronauts, traveling salesmen, touring rock stars… I just imagine I’m married to a time-traveler who has to be in many places, several blitzes through the week. Other times, he’s actually elsewhere, so in my head I just channel a bit of Lois Lane.

Then again, there is a slow but steady number of women in IT as well, and they seem to be able to multitask seamlessly, just like the proverbial superwoman. Or Irona.

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Michelle Gutierrez, 42, works for Amazon Web Services as territory manager, responsible for increasing cloud adoption and market penetration across the Philippines.

Her kids Vito, 6, and Marcus, 3, do not have any devices like iPads. “We have only one at home that has all the parental controls, and it is shared by my kids occasionally,” she said. “We encourage them to play in the park and be with other children to encourage social development.”

Aside from school, Vito plays football thrice a week, while Marcus will be enrolled for a full module in the summer. Unsurprising, as Michelle’s husband Gutz is a triathlete, while she has also taken up marathon running.

How does she balance her time between athletics, her job, her being a mom and a wife?

“The culture in my organization allows me to have a healthy balance between work and family, as we are measured by certain performance metrics and not by the number of hours we work in a day,” said Michelle. “Work commitments do not end especially when you are in a sales organization, so I prioritize what needs to be done, finish as much as I can, stop, and get home to my family.”

She added: “As with other moms, personal time is crucial. Running has been my avenue to keep myself focused and grounded. I wake up before sunrise, do my run, make sure the kids are set for school before going to work. On Sundays, I run two to three hours to get energized for the coming week.”

Michelle Gutierrez and family

Michelle admitted the juggling act isn’t easy: “Family is a blessing to me, but along with that come the challenges of motherhood. There is no automated tool that can guide a clueless parent in raising kids in this modern environment. It is a continuous learning that I derive from other parents, research and past experiences, and that has helped me get through.”

No one has finessed this fine art more than Mench Dizon, 37, founder and CEO of TripClub. TripClub is Southeast Asia’s first mobile business travel platform, allowing companies to consolidate unpublished corporate rates from over 500,000 hotels and 900 airlines worldwide and book via mobile site or chat.

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Mench also finished six World Major Marathons (Boston, Tokyo, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York) in only five years.

She wasn’t athletic in her youth, but Mench ran her first marathon in Singapore in 2008 while two months pregnant. In 2010, she ran the CamSur marathon four months into her second pregnancy.

She and her husband Gabby, founder and CEO of Altitude Games, have rules on technology at home. “We practice moderation in everything, including the use of technology,” said Mench. “There are no hard rules, but the emphasis on the practice of doing different things as a way of learning in different ways, is tied in to the practice of moderation.”

Their kids Julian, 8, and Katy, 6, love to read and play with each other. “They love coming up with jokes, magic tricks and riddles,” Mench said. “My son plays chess almost every day with my husband. My daughter seems to be interested in yoga and just watches me throughout my practice. Daily, we do an hour of code with my son, and an hour of art with Katy. More than the skills acquired, it is about teaching them the process of learning and practicing for mastery.”

Mench eschewed the idea of balance: “I don’t really believe in balancing things at the same time. I believe more in bringing my full self in all that I do. In my training, because I know I have work and family and, therefore, limited time, I carve out time in the morning after taking my kids to school. I choose a smart way of training, being deliberate about quality over mileage because of the limited time that I have.

“Then I head to work where I am hyper-focused. It helps that I have a good support system at home, so I can concentrate and bring myself fully at work. As a wife, I remain best friends with my husband and share my work worries, personal struggles and everyday victories. We also make sure to have trips together to just reset.”

She admitted that the challenge is trying to do too much and too many things just because she thinks she can: “Something has to give when you do.”

In her blog wandermench, she wrote: “When we become adults with responsibilities, it is not that common to commit time and energy to take on a superfluous endeavor, pursuits that are not work or family related. This is especially true when you are a mom.”

I could relate with her musings about self-care guilt: “We feel remorseful when we choose to spend our extra time doing things for ourselves. We get uneasy at the thought of making time to do things that we deem as totally unnecessary because they don’t serve a work- or family-related purpose. We sometimes think we are bad moms for wanting to ‘waste time’ on personal projects or when we do things not for anything else but their own sake.

“Guilt is something (‘bad moms’) constantly deal with, especially in a society that highlights mothers as ever nurturing and self-sacrificing. This guilt that surrounds self-care is further kindled by even the closest people to us. My own mom makes me feel like a bad mom when she tells me that she pities my kids when I’m away traveling.

“My friends who have made it their choice to be ultra-hands-on parents sometimes make me feel this way even if they don’t intend to. Society makes us feel guilty. Social media amplifies this further. Despite living in a modern society, there remains the notion that moms should take care of everybody. But who takes care of mom and how can she thrive?”

Mench believes that moms in challenging fields such as IT can flourish if they have their own space, are celebrated as individuals, succeed if they define their own measure of being good moms, and grow fully if they are supported.

If Michelle and Mench can show up for themselves, perhaps we can—and should—too. —CONTRIBUTED

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