In summary

  • Vice-Chancellor’s Women in STEM Research Fellow, Associate Professor Mahnaz Shafiei, shares her tips to find a balance between work and home in lockdown.

What's been your biggest challenge working from home? 

It is not easy to concentrate on work with kids around. Sometimes they are demanding no matter if it is working time or not. Home schooling of our seven-year-old son, Ryan, has also been very challenging. Working from home can become very stressful sometimes.

What has surprised you about working from home? 

Not having a long journey to and from work and home has saved a lot of my time and energy so I can spend more time on my work as well as with my family.

Earlier this year, I was dropping off Ryan at school and he asked me when I was going to retire. I asked him why and he said it was because I work every day and come home late so he doesn’t see me much. That made me feel guilty, as a busy mum, so I am glad I have this opportunity to spend more time with him. 

I also acknowledge that working from home has given me more opportunity to encourage and teach my kids cooking.

How are you staying connected with Swinburne and your colleagues? 

We have our regular Bioengineering group meetings on Mondays online. I also connect with my own group members every week via either a phone call or Teams, and have a regular virtual coffee chats with my VC's Women-in-STEM Fellow colleagues.

How do you unwind/switch off from work?

Most of the evenings I walk or jog which mentally signals that work is finished for the day. However, as a busy academic I have been working most of the nights and weekends as usual…

What are your lockdown recommendations?

Reading books ("Think and Grow Rich", “Slight Edge” and “You are the placebo”), baking healthy cakes and pumpkin bread, and planting a veggie patch. I’ve also started knitting during the lockdown periods after a very long time while listening to audiobooks and so far have knitted three throws for my family!

Associate Professor Mahnaz Shafiei has found solace in the simple art of baking food for the soul in lockdown.

Who is in your family at home?

My husband, Mohsen, our fourteen-year-old daughter, Nicki, our seven-year-old son, Ryan and Ryan’s guinea pigs (two mums with six babies).

What is your best tip for balancing both family and work?

Sharing care for the kids with your partner if possible, and being patient and flexible.

What is the funniest/trickiest/strangest thing that's happened with work and having kids at home?

After stage three restriction eased, we bought two female guinea pigs from a farm for Ryan, so he could have pets during home-stay. One day during the stage four lockdown, we were surprised to see both of the guinea pigs had given birth to six babies. We were shocked and thrilled. Ryan told us “this day is my best day because I have become a grandpa!” and that I have now become a ‘great grand mum’. So we became an extended family during stage four.  Ryan often peeks at my virtual meetings with or without one of his guinea pigs. 

Two mother guinea pigs with their six newest additions to the family in lockdown.

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