If Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer didn't have to choose between career and children, why should you?
Golda Meir, who was Prime Minister of Israel during the early 1970s, had said, “At work, you think of the children you left at home. At home, you think of the work you’ve left unfinished. Such a struggle is unleashed within yourself. Your heart is rent.” Decades might have passed, but these lines will touch a chord with most working mothers. A perfect balance between work and home might not always be possible and women usually find their attentions leaning toward one side most of the time, and feeling guilty about the other. These are tips to help women struggling to find a middle ground.
The peripheral vision mother
This group of women feel the need to always have their child within their peripheral vision. When they are at work, they find themselves constantly worrying about their child’s safety and well-being. When my daughter was almost two, I left her at a day care centre for the first time. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. The lady in charge of the place asked me to leave my daughter there and stay nearby but out of sight for ten minutes. They would call me if she were to be inconsolable, else I could leave. I was shown out and the gate was locked. I spent some time walking up and down near the compound wall. I could hear the sound of anklets and knew a child was walking around near the gate, although there was no crying. To this day, I do not know if that was my daughter trying to locate her missing mom, who had left her among strangers, because she was out of my sight for the first time. Though my daughter was well taken care of, it took me some time to get over the chronic worry and guilt.
Once this group develops a sense of trust in the quality of child care, they do a good job of balancing work and family. In spite of being one of the world’s top corporate executives, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is known to leave work at 5.30 pm everyday so she can spend the evenings with her kids. Of course, that will not be the end of her work day, but it shows that there are women who excel in their career while spending quality time with their children on a daily basis.
Tips for the peripheral vision mother
- Accept that each day your child grows older, he or she needs less care, and that’s how it should be.
- Change your thinking from “I have to do such and such for her” to “such and such needs to be done” by you or somebody reliable.
- Work from home/ flexi hours/ supportive work environment works best for this group.
- Opt for the most transparent system of childcare, where you get updates on what your child has been doing while you were away.
- When opting for nannies without the supervision of grandparents or other family members, try to work out an occasional surprise visit in the middle of the day.
- Encourage your child to talk about her day; you will get titbits out of her that will help you understand the quality of care she gets.
The 2025 CEO mother
These are the women who do not compromise on their career after having a child/ children. They have to frequently face accusations and snide remarks of being poor mothers from others, be it the extended family or outsiders, leading to guilt and depression. But women like Padmasree Warrior and Chanda Kochhar prove that mothers can make it right to the top of the corporate ladder along with the regular PTAs and paediatrician visits. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was the source of much controversy for taking just two weeks’ maternity leave after the birth of her son in 2012. Detractors questioned her priorities as a parent while others questioned her efficiency levels at work. At that time, Marissa Mayer spoke about missing out on the “glorious six-month maternity leave” due to her new job. But three years later, she took limited time off yet again after the birth of her twin daughters, even though Yahoo offers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave. Of course, being a top earning CEO she had unique privileges, which most women cannot even dream of, like getting a nursery built for her son in her office. But I believe the lesson you can take away from her is that you can work out solutions for all issues if you are dedicated enough and think out of the box.
Tips for the 2025 CEO mother
- Try to set aside at least an hour of quality time with your child during weekdays. This can involve homework guidance, games, and bedtime stories, but not watching TV together.
- Do not cheat on the quality time. When your child is talking about their day, do not reply to that mail on your smartphone.
- Try to restrict calls/mails on weekends to an hour or two.
- Try not to break promises. Say you will get back early from work, only if you are sure you can do it.
- Delegate responsibilities at work whenever possible. Women tend to stress themselves out by taking up more than they can handle.
- Be there for your child on days that are important, like an annual day or sports day.
- Try not to get work back home even in your mind. Your child can sense that you are preoccupied.
- Try to stick to the same care-giver. Since a good chunk of your child’s time is with this person/persons, frequent changes can be upsetting.
- As your child gets older, remember that though he or she no longer needs care like earlier, they still need quality time with you.
Let me also take a moment to acknowledge the support of the working dads, who with a silent elegy to patriarchy, plunge themselves into nappy changing and packing lunchboxes with gusto (at times because they have no choice and have been glared into it). Let us appreciate them, and compliment them, but never show them any leniency!
( second image credit: Shutterstock)