Career and family, work-life balance: impossible is nothing say mothers in the hot seat

8th May 2016
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Marissa Meyer, the CEO of Yahoo who delivered twins last year, was back to work within a month. A move she was criticised for. As a mother, I am sure Marissa took a decision that worked for both her and her family. Also, as a leader, she did not try to show that one-month maternity or paternity leave was enough for parents. It was her personal choice and that is how we should read it.

Given a choice, would you not want everything – family, personal time, a great career, family holidays and girl’s night out?

You can have it all is one stream of thought, and many women believe that if you want it and work towards it, it’s not impossible. Then again, many women leaders have waxed eloquent about how it is pertinent for women to not look at themselves as superwomen who can do everything. Whichever side of the fence you may find yourself, the question is “real”, and you are the one who has the best answer for it.

(image credit – Shuttestock)

The tussle between family and career is not a new one, and many women have managed both with ease. Yes, managing career and a family is a herculean task, but it not impossible if you know the best way to go about it.

Here is how to find your own unique route:

Be your own critic

If Marissa Mayer were to bother with all the things being said about her, she would not be able to be the leader she is. So don’t let the world tell you how to be a good and a model mother. At the end of the day, it is not pleasant to hear people judge you, but since they are not in your shoes, you should take it all with a pinch of salt.

A friend had posted recently on Facebook about how a colleague came to work leaving her two-month-old at home. The entire work place judged her as a bad mother, but she did what she thought was best for the baby and her career.

Yukti Mehandiratta, a mom, an entrepreneur, a model, and a TV anchor shares, “I think women need to shrug off the unnecessary burden of proving themselves as a good mother, wife, and daughter-in-law all the time because if we exercise the passion we have within us for our dreams, then that passion will automatically and authentically flow in all our close relationships as well. That is when there will be no pretence and we will live our lives for real.”

Stop feeling guilty

Of all the mothers I have met and spoken with, they all admit guilt is a part of being a mother. You feel guilty leaving your child behind. However, how you handle that guilt is important. If you let is nag you day in and day out, then you might as well bid adieu to your career and professional life for it will not help you give your best to either the child or the job.

A. Nandini, VP Engineering and Delivery of GlobalLogic, shares that once in a while, she does feel guilty for not being there for her children, but instead of giving in to guilt, she looks for solutions. “I balance things, on weekends, I cook for my children, I have a driver because I don’t want to take on that additional stress of driving, and I take those two hours of travel and use them productively to take all the calls while I am travelling so I can reach home and spend time on other things that need my attention.”

Ask for help

You are not a superwoman; you can’t possibly get everything done, so ask for help. Ask your family to pitch in and allot tasks and chores to all family members including your children. Apurva Purohit, in her book, “Lady You’re Not A Man!” writes, “…if you are underwriting part of the financial inflow into the family, why should the rest of the family not contribute in the daily chores to keep home and hearth well-oiled and running?”

It is important for the children to pitch in too as they grow up and it prepares them for the future to take on similar roles and responsibilities when their time comes.

Empower the men

The emotional support and shared experience that a spouse provides cannot be bought writes Sheryl Sandberg, in her book Lean In. She writes that, as women must be more empowered at work, men must be more empowered at home. To ensure that this happens, Sheryl advices that women must treat men as their equal and equally capable partners, and should not act as gatekeeping mothers who are either reluctant to hand over responsibility or question the father’s efforts by wanting him to function or do chores the way she wants.

“So make your partner a real partner,” advises Sheryl Sandberg.

As you are new to motherhood and discovering things, let your partner also discover fatherhood for himself. There are levels of dexterity and skill, and their finesse may not be the same as yours, but you will not end up with sole responsibility of the child. This way, both parents can not only look after the child and support each other, but the child also receives equal attention from both the parents.

Closer home, Ashwini Ashokan, who is married to her co-founder, and whose company raised funding in 2015, says, “Be it the family, household, kids, work – they are in it together. We demand that from each other, and we will take nothing less than that from each other. And like I’ve often said, he’s more of a feminist than I’ve ever been.”

Be proactive in building support structures

Anjali Bansal, Managing Director and Partner, TGP Growth, in the 30 Women in Power: Their Voice, Their Stories (edited by Naina Lal Kidwai) shares that women should be proactive in building the right support systems around themselves as finding the perfect work-life balance is not a lone ranger’s game.

It is important to build your own networks of mentors, peers, friends, who are like-minded, face same challenges as you or are the ones who can guide you with great advice and moral support and an empathetic ear when needed.

Thanks to social media and smartphones, connecting and accessing these networks have become super simple.

Everyday is a challenge –take it as it comes

I met my friend last week and she has lost seven kg in the past few weeks. As a mother to a toddler, when I asked her how she did it, her reply was simple – “it was quiet easy, you wonder how you will do it after turning a mommy, but you can do it if you really want it.”

It sounds crazy doesn’t it? But most of your time goes thinking how to do something or take that first stop. All you have to do is not think about the tasks ahead and hyperventilate about how you will manage it all. Instead calm down, take a deep breath and look at what needs to be done. If you are a woman entrepreneur, you know that everyday comes with new sets of challenges and you have to be ready to handle them. Do what needs to be done. Focus on the challenges at hand be it at home or the job, and once you find your rhythm then traipsing through won’t be tough.

As Raina Kumra, Co-founder of Mavin, a Silicon Valley-based startup had shared earlier with HerStory, “For example, every six weeks you have teething pains and every six months you think you have it all figured out, and quickly realise you are on the heels of another developmental growth spurt. There’s no resting on your laurels in a seed stage startup and as a parent of a young child.”

So this Mother’s Day, don’t let anything stop you from finding your perfect work-life balance and being the awesome mom you are. Happy Mother’s Day!

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