Choices â Making it Work For You
Recently I met a friend for lunch. A few years back she had given up her very successful career in retail to become a full time homemaker - a choice that I felt I would never make. When she took the decision her son was very young. But now that a few years were over and he was in his pre-teens and she had a lot of time at hand. I asked her if she felt any misgivings about giving up a career that she had built with so much effort. To my surprise her answer was no.
She said that she was happy to give it up because now she had so much more time to be with her family and take care of them.
I have often asked myself- why do I value my career? What does it mean to me? And the answer for me is that it defines me without the string of a relationship attached to it. This is what I am when I am not a mother, wife, daughter, sister, daughter in law. This is me.
I shared this with my friend and she said "I used to feel the same way….. till I realised this is me too." The calm on her face when she said this told me that she was truly at peace with her decision.
One of the most critical choices women have to make is often between career and family. For a lot of us it works the way a colleague of mine once defined "When it’s a choice between you job and your child, it is not really a choice". While I’m not sure I agree, I thought exploring our thoughts and needs may be a good place to start understanding how we can make choices - choices that make us feel good and work for us.
What do you REALLY want? While on the surface this may seem like a very easy and obvious thing, look below the surface. If your answer is that you want a full time career - ask yourself why? Is it because you love your career or because you need the money or because you have always seen yourself as a career woman? What ever your answer, it is important to know what giving up something means for you? How will it make you feel about yourself? Your answer may even be wanting both a full time career and be able to spend time with my family. There is no right or wrong answer. The right answer is whatever you want. Be mindful of the influence of external factors like family, society and what you think you "should" be doing. If there were no perceived obligations would your choices be different? It is important to be clear on your needs to avoid the trap of falling into compromises that make you feel like a victim. Use that as a check point. If you are feeling like a victim then its not what you want.
The long and the short of it: A choice can be permanent or temperory. And the effects of the choice can be short-term or long-term. For e.g. you may decide to give up your job for a few years to take care of a child. But the impact of that can be long-term. Planning ahead is a good way to mitigate long-term effects. Acquire skills and experience that are marketable and will hold you in good stead even after a break. Be open to new industries, options and job roles. Sometimes learning multiple skills from different industries also opens up doors. Before you decide on a career break it may be a good idea to have a return to plan in mind. This will at the least keep some focus on your career.
Face your fears: Know what you are afraid of. Is it the workload? The guilt of being a bad mother? The impact on career growth? Missing out your child's growing years? Once you know your fears work towards eliminating them gradually. How can you improve your efficiency to manage the work? How can you spend quality time with your child? Confronting fears also clarifies priorities and puts them in perspective. This is also a good time to check if there is a middle path you can take. Switch jobs for a lesser work hours. Delegate all housework to hired help so that you have undisturbed time with your child?
Take ownership: The most important thing is to take 100% ownership of what you want to do. Family and other factors may influence your decision but that does not take away the responsibility of you taking the decision and making it work for you. I often hear clients saw things like" I had to give up my job for my child/family/parent/etc." Instead use language that shows your ownership such as" I choose to leave my job to take care of..". This is important for you to stay positive, feel in control and face the outcomes with strength.