The great balancing act

ETERNAL DILEMMA

The great balancing act

An increasing number of women living in cities and metros are career focused. However, with the arrival of a baby much changes in a woman’s life.

Many of them opt to stay at home, while those who are keen to go back to work start out with a part time job or do freelance assignments. Does motherhood mean a stop to careers even for those women who are highly career centric? Or, are there options to manage the baby and focus on one’s career prospects?

Many women admit that motherhood brings a sea change in their lives, so a career for a large number of them, is not the immediate priority. While there are some who leave high profile jobs to become stay-at-home moms, there are quite a few who join work for various reasons.

Says Shreya Rao, Product Manager, Levis India, “I wanted to start work as I did not want to feel left behind in my career. Taking care of the baby for a year full time was fine. After that, however, I wanted to get back to work. Initially, it was good, but later I couldn’t do justice either to my job or to my child. So, after a year I took a break and joined work only when my child started going to pre-school for a longer duration of time.”

In a country where raising a child is considered a woman’s duty, the elders at home too advice the new mother to take time off her job, however high her position or salary may be. But, do all women go through the dilemma of whether to resume work at the earliest or embrace motherhood for life?

Asserting her decision to resume work within six months of her son being born, Mangai Varadrajan, a project manager at a leading software company, says “When you have a good family support system, I think it is important that the woman goes back to work so as to make her feel good in life. In my case, my family and my in-laws supported me whole-heartedly and I don’t regret going back to work. But if you are happy being a stay-at-home mother then it is entirely your decision.”

Padma Srinivas, a HR consultant who is trying out freelance, consciously decided to take a break from work to look after her baby. She balances her work and life by taking up fewer projects.

Having strong family support, and the ability to manage resources in terms of arranging for a caretaker to look after the baby at home, or to get the child to spend a few hours at a day care centre, allows women the option to get back to their careers or at least look for part time or freelancing opportunities.

Before you decide to rejoin the workforce, either full time or part time, ask yourself the following questions:

*How long are your working hours? Working long hours is bound to make you exhausted and irritable. Your child will not be able to understand this and will want to be with you when you get back home. So, whatever the working hours make sure to spend time effectively with your child.

*How much flexibility do you have at work? If your child is ill, will your boss or colleagues be able to understand it? Would you want to give some more time for this phase to pass before heading back to work?

*Can you arrange alternate resources in case your regular back up support system fails? If the normal care giver has to deal with an emergency, would you be able to take care of your child and still manage piled up work and meet deadlines?

*Are you sure you will be happy with your decision? Would you feel guilty about leaving your baby with a care giver? Be sure about what you want. You must be able to take off when you feel your child needs you the most.

According to Career Counselor Janet Parameshwar, “Try to choose a work place that is woman friendly; where you are valued as a professional but where your position as a mother is also understood. Also, in case you are not able to immediately join work because of various reasons, then, whenever you join make sure to be updated with the latest developments in the industry and try to start work at the earliest.”

However she has a word of caution, “Whatever you decide, do not neglect your child at the cost of your career. Believe in yourself; If you are talented opportunities will definitely come by.”

So, if you are confident of getting the right resources arranged to take care of your baby, then there is no one to stop you. But, experts opine that accepting fewer responsibilities at the beginning and lesser hours at work — even if it means a pay cut — makes more sense towards maintaining a work-life balance.

However, if you do feel that you deserve to be in a high profile position make sure you’re guilt-free and get the right resource to take care of your baby. As someone rightly said a happy woman makes a happy mother, so take the plunge after enough thought about you and the baby.

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