Resuming work after a break? Ditch that guilt feeling and strike back with renewed enthusiasm.
I write this article as a woman professional returning to the workplace after a long break -- quite aptly while supervising the cooking, the maid who is cleaning, and my son who is studying for the test tomorrow!
There is a business call coming up in half an hour and my son needs to be dropped off at a birthday party right now.
The grocery delivery is expected to arrive any moment and the phone ringing off the hook is not really helping the situation!
Sounds stressful? Not at all! It is just one of those evenings and I am in a mood to hum my 'Happy' anthem.
It's not just me, there are millions of women around the world who walk this tightrope every day and quite gracefully too!
So if you are a woman wondering whether to take a break or whether to rejoin the workforce after a break, WHAT is stopping you?
Here is my story.
I was a good student throughout my academic journey -- graduating in the top three in my school, college as well as MBA class. Everyone around me thought that I was this quintessential career girl.
But I surprised them with my decision to quit a great job at a German MNC to be a trailing spouse supporting my husband moving to the US. I was on a dependent visa and reconciled to being a homemaker.
We returned to India in a few years, but my career break continued for ten long years because I had children by then.
I made a conscious decision to be with them until the younger one started going to school.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them and learning the ropes of being a parent and a homemaker.
Don't we all become parents for the first time with our children and don't we deserve some time to get adjusted to this life-changing new role?
I think we do and I was happy to take that time to get used to this responsibility without the added stress of managing a career.
I had close friends who managed both simultaneously and I admired them for that, also extending my active support.
I was approaching the first day of school for my little one.
I knew it was time for me to go back to work and feel good about conquering new mountains!
Did I feel apprehensive? Did I think that I would be out-of-place now? Did I feel quite outdated and skeptical about my chances of success?
Of course yes! But was I not teaching my own kids to be unafraid and follow their passions actively?
So I decided to do it myself too.
I met a group of young engineers who were conducting a hands-on engineering workshop for children when my son enrolled in it.
I was thrilled to see their content and excited with what it could do for children.
I thought that this techie group could benefit from complementary business skills and I offered to help them out on a voluntary basis -- guiding them a little and connecting them with the right resources. The combination clicked and we soon came together as the founding team of Cloud Mentor.
So here I was -- suddenly an entrepreneur with a startup to grow! Cloud Mentor was founded with a mission to nurture inventiveness and entrepreneurship in children.
We built a passionate team that specialises in developing creative experiential STEM education content for school-children.
I was involved in building the organisation and all its functions as Business Head.
With great support from family, friends and the team, I have travelled a great distance in the last five years.
Today I see other women like me -- hesitant, doubtful and worried about taking the plunge back into the workforce after a break, and I want to say these ten important things to them.
#1. You are not alone
Find your allies in your spouse, children, extended family, friends and your colleagues. They understand.
They will support your ambition and passion when they see the fire within you.
#2. You have the ability
You have handled a cranky toddler with an ear infection, spouse away on travel for days, missing domestic help, demanding school craft projects, hospital appointments for parents -- maybe all on the same day!
What is a work deadline compared to all that? Go for it, you can do it!
#3. You have unique strengths
Stay-at-home mothers and homemakers manage multi-tasking all the time.
Most employers would kill for your combination of skill-set -- excellent planner, negotiator, organiser and manager. Believe in your strengths and use them to solve organisational issues.
#4. Be professional
Do not expect to be treated with soft gloves at your workplace just because you fall into this category of women on their second innings.
Be professional at your workplace, perform at par and expect to be treated with equal respect. You will set a great example for your daughter by doing that.
#5. Choose your battles
If a work call/deadline means handing over a bottle of Nutella to your child one evening, do it without guilt. Also teach him to fix his own sandwich. He will grow up to thank you for that!
#6. Be prepared for choppy waters
Your family has been used to having you around 24/7. They will miss your presence initially.
You will find it exhausting to manage two fronts. There will be unexpected challenges, despite the best of planning.
Persevere and stay strong through the rough times. Eventually all of you will find equilibrium and a harmonious balance.
#7. Make time for yourself
When you return to work, suddenly you are just too busy to find time for any of the activities you enjoyed earlier -- coffee with friends, reading a book, downloading new music or just a walk in the park.
Make time. Stay the same interesting and happy person you have been.
#8. Find meaning
Your time and energy is too precious to waste on negative thinking or actions.
Introspect periodically and make sure that the meaning is not lost -- you know what you are doing and why. Purpose is what makes the effort worthwhile.
#9. Be open to change
You may not find the perfect job or fit with the organisation the first time.
If it means change, so be it! Do not be afraid of change.
#10. Accept imperfection
Staying at home OR going to work does not make your life magically perfect. Choose your path. There will be bitter-sweet experiences and they make life interesting. Embrace life and work as a whole deal with their imperfections!
The author Vrunda Bansode is co-founder and business head at Cloud Mentor. She was earlier with Versaware, Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Robert Bosch, and All India Radio. Bansode is also the co-author of the book Become a Junior Inventor (Penguin India). She grew up in Nasik and graduated from University of Pune.
Lead image used for representational purposes only. Image: GSCSNJ/Creative Commons