In Her Words: I can Have it All
Over the last few years, I have been seeing an alarming number of articles being published about the gender gap and diminishing statistics of women in leadership positions. Many claim women often choose to take a back-seat in life after they have kids. I could see myself doing just that - I had heard that it really takes a village to raise a child. Three years ago, when I became a mother, I was not quite sure how my life would unfold. Few months before the arrival of our daughter, my husband had quit his full-time job at Microsoft to follow his dream of being an entrepreneur and he needed to travel extensively. I was now the breadwinner in the family and almost a single mom, so I decided to build my own village!
I am not claiming to be a work-life balance expert, but I want to share some of the things that are working for me and letting me build a successful career while cherishing motherhood.
1. Hire help: I hired a live-in nanny to help babysit our daughter when she was an infant. I retained her even after our daughter started full-time day care. I realized I needed her much more than our daughter. After a hard day at work, I can spend 100% time with our daughter - not worrying about cooking, cleaning dishes or picking up toys before going to bed. Evenings are spent playing in the park, giving baths, eating fresh cooked meals, giggling and cuddling. I and my husband even get a few date nights when he is around. Of course, this arrangement pinches the pockets a little, but I realized I could save elsewhere. Eating home cooked food is not only healthy, but saves a lot of money and kids need parents' time - not expensive toys. On a lighter note- you don't need much makeup if you get your beauty rest at night. You could hire tutors, gardeners, cleaners, chefs, professional shoppers, dog walkers or senior care services - whatever allows you to get more time for things you want to do.
2. Build a support system: Emergencies will always happen - a sick child, an urgent work escalation, getting stuck in traffic at child pick-up time or a combination of these. There have been times when I am overwhelmed with everything around me. Of course, I expect my spouse to share responsibilities and be my moral support if he is around - but often I need other options. I do not have much family close by, but have great friends to help me out when in need. I have also joined some groups on Facebook for parenting tips, vent-outs or just moral support. I also have a great mentor at work and have found very supportive women in the Women's Professional Development Network (WPDN) group at work, where I serve as an officer. A good support system will help you thrive in all aspects of life - personal and professional.
3. Work for the right people and right Company: Someone once told me - work for the right people and the right job will follow. It stuck like glue. The right people make a world of difference. Having a good rapport with my boss has allowed me to pick responsibilities I like and to work on my career path. I work hard to build trust and credibility and in return I get empowerment and flexibility. In addition, working for a Global company is really a big perk. There exists technology to connect people anywhere in the world - and a culture that supports collaboration via technology. People in different parts of the world are working at different times and you can almost choose the work hours to fit your needs. I actually like working and feel it is well worth the time spent away from family.
4. Don't sweat the small stuff: It never bothers me I leave work at 5pm and some people seem to stay on till eternity. My house and car are not always spick and span. I don't care if the milk cans in the house empty quickly when the nanny is around. My closets could always use some reorganization. In the large scheme of things, I am at peace. I am happy and healthy - so is my family. I am satisfied with my career. Rest of the stuff is the sand in my jar of pebbles.
5. Cut the guilt: The worst thing you can do to yourself is to let guilt take over. There will always be people who do things differently, maybe even better - but as long as you know that you are doing the best you can - you don't have to worry. I had stopped making "Me" time because there was always something else that needed attention. I was wrong. If I am happy and de-stressed, I can take care of other things more efficiently. I started exercising (something I always wanted to do), my stress level reduced and my productivity at work and at home improved significantly. Do whatever makes you happy - some girlfriend time, spa, travel, yoga, gardening, painting, etc. You have to take care of yourself without feeling guilty about anything else.
To sum it up, don't quit the workforce or take a back seat because you think you have to - do it only if you want to. Balancing everything is easier if you start with the right set of expectations. If you set your mind to it, you can really have it all!
Tejal Goyani is a Senior Manager in Applied Global Services at Applied Materials. She serves as an officer for WPDN. She is also a board member for PINCC (Preventing Cervical Cancer). She holds a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering and Business Management. She is a mother of a 3 year old daughter and wishes to be her idol and inspiration. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She would like to thank Marla Britt for the encouragement.