March 18, 2019
The theme for 2019’s International Women’s day, #BalanceForBetter couldn’t have come at a better time, especially for women in India. I say this because, as per reports, though the economy is growing, the percentage of women in the workforce is dipping. While there are several factors for this trend, the fact remains that most women quit work for reasons such as personal responsibilities, motherhood, or because they feel their jobs aren’t fulfilling.
While I do have an opinion on this, I must admit, as several women might, I can empathize with those who decide to pause or quit their careers. I have been ambitious since childhood and have always believed that I could do everything and at that, do it well; from sports to debates and from academics to competitions, I was up for it all.
When I started working, I had the ambition to be a leader in the technology space and a determination to follow it through. I started working as a young professional and got married soon. However, my career ambitions didn’t change. Even when I became a mother, I still believed that I was a superwoman who could manage both, work and home. I soon realised that it was not easy. I too had second thoughts about my career, just like many working mothers who decide to let their professional life take a back seat. Thankfully, my partner guided me to stay strong. He ensured that I got the support from him and the family to keep my aspirations intact.
While I continued to work, I often wonder how we could change the circumstances for women around us and encourage all of them to follow their professional journeys. Is it only for the working mothers to figure out or do we all have a role to play? Trust me, “it’s a collective effort” – something my husband once said to me and which has stayed in my memory.
Speaking from experience, I believe in a mantra built on the same 4 principles that we also advise first-time managers to follow at work.
I call them the ‘4 Steps to Balance For Better’ because they didn’t just help me pursue my career goals, but also cement the confidence to balance my life.
1. Build a good team
While we are quick to understand the value of a team at work, as women we are conditioned to achieve everything on our own and especially as mothers. However, in this new arrangement, I learnt to start reaching out to my husband, parents, in-laws and friends for help. I would say I leveraged the concept of ‘Lean In’ as shared by Sheryl Sandberg to the fullest. I also started investing in building an extended support team. Even today, my husband and I have divided our duties equally and we continue to encourage each other to pursue newer milestones at work and beyond.
Once you build a team, it is very important to trust them with tasks. Of course, they may not undertake it in a manner that you would have adopted. However, the work does get done and you get help.
Initially, this was very tough for me since I was trusting others to deal with young impressionable minds. But soon, I realized that children can be very resilient, and it is not the amount of time you spend, but the quality of time that you spend with them that can help pass on the values you want them to imbibe.
3. Multitasking isn’t always effective
It’s proven that multi-tasking at work isn’t the most effective approach. Similarly, multi-tasking across work and home too, can’t always deliver up to our expectations. The trick is to be cognizant of this – I learnt it the hard way when I was trying to give my 100% to both – work and home. The key is to prioritize. Of course, on some days, you will be overwhelmed. Learn to see it as a one-off rather than a pattern.
4. Take out ‘Me’ Time
These days, there is a growing focus on mindfulness at work. Just like how we talk about the need to take out time for creative or outdoor activities to return re-energized at work, these things are important for our balance even when we have tasks pending at home. For me, long-distance running is a way to spend ‘me’ time; Find yours!
To sum it up, for those of us wondering if Balance For Better truly exists, I would say, the answer is a yes and a no. It depends on our attitude and readiness of mind to create it. Let us make sure that we don’t see it as our problem, but one that everyone is involved in to achieve balance. If you are still unsure, consider this – “Only 74% of professional women will rejoin the workforce in any capacity, and 40% will return to full-time jobs.” – to quote Sherly Sandberg; a fact that we can transform only when we believe in creating balance with help from others.
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