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Are the choices of mothers ever easy? Anshu shares her story of returning from a career break and helping other working women in India
As this Mother’s Day approaches, I have been thinking about becoming a mom and the choices I have made in my life in past few years. My story is not extraordinary, it’s quite common. Many of you who read it are going to identify with it.
I was a girl from a nice middle class family, my progressive parents wanted me to study hard and have a career. That’s just what I did. I studied and studied, worked really hard and got into the software industry.
I started working 20 years ago with lots of dreams and ambitions. Totally focused on my career and determined to climb the ladder in corporate world, I delayed starting a family. Being a technologist and working in a quite senior position at a Fortune 500 company in the Silicon Valley of California was great. I loved the craziness of my job, the company and the people. The future was bright; I was very close to achieving my dreams.
But then I met my husband, we fell in love, got married and got pregnant with my first child. When my cutest little baby girl came into my arms, everything else around me kind of faded. I went from being a career woman to a mom in just one split second.
This happens to millions of career women around the world as soon as they become moms; everything else comes second (including their career). I still didn’t want to leave my ambitions, so I continued working even harder to balance work, family, and my baby. I loved my job and loved my baby, so I had to somehow find double the time.
By the time, my second baby was on the way, I was getting burnt out, having trouble sleeping, back aches, persistent headaches, relationship with hubby was suffering and I didn’t have any time to even talk with friends and family. It was time to take a step back and evaluate the purpose of my life. I started doing soul searching and looking for answers. After some serious soul searching the answer that came to me was to make some drastic changes in life. I realized that my personal health and family comes first and career comes second. That’s when I decided to quit working for a company.
But I still wanted to use my brain and not just be a mommy. It was very hard to throw away all the hard work and my experience. My next step was to work for myself as a software consultant. Being a software consultant was great in terms of flexibility but I did not find the same connection and passion towards a goal that I found in working for a company.
When I could get my head above water, I realized that I am not the only one making such choices. I kept meeting stressed burnt out working moms and women on a career break. Many of my friends and acquaintances around the world were making similar choices, even highly experienced ones who are already in leadership roles.
One such woman I know is Jyotika – in the same boat as I am, highly educated, passionate, and professional but she had already made a choice to leave her career to raise her kids. She had been noticing the same issue; women leave their careers but find it really hard to come back to.
We both felt very passionate about this topic and also frustrated about our career paths. We wanted to connect with other women who are in similar positions as us. That’s how relauncHER India was born, our 3rd baby.
Seriously, having a startup is like a newborn, both keep you up at night. We have just embarked on this journey of having our own venture. There are lots of challenges in front of us but we are ready to take them on. We feel so passionate about what we have set out to do, that it keeps us energized. This is a new beginning in our lives and a long way to go…..
I hope some of you connect with my story and remember we have all worked very hard to get to where we are. I want to inspire you to not throw away all the work but find something that you are passionate about. It could be your own venture, helping the less fortunate ones, a part time job or maybe a decision to come back to the corporate world.
Please share the choices you have made, your stories to inspire the rest of us.
Anshu has 20 years of experience in software industry, most of it in Silicon Valley, California. She is a technologist at heart and loves to think of simple innovative solutions to solve problems. After she became a mom, she began to understand the harsh realities of life for working women professionals and started to appreciate why women take a break in their careers. This passion has fueled her new initiative called relauncHER.in.
Pic credit: Jan Flaska
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If you want to get back to work after a break, here’s the ultimate guide to return to work programs in India from tech, finance or health sectors - for women just like you!
Last week, I was having a conversation with a friend related to personal financial planning and she shared how she had had fleeting thoughts about joining work but she was apprehensive to take the plunge. She was unaware of return to work programs available in India.
She had taken a 3-year long career break due to child care and the disconnect from the job arena that she spoke about is something several women in the same situation will relate to.
More often than not, women take a break from their careers to devote time to their kids because we still do not have a strong eco-system in place that can support new mothers, even though things are gradually changing on this front.
A married woman has to wear a sari, sindoor, mangalsutra, bangles, anklets, and so much more. What do these ornaments have to do with my love, respect, and commitment to my husband?
They: Are you married?
They: But You don’t look like it
Me: (in my Mind) Why should I?
Why is being married not enough for a woman, and she needs to look married too? I am tired of such comments in the nearly four years of being married.
I believe that anything that is forced is not right. I must have a choice. I am a living human, not a puppet. And I am not stopping anyone by not following any tradition. You are free to do whatever you like to do. But do not force others. It’s depressing.