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At different stages of their personal lives – seeking a life partner, marriage, having children, relocation due to partner’s transfer, divorce, providing care to the elderly/sick family members, working women in India find their personal goals in conflict with their professional goals.
Just as we feel we are ‘achievers’ on our first job and start planning for the next role of our interest, we begin getting suggestions from people around us (sometimes, including our bosses!) to settle down in life i.e. get married or get kids.
This is the first juncture in most urban Indian working women’s lives where we need to simultaneously think about personal and professional goals, and it continues. It is still mostly women who take on the challenge of relocation, career transition, short breaks, or quitting their career due to changes in their personal state. This impacts our lives deeply and can result in depression, and the guilt of non-performance in many of us, given that we start with high expectations for ourselves.
Here are a few tips on how women can cope in such situations and handle them effectively.
This is most difficult part of the whole balance for working women in India. Generally, men are in a better position here, as they are mostly not given any choice but to earn for the family. As working women, we need to learn to do a strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis and take authority of our work choices, aspirations, and the return on interest (ROI) for at least 3-5 years. This will help us to make informed choices.
It is not necessary to stop asking for more responsibilities at work, looking for a challenging project, new job or plan for higher education in anticipation of marriage or a child. As Sheryl Sandberg posits in Lean In, many of us stop pushing ourselves at work long before the day we really get married or have a child. This attitude of self doubt causes more voids in our career than there should be. It is viable to think about career goals and personal goals on parallel paths rather than in a chronological manner.
For a new mother, a new project at work can be overwhelming and even unfulfilling. It can be managed instead by cutting the big task into smaller chunks and working on it in like working on a jigsaw puzzle. Think about completing the next step, not the entire project. Taking breaks and rewarding yourself at regular intervals are some simple steps for a motivation refill. The same approach of adopting short term goals as a parent will also help us not to get burnt out.
We are very good at making lists, but now it is time to upgrade ourselves to mind maps, charts and visuals with attached timelines for required tasks. While working on the timeline of a project, resourcing, budgeting and future scope can be tracked simultaneously.
As little girls, we were told to be good mannered and keep doing the good work without waiting for the results. In real life, everyone is busy around us and it is wrong to expect that our colleagues or partners will take the cues from our frowns and do what we want them to do. We need to express our thoughts loud and clear. We should talk more about our good performances, career aspirations, and future plans at work and at home as well. To achieve at life and work, we need a support team behind us. We cannot go far without using our voice.
Dual career families, managing career after childbirth or relocations are common in most places across the world. Women are trying to cope with these situations using different work models. Understand your core skill sets and their range of applicability, if your situation doesn’t allow you to work in the same way you did earlier. For example, a teacher can think of online tutoring or creating contents for educational courses where her core competence will be utilised.
Women are known for their multitasking skills. Planning the dinner menu while helping kids with their homework is something we all do! But most of us become so involved with our personal quest that it reflects in the workspace too and keeps us from the joy of fulfillment. It is also true that work overpowers our personal space and we lose mindfulness at home.
Mindfulness and concentration on the work in hand is vital. It is difficult especially for mothers of newborn babies but this can be practiced through working in smaller chunks.
In this virtual world, Google can bring answers to almost all the queries we have. As a young mother I was benefitted from websites like babycenter. Now, I closely follow communities like lean In, fleximoms and Women’s Web to gain perspectives from other women and learn about matters important to me. I often talk with my line manager and colleagues to learn more about a new component of work. We should reach out to others to share our thoughts, delegate duties, prioritize tasks, and for constant communication.
Most Indian women forget to hang out with their old friends after marriage and after having kids. Taking out time as couples or with friends is equally important to get a break from our rigorous daily routines. Use ‘me time’ to exercise, attend conferences, read, think, analyse, solve problems, fulfill hobbies, rejuvenate and plan. Working mothers go through extreme guilt on this but taking a little ‘me time’ out can do wonders to the quality of your life.
Indians are known for saying yes all the time. In the global environment that we live in, we should know our limitations and capabilities. Before saying yes to any task (whether it is analysis of a new data set or inviting friends home at short notice) ask yourself whether you have time and energy for that. Always say no to the work and not the person. Negotiate with objectivity and openness towards the situation.
It is essential to keep upgrading and updating ourselves on new technological and behavioral skills considering the fast changing landscapes both at work and home. Both democratic parenting and working in a global company requires lots of learning. Our laptops and mobile telephones are becoming smarter and so are our kitchen tops. We should not be afraid or closed about using new technology and their applications both at home and work. A person who can learn fast is respected and adored by others (even kids).
Everything cannot be done perfectly or in a planned manner. Spontaneity helps us during emergencies and crisis. So lets keep a scope for impromptu dinners and some imperfect, nervous moments in our otherwise balanced life!
The art of balancing between professional and personal goals is to learn to work like an ant and enjoy like a grasshopper.
Pic credit: Nina Hale (Used under a Creative Commons license)
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