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“I started working full time in an office at the age of 37 years and am still learning.” This experience is so poignant and inspiring for every woman who is restarting her career late.
I was an introvert and even now, at times I feel shy and awkward amongst people. I am very sentimental and get upset by criticisms hurled towards me. I was always a very shy girl who was protected by the family. I now have a lot of friends but avoid getting close to anyone.
I used to be very scared of working in an office full time. I would worry about how other people would like me or what if no one liked me. Life in the USA, during my dual Masters, taught me how to mingle with people and I found some common topics to talk to people about, like books or hobbies or food.
I realized the need to have a variety of interests as it serves as a topic of conversation and eventually bonds people together. I worked in a pre-school in the USA but there I dealt with 3-year-olds and had a few close co-workers. But then we moved back to India.
I tried my luck at a full time working position. I got rejected many times. Employers felt I lacked the skills to be a leader. I was so disappointed. I loved being at home and doing housework, but I knew I had to put my education to good use. I had to get out of my cozy shell.
Finally, after shedding many tears, I got a job as a content writer for a children’s website. I would work from home. I just had one boss to deal with who was understanding and gave constructive feedback.
I loved writing on a varied range of topics, from history to science. Occasionally a new boss would come and would ridicule my writing. It hurt me but I kept rewriting until they liked my work. I still was in my shell of comfort. I was working from home and just had to deal with people through phones and emails or chats.
Then I took a break from working full time to doing freelance writing work. My son would fall sick often and I wanted to give his childhood years my whole attention. We would learn manners, do artwork, play together and he had his school. It was nice. I did my writing when my son was in school. People appreciated my interest in writing. They liked how I thought out of the box and wrote on a varied range of topics.
But I felt the pressure to get back to working full time in an office. It was the fact that no one gave importance to your work when you said you were working from home. They felt I had no pressure to cook or clean and could do office work at the same time. They felt I faced no pressures and my life was one comfortable life. I was just an ordinary housewife to these working people. They felt I could entertain guests over the weekend as I had no work pressure on weekdays. I did not have to face the traffic etc. I felt dejected. I did not want to conform to what people said.
But websites like Women’s Web showed me how more and more women were getting back to work. JobsForHer had lots of job opportunities for housewives who wanted to get back to work. I was still very nervous. I was now old. I was 37 years old. I gave so many reasons to employers for working from home. No one really understood why I had enjoyed those years in bringing up my son. Then there was the problem of working on Saturdays which I did not want, as weekends were meant for my son. I struggled. I faced those ‘look down upon you’ looks from friends who were working.
Finally, a company with whom I had worked before (work from home) asked me to work full time. I nervously went for my interview. The Co-Founder liked me and he had previously given me a very good recommendation letter. My supervisor was quiet. I liked the workplace and they seemed to understand my need to give my son time. My hours were set so that I could come back at the same time as my son. But I was nervous. It was my first time working with colleagues. I was told that almost all of them were younger than me. I was even more scared.
How would they like me? What if no one spoke to me? What if they disliked me? Would I be a loner? It was no longer my beautifully decorated home where I could work and not worry about what others said. What if I felt sleepy at work? What if I could not manage my work and my housework? What if my son felt neglected? What if I failed?
I started work. Initially, I was very conscious. I had heard that someone had said that my only problem was that I was older but still they had given me an opportunity. My mother and my aunt encouraged me. They asked me to be cordial and sweet to everyone. I started to smile and just greet people. I would dress beautifully. I tried to be my sweet self. I knew it was my last opportunity to make a name for myself in the professional world. I was getting old. But slowly I realized that my years of mingling with multicultural people helped me mingle freely.
It was the small talk that slowly started to become longer conversations. I reached out to people. From just greeting people to admiring their work or looks became me. People liked it. They too appreciated what I wore. One of my co-workers who also had a kid helped me. We laugh a lot together and work together. We seem to share a bond.
But then I realized that life was not easy. I again started facing criticisms for my work from a junior co-worker. It hurt me immensely because she was rude and would make faces while commenting on my work. She was 15 years younger than me. She would make corrections in red and yellow and highlight them. I was learning the work process but she felt I was incapable. I disliked the negative faces she made but I kept calm.
I cried at home a lot but then I felt that if I gave up, people would again laugh at me and again I would hear that my life is so easy. I wanted to prove to everyone that I could work full time. I kept trying on and on. Today I am still making mistakes but fewer. I have decided to open up to my supervisor, whom I respect a lot. She seems to understand me and always says that it’s ok to make mistakes. She has asked me to come to her anytime I have problems. I don’t know how much I can trust her but it is helping me. I don’t want to act immature in front of her and want to stay professional. I don’t know but now I take things one day at a time.
Sometimes I just forget everything. I forget my age. I forget my educational degrees. I forget my experiences. I just concentrate on learning. I need to learn from whoever is teaching me. This junior co-worker of mine may criticise my work but at least she is teaching me. Today I am almost there to making not as many mistakes. I am grateful to my supervisor for believing in me.
My advice to all mothers who are starting to get back to work is that take one step at a time. Do not think everyone is bad. Not everyone can be courteous or say good things to you. Some people just bluntly are rude. But take the good. Being quiet helps as not everyone is your family. I am still learning and believe there is no age to stop learning.
My family and friends seem to respect me more now. I sometimes just cook a little or sometimes a lot. I sometimes just sleep after work and teaching my son; or sometimes just catch up with friends. I always remain nice to my co-workers and never hide my age. I am starting late in life while they are already moving quickly ahead. There is no shame in starting late as today I am proud of the manners my 7-year-old son has learned from me. I am proud that his foundation is strong and that he can confide in me as a friend.
I am learning slowly to take criticisms at work but am grateful that God has sent me a sweet co-worker and a kind supervisor. My family is also supporting me wholeheartedly. I hope I can make everyone proud.
Image via Unsplash
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