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So you want to quit work to be with your child? Do think through to know if you are ready – not just financially, but more importantly – mentally and emotionally.
Yesterday, I happened to bump into an old acquaintance in the mall who had recently returned from maternity. After the brief exchange of pleasantries and the usual catching up, I congratulated her on her new role as a mother. While she proudly introduced me to her now 7 month- old daughter, I could not miss the anxiety, guilt and confusion in her eyes. And soon enough it poured out – she shared her dilemma of choosing between a hard-earned career or playing the role of a ‘perfect’ mother, idolized and revered for generations, and leaving very little room for human error!
It’s been over six months since I moved on from being a working mother to a stay-at-home mother, after a successful career spanning two decades. Since the first month, I have had many women open up and talk to me about this same old struggle and dilemma, often showing appreciation for my ‘courageous decision’, wondering how I handled it all, and most importantly, was I really happy with the choice I made!
So, based on my experience I want to share some suggestions that helped me take this very critical decision, and live it without any regret (no advice, only suggestions… because you know best for yourself!).
Define your purpose in life
Seek help from a trusted friend, mentor or coach who can help you understand and hear your inner voice. Remember, the ultimate decision should always be yours!
Review your financials goals
Talk to your partner on your stability, security and lifestyle impact, and assess what works.
Assess your support system
It could be parents, in-laws, day-care, maid or even boarding school. Write down your options and then reason out – why or why not. Believe me, writing down really helps.
Don’t rush into taking a decision
Take time and visualize the long-term impact, and your comfort with that. I took almost a year!
Listen to your inner voice
Most important, listen to your inner voice, and don’t be afraid to go against the norm. Remember that advice will be available in plenty, but only you know what works best for you. In my case, many people were surprised that I chose this break when my son had ‘grown up’ (he was about to turn 8) and didn’t really need me. But my inner voice told me a different story…and I chose accordingly.
If you do decide to quit and be there with your child, don’t forget to create some shock absorbers! Yes, you read it right …shock absorbers!
Your mental and emotional readiness is no less important than the financial planning you would have done by now…because you don’t want to end up being a disgruntled ‘stay-at-home mom’ wallowing in self-pity. And here it works inversely proportional…The longer you have worked the more, the more you will need it!
Recreate your self-identity (can be the toughest one)
Remember, very soon, you will no longer be introducing yourself with the habitual… I am working as (corporate title) at (organization).
People may still ask you the generic “what do you do?” So, before you quit, better get comfortable with another opening line. Yes, that sounds quite simple, but ask women who have done it, and they will tell you how unnerving it can be (many colleagues working at senior positions have often confided that loss of this corporate identity is one of their biggest fears). Bigger the title – bigger the pain, so prepare for it!
Be prepared to ‘go solo’ for a while
Remember your friends at work will still be busy at work and may not really be a phone call away. So rather than feeling that pinch later, start preparing. Also in your early days, you don’t want daily reminders from ex-colleagues about what your old world was like… so all the more important to maintain a safe and healthy distance, and dedicated focus on creating a new and wonderful world – A world of your choice!
Start networking with stay-at-home moms, and before you quit!
This is very important because as working mothers we have never had the time to know and meet these women. Again, remember, you will not automatically become a part of their inner circle, so accept to be a friendly ‘outsider’ before you are able to break-in.
Talk to those who have quit as new moms
Seek out and talk to other women who have made this transition and exchange your stories. Mothers at your kid’s school (if you have a school-going kid) could be one viable group. It will be easy to identify and relate to them.
Go back to your hobbies
Think of all the wonderful things you loved during your growing up years – painting, drawing, cooking, embroidery, etc, but had to be put on the back burner to make way for your ‘dynamic, empowered corporate avatar’. The corporate world teaches us to measure our days in terms of output, and these hobbies/activities will truly be your saviour in those reflective moments when you sit back to think… what did I achieve today or in last few days or weeks? Of course, you never know – one of these hobbies could one day become an alternative career for you!
So, finally for all you mothers stuck with ‘to be or not to be’, whatever choice you make, proudly own it and live it to the fullest. There is no right and wrong – and it is you who decides that!
For all other women around, if you see another woman taking a call to quit work or stay on, understand that she is taking a courageous decision. Avoid passing judgement on her choice. Help her strengthen her conviction and accept the identity she has chosen as she makes way through the labyrinth of conflicting choices.
More importantly, if you can, support her to make her choice a success! Remember, this is your small opportunity to re-define the narrative about us, and we all understand how critical this. None of us should be measured by narrow yardsticks nor well branded benchmarks of the ‘do-it-all’ super woman. Each of us is unique and special in our own way, and it’s time we start respecting that
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: Unsplash
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I wear various hats like most other woman- a mother, a professional, blogger....
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