Recently I had to fill out some official documents that asked me to write what I had been doing since I was 18 years old without leaving and year gap. I hunted out old documents, Resumes and dusted out the files of experience and certificates that is now covered up by kid’s artwork. The questionnaire prompted me to write my job summary – what naturally came to mind was “I am a 40 year old mommy on a 7 year break”. Unfortunately leading with that will ensure that I remain un-employable.
Technically I have been working from home for the last 5 years, just that I don’t go to an office anymore. Just to step out seems like a huge change and at times not too sure if that is what I want, but know for a fact that I miss that part of my life.
When I started my career in 1997, fresh out of college I had big dreams that can almost be equated to conquering the world. Worked with some top brand in Retail and Hospitality from Sales to Key Accounts till 2007. That is when I decided to take a break and have a baby.
I had decided that once my son is a year old I will get back to work. Somewhere in between that we shifted to Gurgaon, away from immediate family and my support system. I didn’t want strangers (Maid or Day Care) raising my son I waited till I had family support in the same city.
Before that only by sheer luck I was blessed with an opportunity to work from home for a renowned Training Company. All I had to do was write training content for 144 hours of Training on various topics. Simple Right? How long does it really take to make few presentations and training workbooks? I don’t have to step out of home. I can be home with my baby.
My work scheduled around everyone else's priorities. Deadlines were at times stretched to accommodate the doctor's appointment, Kiddos play time, meal time and other everyday stuff. At that point my child was just about 1 year old so his need for mom was at its highest level.
Much to the dislike of some friends I knew – who told me that being a mom doesn’t mean changing every diaper – that is what maids are for …. I am a total hands on mom. When my son is older and whatever he remembers of his early toddler days I want it to be of the fact that Mom was there for me and not XYZ maid was.
What that actually meant for me was that I worked after 10 pm till 3 am, when everyone slept. I did that as I enjoyed the freedom and sense of satisfaction it gave. It’s about being a part of something that is bigger than me. My day job of being a mother and a wife was just as important as my job as a content writer. But what I realised that I cannot possible manage with only 3 hours of sleep a day. I am a breed of supermom but not particularly with that kind of superpower.
How does a work from home mother decide what is more important to her? Her child's need for attention or her need to finish the last 10 slides on her PPT or a phone call to understand her next assignment?
Since I was working so hard for someone else – I decided to use that energy and started my own fashion brand of Artificial Jewelry (www.kiya.co.in) in 2012. It’s been a smooth and bumpy ride, a roller coaster ride at best. But now I have more time right, now that I am my own boss? Not really I have just learnt to manage it better, my son is also much older and spends longer time in school – Giving me a full half a day time to work.
I often wonder if moms who work in an office and never really took a break has it easier? They are able to prioritise that when they are out of the house they can concentrate only on work and once home they are a mother and a wife.
But I wonder just one question “who rushes home to the child if there is a call that the child isn’t well, or who has to re schedule time to adjust to the kids more? I may have men barking down my ears screaming equality – but my experience with people that I see that it’s the mother as she is the “Natural Care Giver”. I am sure there are exception to the rule and there are dads who are just as flexible as a mom to rush out of an important meeting to handle some stuff related to the kids. I remember what one of my female – married –mommy – boss has mentioned over a tea break and it stayed with me – “No matter how high the corporate ladder you (Women) climb, when the maid at home doesn’t come – you end up doing the dishes.”
Bottom line is it’s difficult to work post motherhood as our priorities and responsibilities are different. It’s not an impossible task, with proper planning one can work it out. I don’t believe that once your kids are older it gets easier, Then the reason for your need is different.
So where does the breed of us who hasn’t stepped out to a regular fixed time office fit? I know many who want to make that transition back to work. But the general perception about mommy on break (Long) and the actual apprehension you can see with the Recruitment consultant or the HR, makes it hard.
But remember that once you join work your commitment to work has to be there. There are no two ways about it. Here are some inputs I wanted to share with moms who are planning to go back to work – Break ke baad
First don’t feel guilty. You need this for yourself, being self-reliant is a good thing and your child will be fine. Things may not get done way you want and when you want , but will get done nonetheless. You need to let go some of these things and relax and enjoy your career.
Before you step out ensure these things
- Support System: The support system you create for your child is as per your standards. Don’t compromise there. Be it family / maid or day care. Do a trial run when you are home that way you know exactly what is it that you want from this support system – CCTV installed, train your maid, trusted family members who understands the child’s routine, or day care duly vetted to be safe. Weigh out the extra cost that this will incur.
- Prepare your child: If it’s an older child it’s easier to communicate and explain. For toddlers – do trial runs and be out for few hours leaving him / her in this support system and see how that works. You can increase the number of hours spent away and see how your child is adjusting. For toddlers in my mind the most reassuring thing is that they see you at the end of the day. Mommy is away for the day, but she is always back. That also allows you to understand how you will be away from your child that long.
- Make a list: This will be a long one of the things that you do in a day, with time schedules from as trivial as directing the maids what to cook to doctors appointments. Beside each of that write down how will it impact the people in your life and how much of that you can share it with your significant other? Your husband isn’t used to you not being at home as well. He will also have to make that change to adjust to his new responsibilities. So better to work out a solution before you step out to work.
- Prepare yourself :
- Research as to what is that you would like to do? What you did few years back may not be the best option or may not interest you. So what else can you do? There are so many options that doesn’t necessarily mean a fixed work time.
- Research on what is the Industry pay standards – things may not be same as it would have been if you had continued. So where does that leave you?
- Self-Search and understand why is it you want to get back to work? – Trust me that is the first thing they will ask. So be prepared with the honest answer. Some typical questions possible are
- Why do you want to come back?
- What changed in your life to come to this decision?
- What happens if there is an emergency at home?
- What happens if you have another baby?
- Volunteer: Volunteer your services and try to work with someone else’s timing and instructions. See how that works out for you. Work on these short term assignment with GurgaonMoms Events. Your help is always a plus and welcomed and also you get back into the grooves of things. There are many NGOs who also needs your time.
- Be Confident: There was a reason why you took a break, nothing to be embarrassed about. Your experience speaks for itself. Being on a break didn’t diminish that, it just means that you need to upgrade your knowledge to the current standards as the way to do work has changed since you stepped in an office.
- Best would be if you upgrade your skill set or learn something while on a break – that would help you in seeking the right kind of jobs. More Focused I would say.
- Don’t Compromise: If you are not happy with what’s being offered don’t say yes just as a stepping stone and quit. It will be more difficult to get out of that one. Wait for what you want and for that know what you want.
- Network: With people on LinkedIn, Friends and Family to keep yourself updated as to what is happening around you. That way you are more prepared and you might even land a job that way.
- Social Media Preparedness: You are judged by who you are on Google Search. Today’s worlds we live online – between the various social media sites we forget what we have posted where. Remember to do these following things
- Make sure your LinkedIn profile is updated. As much as possible. Studies shows that profiles that are 100% complete shows up on more searches than that are only 70 %.
- Do a Goggle Search and see where you have cropped up and make sure it’s not detrimental to what you do and who you are. There are agencies that can take care of your online profiles.
- Keep your FB profile sharing to friends, make sure nothing weird is public. A crazy party picture with your girlfriends might have been fun, but you don’t want to be judged as just that. You can’t change people’s perception, but it’s best not to give them that opportunity.
- Be ready to take on that responsibility: You are committing into something , so be there 100% if that is what you can’t do for other things in your life – Go back to my point a. Do your research as to what you want to do and why? How much time will it take – can you spare that time.
- Finally, write down a time schedule – meaning don’t leave a gap in your work. I didn’t work for xx years – ( Yes – My Choice !!) , but I took a break to take care of family, travel the world , try out something new Etc. Have your explanation ready for the gap in work.
Now the big question is after all this where do we go to look for options? I am collating a list. This is purely off the net, since I haven’t actually used these services I can’t say for sure how they work.
Also there are many things you can pick up if you wish to work for self
- Try out www.freelancer.com – many jobs there for people with a certain kind of skill set into designing.
- You can learn a new skill – Baking, Cooking, Internet Marketing, and Designing – turn that into a freelancer service.
- If you have a flair for writing – do a course on Blogging and turn that into a paid job.
Disclaimer: I am no HR professional, these are purely my opinion based on my experience and research. It might be different for you, best would be to contact a recruitment consultant to get a better idea as to what is suitable for your profile.