As I crawl back to corporate life, I find myself reflecting on the three years' gap I took. Prior to these three years, my life was like that of any busy working woman trying hard to strike that balance; I constantly strove to give my best to both my worlds since they were equally important to me. I never questioned the long hours at works--servicing big brands and being part of pitches and launches was the agenda then.
Moving cities or countries never deterred my career moves. As the boyfriend, later turned husband, packed bags, I moved along too. Settling into a new place and an alien work culture always excited me, probably because of my civil service upbringing. A move every three years in childhood was the norm--new city, new school, new environment and new friends. I never realized then that this was a perfect training ground for my adult life, giving me the ability to accept change with ease. Every move (be it a firm or a country) grew on me. I landed up working mostly with start-ups, literally going off ground with a table and a chair, graduating to decent office space, teams that I nurtured and brands that I had worked hard to build. Of course, parting ways each time was tough but I took it in my stride.
I was certain that I would miss the buzz, the money, the kick of being at work. But it's true when they say life always surprises you.
My biggest kick in my work life was when I got the golden opportunity to start my own venture and with it the thrill to create my own identity and not fear failure. The years passed by, the baby grew (my venture), and we had babies at home too. I have always believed that life throws choices at you at every stage and you make the choice that works best for you. For some these decisions are made from the head, but for me it has always been from the 'heart'.
After all these years of working, there was a strong 'inner' call to slow down. It was intuitive, and again I had no fears giving it all up. I felt a strong urge for my personal life to take precedence over work. I no longer wanted to play 'tag' with my husband--who will attend the PTC, who will be home in time for dinner with the kids, who will attend the sports day; I just felt our daily routine conversations needed a break!
A lot was said by friends and family. Deep in my mind I knew that this journey wasn't going to be easy. I was certain that I would miss the buzz, the money, the kick of being at work. But it's true when they say life always surprises you. As I traversed this new path, not once did I have a doubt in my mind if I was doing the right thing. My personal life just took over my work life. I was probably busier in the day now, but sadly never had a pay cheque in hand at the end of the month.
Strangely, I now feel more secure scouting around. I have probably said more 'no' more often than 'yes' in the last few months.
I thrived on the joys and challenges of a stay-at-home mum. Being there every single moment for both my girls, handling every crisis (even if it was sorting that big argument on which TV show we would watch), planning random outings with them, doing fun stuff in their holidays, giving them life lessons at every step (sometimes literally watching over them) and forever being the 'one' to hand-hold them at every stage. Being there for every victory, every failure that they saw sealed my decision even tighter.
Now with both the girls at school, it seems natural that my break from work should end. Well that's what I had promised myself three years ago, right? As I inch back to dig out my contacts, write to old colleagues (who have become friends over the years) a lot has changed. Strangely, I now feel more secure scouting around. I have more 'ifs and buts' when I meet people. I have probably said more 'no' more often than 'yes' in the last few months. I have a clear-cut vision of what I want from work this time around. There can never be a 'perfect balance' but I feel a bit of compromise at both ends will lead to the balance I wish to have in both my worlds.
My girls have seen me at my best as a mother, and now it's probably time for them to see the same side of me at work.
I want the flexibility to be home when the girls are back from school; the special days and field trips at school matter more to me than any big client I may work with. The team I will work with means more to me than how big the brand is. There are no fears in going back although I have a bit of catching up to do on the technology used in my line of work. Still, I'm sure I will find a young kid in my team who can train me on hashtags, tweeting and any such new tool. And am sure I can impart some of my old-school PR skills to the team.
As I gear up to juggle work and family again, I am also hoping to set an example for my girls. They've seen me at my best as a mother, and now it's probably time for them to see the same side of me at work. I can happily say that my years spent at home helped me to take off those roller blades I always had on. It taught me to walk one step at a time, to question, to think and sometimes even not respond (especially if the argument is silly).
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