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Stop guilt tripping, you don’t need to be a supermom

Pallavi Joshi Bakhru
According to a McKinsey report, increasing women’s labour force participation would add USD 770 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.

In today’s times when you have six months of maternity leave and the option to work from home and flexi timings – for women who want to come back into the active workforce at an appropriate time there is ample opportunity to do so. And for those of us who have survived those years and reached the pinnacle of our profession or career – it is important to mentor and help these women and encourage them to make a comeback.

We need a new culture, one promoting all aspects of womanhood, especially the maternal phase in a female employee’s life will help women stay in the workforce and make the economy more inclusive and progressive. According to a McKinsey report, increasing women’s labour force participation would add $770 billion to India’s GDP by 2025.

Here’s my advice on how women can stay happily employed, drawn from my experience of working in the corporate:

  • Create your support system. The often-heard saying is that behind every successful man there is a woman. Ever wondered who is behind a successful woman – a supportive husband, involved parents/in-laws who volunteer to watch over the kids, good help at home and in my case, a good cook as well.
  • You don’t have to be a Supermom – enlist support. This was my failing when my children were young. I wanted to be a super mom who took them for soccer, got them to do homework, didn’t miss a PTA meeting and still plugged in 12-hour workdays. Decades later, I realized that I took on unwarranted pressure. So much of what I did could have been easily delegated to the family who would have willingly and happily helped me out.
  • Stop guilt-tripping. Don’t ever be guilty that you chose work over being a 24/7 omnipresent mom. Need I remind you that quality trumps quantity in parenting as well.
  • Take care of your health – both emotional and physical health. The physical bit is easy but more importantly each one of us needs to discover what it takes to keep our emotional sanity together. Both have a bearing on your ability to withstand pressures at work.
  • Be doubly good at what you do. In this era of gender diversity, if doors open for you, do not miss the opportunity to shine and let people realise that you are here not just because you are a woman, but a very competent one.
  • Speak up. It was not until I read Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean in’ did I realise what she describes as the “Tiara Syndrome” – why women wait to be asked to speak and it was an aha moment. I suffer from this and have to admit that this is still work in progress for me. It is also important to mention here that what has held me in good stead is that I have always been balanced when making a point and never cried if something perturbs me at work. Tears are too precious.
  • Trust your abilities. This is a very woman thing again – we are our biggest critics and we over analyse things to a point that is detrimental to us. I won’t say I am completely emancipated on this count even after three decades of being a professional, but I am a lot better than I used to be and cut myself some slack now and then.
  • Carpe Diem - Trust your life on where it takes you and enjoy the ride. Seize the opportunities that present themselves. I have run my firm, been a part of a large international accounting firm and worked with a large corporate entity. Each of these innings offered different learnings but they all contributed to moulding me into a sounder professional and more anchored person.

I will close with some lines that I read which have stayed with me over the years –

“I started succeeding when I started leaving some fights. I stopped fighting to prove a point, stopped fighting for attention and started fighting for my ideas and my vision.”

Pallavi Joshi Bakhru is Partner and India-UK Corridor Leader. 

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