Many young women who start their careers with big dreams and aspirations, often find themselves wondering what will happen to their careers when they become a mother.
They often find themselves asking:
Will I miss that promotion?
Will I be left behind my male counterparts?
Will I not get that meaty assignment?
Will I have to take a break?
Will I get a good opportunity if I take a break?
Will my career slow down?
In a way looking at motherhood as a speed breaker in their career.
Now I am not saying that motherhood or fatherhood is easy and is an answer to everything if anything it’s far from it. Being a mother of two, I know it’s a tough task balancing multiple roles. There are many ups and down on this road to motherhood. And one of the most common phenomenon that all of us as mother’s experience is Mother’s Block.
Let me explain – from the time we become pregnant (or maybe even before that), our quest for being the perfect mom or superwoman starts. We want to balance all our roles seamlessly. Then as the journey of motherhood starts, and it’s a long journey, something snaps along the way and we become this angry, irritable and nagging mom/person whom we don’t recognize, and we start to doubt ourselves, our capabilities, our skills, our ambition and even our decision. I call that Mother’s Block which is very similar to Writer’s Block. Luckily, like writer’s block, it’s temporary and can be overcome. So, there will be few bumps (pun intended) along the way but they are worth it!
I want to share the stories of women in my life and my own story of how we turned motherhood into accelerators for our lives. These stories have taught me life’s most important lessons and it’s amazing to see how those lessons are so relevant to leadership today.
1. Dreaming big at a tender age of 19
A young couple was sitting in a restaurant in a small town in India. A bunch of school girls came and sat on the table next to their table. The girls were busy talking and this young woman looked at those girls mesmerized, she was trying to understand what they were saying but couldn’t as they were talking in a language, she didn’t understand – English. She looked at her husband and said: “when we have kids I want them to be like these girls” (She wanted her kids to speak in English – which meant good education). Her husband smiled and nodded.
Flashforward 45 years, I am one the daughters of this “young lady”. My siblings and I are the results of my mother’s vision.
Lesson: Motherhood teaches you to set “Big Vision” for yourself, for your family and for your community. As leaders, this is the number one skill we need to have – setting the vision for ourselves, our teams and our organization.
2. Facing tragedy at a young age of 34
A mother of two small children losses her husband to a sudden heart attack. She had been a homemaker so far and never worked before. Nothing had prepared her for this. She had a choice to go and stay with her parents (which is a common practice in India) or even remarry as she was only 34. But she made the tough choice of staying by herself and taking care of her kids. They had to make a huge change in their lifestyle, they moved to a smaller house, sold the car that they couldn’t afford now, but she was determined to give her kids a good education and a good life.
She started studying further while doing a part-time job, then eventually took a full-time job. All through this time, she kept a strong façade and a smiling face so that her kids were not impacted. She went on to work for next 20 years and today she is a proud mother of two reasonably successful sons – one of them is my husband!
For my mother in law motherhood taught her resilience, it helped her to overcome the setback and look for possibilities in distressing times.
Lesson: Motherhood prepares you to overcome setbacks and helps you to pave way for new possibilities in times of disruption.
As leaders, resilience is the need of the hour, we need to be prepared to face failures and constantly look for new possibilities/opportunities.
3. Learning from a 7-year-old
Being a mother of two is not easy but it’s fun! My kids are constantly teaching me and challenging my beliefs. One day I had gone to watch my son Samar’s “friendly” soccer match. When Samar got the ball, all his team members were shouting “Samar pass the ball, pass the ball…..” but Samar passed the ball to the boy on the opposite team. His team members were upset but Samar appeared calm. After the game I asked him “Samar, did you get nervous?”, he looked puzzled and said no. “So why did you pass the ball to the boy on the opposite team?” I asked. He replied as a matter of fact “Mama, Joshua is my friend and he never gets to kick the ball as his team members don’t pass the ball to him. And it’s a game after all”. I was speechless. This 7-year-old had taken collaboration to a new level! I learned that it’s not always about competing, there is more joy in collaborating.
Lesson: Your kids can teach you what no business school and leadership program can teach you, as long as you are willing to unlearn and learn.
As leaders, we must constantly unlearn, learn and relearn, and in this case, learn the new definition of collaboration.
Motherhood or Fatherhood pushes you to challenge your own beliefs, break the stereotypes, become strong, resilient, continuously learn and upgrade yourselves. Through your kids, you learn the lessons of life which make you a better person and a better leader.
So, all the young ladies if you find yourself at the crossroads or questioning your decision – go ahead and embrace motherhood, leverage it to enhance and accelerate your careers, your leadership effectiveness, and your lives.
About The Author
Ritu Gupta Mehrish has about 20 years of corporate experience in leading and working with teams across the world – US, UK, Latin America, Europe, Philippines, Singapore, and India. She has held several leadership positions in running global operations and managing client relationships.
Ritu’s experience includes designing and delivering large scale leadership programs for middle and senior management in large multinational organizations, private listed companies, nonprofit organizations and educational institutes.
She did her Bachelors in Commerce from Delhi University, India and is a Chartered Certified Accountant from the UK. She has lived in multiple countries and currently lives in Singapore.
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