Just as I write this, I’ve turned down a job. The hours were something I just couldn’t manage with a toddler. I requested them to let me work half-day but it wasn’t something they were looking for, and I witnessed another opportunity go out the window. It wasn’t the first and I’m guessing it won’t be the last. Not to sound ungrateful. I chose to be a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). Putting her in daycare for most of the day didn’t make sense to me for many reasons. Also my hours (in my last job) had been crazy, which meant i wouldn’t have been able to see my daughter at all.
So I took the leap, but it hadn’t been easy. I went back and forth through many many thoughts. Was this a mistake? How would I make a comeback? Was this the end of my career? Did I study for half my life, to end up having nothing at all?
As the year passed, I found myself easing into my role, but my mind was still conflicted. I would watch working mothers with envy and wonder how they managed. I would find myself on Linkedin, looking for part time work but at the same time wondering where I would leave my daughter. The finances of going back to work also made very little sense. If I hired a nanny and put her in daycare, it would take up half my salary anyway. I was in a fix. But I realised that I needed to shake myself out of it, because that was best for my sanity and that of my little girl. Now how do you manage a career minded soul within a stay at home body? And how do you keep your mind active enough to make a career comeback? Here’s some stuff I tried.
- I made lots of mom friends. I had a wonderful group of friends before I had little L, but they were either single or without kids. I needed to find someone who could understand my conundrum and relate to it. And I’m glad I put myself out there because there is no greater feeling than to be understood. Lots of my ‘mom friends’ were ex-working women who were trying to figure out their new roles and understand how to keep themselves ‘relevant‘ while being away from the job market. This also helped me build a network of strong women who were on a sabbatical. And over time, this network has provided a support net to all those ready to go back to work.
- I devoted myself to what I love: writing. I’ve always blogged and written short stories whenever I could. But finding time as a copywriter in a dynamic ad agency had been quite hard. If I wasn’t travelling, I was pitching, creating, working late hours. There was barely any time and I remember going to movies with my husband and falling asleep halfway through. But as a SAHM I had more time to devote to my writing. Aside from just giving more time to my passion, I was also challenging my brain. And I cannot emphasise how important this is to a mom who used to be extremely ambitious. Every time I would finish a piece I would walk away with such a sense of accomplishment. It made me feel that dreams of having a career again weren’t unattainable. They were just temporarily on hold. And through my writing I was making sure my voice was still being heard.
- I started exploring other talents I may have. When we graduate from college, we’re so focused on making a career out of subject we majored in, that we never stop to think about what else we could’ve done. I’ve always dabbled in art and calligraphy but never had time to explore it. Then came along my daughter and I had to find ways to entertain her. And as we tried out simple arts and crafts for her, I realised I wanted to try to improve my own basic skills. So I took some classes with different teachers and it helped me get a bit better at something I hadn’t really focused on for a while. I would suggest this for all moms who are on a career-break. Take your passion or hobbies and try to improve on them. We may never get a chance again. Plus once you get back into the job market, it’s always best to a bit better than you were when you left it.
- I took up as many freelance opportunities as I could. But to be honest, they’re not many options in Dubai that allow a mom to work from home. Most agencies require you to work from the office but I got lucky with some small projects and weekend work. It helped me keep my finger on the creative/copywriting pulse and stay connected with old colleagues and mentors. It’s also a great ego boost to be able to see how you’ve ‘still got it!‘
- I had to learn to cut the self-doubt. Often, our work is what gives us a sense of accomplishment. It’s how we become who we think we are. And when that goes away, you end up questioning yourself and your abilities. I did that a lot until I realised the only person hurting was me. And self-doubt doesn’t encourage, it cripples. So instead I turned my thoughts on being better that I was yesterday and focusing on things that I was good at. A career break doesn’t mean career suicide. It just means that for now, something else has taken precedence.
I can’t say I’ve figured out the secret code for being a happy SAHM if previously you were a career-driven woman, but all i can say is, everything has a time and a place. Do activities that fulfil you otherwise and try and see the positive in the present. This time is for your child, and it won’t last forever. So best to make the most of it. For me, it meant striving to become the woman I would want her to be, whatever the circumstances might be. And if you keep yourself in check, you’ll make that career comeback not only possible, but great.