I am a newly working mother, who grew up with a perpetually working mother, educated to be a working woman for life, but tried the stay-at-home role for a bit, and found it wasn't for me. However, the switch that I recently made comes rife with doubt, guilt, obstacles, and judgement from others on an almost daily basis, especially in a culture like ours where female sacrifice (yes that does sound diabolical) is almost always exalted, and female fulfilment is almost always denigrated. However, the words of Diane von Furstenberg (luxury dress designer), “You are the one that possesses the keys to your being. You carry the passport to your own happiness," ring true for me, and I believe that they do for us all. We have to navigate each hurdle when we come to it – by either jumping over it, walking around it, or crashing into it head-on and breaking through to the other side.
"If you can't go straight ahead, you go around the corner." - Cher
I find that the challenge of personal relationships and their dynamic-shift when it comes to changing one's course in life is probably the hardest mountain to conquer because it requires a delicate balance of emotional, practical, and mental recalibration between human beings. When a river has coursed a certain way for centuries, altering course isn't always a welcome phenomenon. It does wreak havoc on nature around it. However, time is always the eternal healer and eventually, what was once unnatural becomes natural for everyone. So if your natural was to wake up every morning and make a breakfast worthy of kings for your family because you had the time to do it then, now whipping together a smaller, quicker, and still nutritious breakfast for them when you don't have the time to do more, will eventually become the norm. Unless another member of the family is willing to step up and help out in the kitchen.
Emma Barnett, a UK journalist, recently gave a TED talk on how women lose custody of their ambition because of a series of invisible barriers that are holding them back.
"...the reality is that there are still barriers stopping women from playing leading roles in their lives, not only at work but – crucially – at home too. Some of them are self imposed; some of them carved from years of male-dominated culture. All of them are invisible."- Emma Barnett
She did, however, end her talk with the reassurance that custody can always be won back. We must strive for this with baby-steps in our daily lives.
There are countless Indian women in recent years who have been rising through the woodwork and finding their space in the sun when it comes to juggling career with marriage, family, and self. From Indra Nooyi to Shikha Sharma to Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw to Vinita Bali, and a wave of others, these women have paved the way for the rest of us to follow, giving us the freedom to create new paths for our own dreams and ambitions.
One woman who has mastered the art and written a book about it (to make it easier for the rest of us), is coming to Bangalore to launch it this week and talk to like-minded women about the trials she faced, how she addressed them, and how she triumphed in the end. Anuranjita Kumar – the MD & CHRO of Citibank South Asia – discusses in "Can I Have it All?" how she implemented the 4 C's into her daily life to tackle every issue that she dealt with on her road to success.
Along with her will be Sejal Gulati, another lioness of the corporate world – the MD & President of Time Inc. India – who will also field questions from the audience about the art of being an Indian woman on a clearly defined and focused career path, who also wants to enjoy the joys and comforts of marriage and family-life.
When a book addresses subjects like marriage, maternity, and mobility, alongside such enlightening topics as clarity, courage, and self-confidence, I know that it is a book I need in my collection. When the author managed to make a two-country marriage and family work for more than a year because her job and career path required it – I know I want to meet this woman and ask her an inordinately long list of questions. My new path is fragile and peppered with loose stones that trip me up every so often. I crave reassurance every day that the choices I make are the right ones. I am rent with guilt about spending more than a few hours a day away from my toddler, when he is at such an adorable age. But I also know that the clock is our enemy in more ways than one, and that we have to be friends with the enemy if we truly want to win by making time work for us. We have to learn to invest time in both family and career and make the most of everything we have.
Because as the glorious Gloria Steinem said, "Dying seems less sad than having lived too little."
Currently the Content Developer at JobsForHer, Schonali Rebello is a full-time mom to an athletic and bubbly almost-2-year-old, and has worked in a smorgasbord of jobs - from executive-assistant to a tech-CEO to fundraising for the classical performing arts, from bartending in Toronto to conceptualizing events at a supper-club in Bangalore, from heading communications at a family-owned group of agricultural and real-estate companies to handling Nespresso events with coffee planters in Coorg. After all of this she is finally living her dream as a Creative Writing & Women's Studies graduate, writing articles, blog-posts and reviews on women's issues in the Indian workplace.
Come to the book-launch of "Can I Have it All?" at Time Inc. India's offices in Marathahalli, Bangalore, on Thursday, September 3rd at 10:00am, and learn from two lionesses of the corporate world how they walk their own fragile tightropes against the odds and manage to stay on them, triumphant. Register your attendance, here, for seats that are almost all gone