Image Source : Career Girl Network
Ask any working woman today on how is she balancing her personal and professional lives, you are invariably going to get a non-committal response. Rarely does a working woman stand up and say that she is doing an excellent job of managing both the boats of her life. And if the woman is also a mother, then you are assured to not hear it ever!
And, ask a man? Well, you know.
So why are men being able to manage their personal and professional lives so well, and women find it so difficult? When she really works hard and juggles so many aspects of her life, yet she is unable to tell herself that she is great. What stops a woman to stand up and say, ‘Hey, I am doing so well. I am doing great at work and my kids are outstanding.’
Why does a woman hold back?
One of the reasons is, the society where we live. Our society has stereotyped the role of men and women in very clearly defined buckets. Men are expected to be strong, decisive, driven and are the mandated providers. Women on the other hand are to be sensitive, beautiful, nurturers, and caregivers. This division has seeped so much in the subconscious of our society that we are not able to break free out of it and change with the times.
In her book, Lean IN, Sheryl Sandberg quotes the famous Heidi or Howard experiment.
This was a Harvard case study of Heidi Roizen that was presented to the students of Columbia Business School where the professors ran an experiment to test perceptions of men and women in the workplace. The study spoke about how Roizen with her outgoing personality and vast network became a successful venture capitalist. For the experiment, the professors ended up making a small change. For some of the students in the class they changed the main actor – Heidi’s name to that of Howard.
And lo, the results showed the in-built perceptions that all of us carry. Students were okay with Howard using his personality and network to become successful and were not so sure about Heidi using them. Howard was liked by all, Heidi was liked only by some! A woman using her outgoing personality and contacts were not liked. And the students included a few women too.
It is this conditioning in the mindset of our society that stops a woman to stand up and grab her share.
So, how does a woman break free from such stereotypes?
While the immediate step would be to just ignore them, we must also bring in some changes in our approach. As with everything in life, I believe it begins from within us. We must go deep dive into your core being and make some basic changes in our thought process.
First and foremost, stop feeling guilty. Our greatest enemy is our own thoughts, ridden with guilt. Guilt pulls us way down the dumps. So much so, that even if we are doing a tremendous job as a mother, a professional and a homemaker, there is always this feeling that we are missing something. Both at the home and work front.
So, just keep that guilty feeling at bay and move on. When at home, give it your 100% and enjoy that. And once at work, give the best there and focus only on that. Manage both in such a way that each role charges and rejuvenates you to handle the other.
Second, choose your circle. Remember our mothers told us this when we were young, restricting it to friends. And their appeal was more pronounced when we turned teenagers. Well, it stays good even when we are all grown up adults. Only thing, mommy does not say this to us anymore! And the circle has widened to also include family, colleagues and acquaintances. Do choose folks who encourage you, motivate you and help you to sustain your career as well as raise a happy and healthy family. There is a famous saying that I believe in, identify your breakfast friends. A friend who is willing to step out early in the morning to have breakfast with you is someone who wants the best for you. Do take a quick stock check and zero in on that circle who are your true mates and want you to succeed.
Next, define a clear mental boundary beyond which no one can step in and traumatize you. Very like our physical boundaries that we have drawn, beyond which we allow only our loved ones to step in. Be aware that trauma is not necessarily physical. Harsh words, mocking glares, ridiculing laughter, rubbishing stances, all come under the category of trauma. And these emerge from the lot around you, at times even from your very close loved ones. Do not allow them to hurt you, and make it clear to all that you do not entertain it. And, as harsh it may sound, it includes your children too. I have seen many a young adult traumatizing their mothers. Set the boundary, make it clear and allow no one to come into your circle.
Last, take time out for yourself – Unless you are fit, fine and feel fantastic, you cannot take care of others. Taking care of others does not limit to only your home, children, family etc. It also includes your professional responsibilities, targets and goals. So, take a mandated time off every day/every week/every month and just do what you love to do. Ensure your soul gets the desired rest, nourishment and healing to take on, if not the world, your entire set of responsibilities.It is often said, and even played against us, women are emotional. What you need to tell them right back (tell yourself too) is what Carl Jung said, ‘Emotion is the chief source of all becoming-conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion’.
So, dear women, use your emotions, become conscious, throw away your trepidations, find solace, efficiently manage, step up and say you are managing both your lives very well, and live your life with happiness.
You have only one life!
Swapna Narayanan is a Bengaluru based author who writes on a variety of issues such as woman empowerment, parenting, corporate life etc. Her work has been published in Scroll.in, TheNewsMinute, The Bangalore Mirror, The Centurion, YourStory etc.