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My two little girls are easily one of the best the things that have ever happened to me, if not THE best thing. But nothing can quite prepare you for what motherhood entails. I grew up fully aware that I wanted to do something purposeful and with meaning in my life – and that I would one day be a wife and mother. But I had no sense of what both those things together would look like.
My husband and I have twin girls who are 3 years old. We also have very demanding careers. When we met, dated and got married – all during our time at business school – we knew that we wanted a family but that we wanted to be partners and help each other balance our careers and life together.
When we moved from the US to India to pursue exciting leadership roles in our companies, we made it work fairly seamlessly for each other. When I was offered a role to head a large function in China, it was my husband who pushed me to take it, even though it meant I would be spending 3 weeks a month away from home. All of this required planning and discussions but was fairly easy. It is actually when we entered the world of parenthood that all the planning and discussions would not prepare us – you really have to arrive at this stage in your life to understand what it entails.
So, in being asked to write this article, I thought I would share a few things that I have learned and continue to learn in my journey so far.
The biggest factor in parenthood is the realization of how dependent we are on a few people in our lives to get through – mainly my parents – my mother who has literally put her life aside and traveled to another country to help raise her grandchildren, and my father who manages their homes on his own while traveling back and forth to visit both his wife and grandchildren. Without the support of my parents, we could not have continued in our careers or ensured our children were being raised in the best way possible.
This extends to others in your ecosystem. Work colleagues who will entertain your kids when you bring them in, a play school mother who will fill you in on morning coffee meet discussions that you cannot attend, doctors who will agree to appointments on Saturday afternoons or even Sundays to ensure your children get their check-ups on time, and the list continues….
Another key element of being parents is recognizing that you cannot plan anything perfectly and you cannot be perfect at anything. Abandoning this notion is especially tough for moms but it is a reality you have to live with. Studies have shown that women who have young children are some of the most productive people at work. Makes sense. They are efficient, spend less time just hanging out by the coffee machine, plan ahead and feel the need to prove that they are just as committed.
But this is also when we can feel we are the most stretched and overwhelmed. Unexpected events like a sick child down with the flu all the way to a sudden business trip that needs to happen for an urgent transaction can throw off all your careful planning and the days you had tightly structured to balance all the needs placed on you.
I am still not completely used to this, but I am far better at understanding that this is my reality and will be for a while.
The final piece that I reflect upon as a mother who balances a challenging career with small children is one that I think is truly the most important.
Having both in your life ultimately does benefit both aspects of your life. Nothing has given me perspective like my children and being a mother has and I am hoping that it teaches me to grow in some ways that I did not get tested on as much before – how do you prioritize when you are overwhelmed; the importance of patience and stepping back when things get tough or heated; empathy and a new way of understanding the wonder that the world is.
Similarly, as a working mother, I cannot be there for every weekday event in my girls’ lives. But I can expose them to things that I couldn’t have if I had stopped working – they meet interesting colleagues of mine and see factories, studios, and other events. More importantly – I have two little girls – I do not want them to go through their childhood with the message that the incredible privilege of being a mother means that they cannot participate in making a difference in the world professionally. They should have both.
Consultant - Obstetrics and Gynecology