Getting Out the Door: One Woman's Personal Account of Why Work-from-Home Didn't Work for Her
- Schonali Rebello
- Back to Work
- 05 Oct 2017
As a newly working-mother, I often get asked, “But HOW do you leave your sweet little fellow and go to an office every day, even if it’s only for a few hours? You don’t ‘need’ to work, so why don’t you stay at home at least till he joins playschool, or even better, big school?” I refrain from replying, callously, that I LOVE heading out the door each morning to have 4 hours in the day for my brain versus my mama-capabilities because that would be gauche.
Instead, I say, “I go to work part-time, for the hours that he is napping, during which he doesn’t need me around anyway, and this way I’ve eased back into the workforce in a flexible job, with less difficulty than if I had stayed away for much longer.”
And it’s true.
We DO lose touch with our skill-sets during our time away, even though we are building and perfecting an array of others being SAHMs, or Ws, or Ds (stay-at-home-mothers/wives/daughters), and caring for our family members.
Given that I have access to and can utilize good, kind, and trustworthy domestic help, my role as my son’s caregiver is quite limited (if we’re being brutally honest, here).
I spend wonderful quality time with him, but almost all of his childcare work is done by others – changing nappies, laundry, tidying up his room, putting away his books/toys, warming up his food, feeding his breakfast and lunch, and even going out to play ball with the neighbour-kids, who are all also supervised. All this work consumes many hours in the day and it is paid work that is done by salaried employees, who also love him dearly.
There are also family members - grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. - who work part-time or have retired, who cherish the time spent with him immensely. All these amazing people contribute to his holistic, multi-faceted development, socially, emotionally, morally, and physically. I am so grateful to have them in my life.
Never underestimate the magic and wonder of grandparents and grandchildren spending time in each other's company.
The stuff that I get to do – get him out of bed every morning, cuddle and wrestle, read books, teach him to say and do new things, feeding his dinner, and finally, bedtime stories, prayers, and sleep routine – doesn’t take long at all, in the larger picture of the day.
So, I have a LOT of time left over.
I can use it to rebuild my career as a woman returning from a break.
I was away from the working world for 20 months, during which time I tried to engage myself in work-from-home opportunities – mostly of the fundraising variety, which is still something that is very meaningful to me that I try to keep up with whenever I have the time.
But, it wasn’t enough.
I craved adult company and conversation.
I felt awkward at social gatherings, bereft of current news and ideas that the rest of the world had been bandying about in coffee-shops, offices, and at networking events. As a woman on a career break, I was terrible at allotting time for work when I spent the day in clothes slightly fancier than pajamas, on the couch in front of my TV. And, most of all, I could never say no to the adorable face and voice of my toddler whenever he sang his favourite song, “Maaamaa!”
In fact, the statement that summed it up for me when I did my first interview in 5 years was,
“He is growing much too engaging and if I don’t get out now, I don’t think I ever will!”
And how very glad I am that I did!
I started as a returnee-intern on a 3-month contract, during which I worked for a stipend. It worked out so well for both my company and me, that I stayed on in a part-time capacity as a permanent employee.
So, for four hours a day I dress up in smart work-clothes, slip on those heels, and walk out the door, laptop bag swinging, to an office filled with equally engaging, smart, bright, fun, and funny co-workers, with whom I pit my brain to tackle the work-load of the day. I come back home to a well-rested, well-adjusted, beaming, shrieking (the same song of our forefathers), running child, who gives me the widest, tightest, sloppiest-kisses hug and takes my handbag into the house to set it down.
We then spend the same amount of time together as we did when I was a SAHM, but now, I’m a better mama.
I’m a mama who is engaging with her baby as a self-possessed woman. A woman who gets to enjoy both her worlds with minimal fuss, optimum happiness, and almost zero-guilt (there are those sick-days that nobody can avoid!). I'm glad I work for a family-friendly company who understands that my commitments are always divided between work and home, and that home and family will always come first.
It may not work for everyone, but, I’ve found that it works better for most.
Working from home has its advantages if one absolutely CANNOT step outside of it. For those of us who can – i.e. are lucky enough to have parents or other retired family members living nearby with whom we can leave our children, or access to good childcare facilities, whether at home or outside of it - getting out that door and living our dream-career in the right workplace can do wonders for us, and our families.
I would venture to say that it is perhaps the best decision you could make, because the confidence that you will imbibe from meeting people, the skills that you will learn on the job, and the network that you create for yourself will go a long way in strengthening your entry into the workforce, making your transition much easier. And, there are companies that offer returnee-internships to help women ease their way back into the workforce.
Upload your resume and begin your job-hunt in earnest.
Interview like you mean it, get the job your heart desires, and your family will thank you for it in the years to come.
The world is waiting for YOU...
Currently the Head of Creative Content at JobsForHer, Schonali Rebello is a full-time mom to an athletic and bubbly a 4-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.