Live Your Dream "Response-ably"
- Back to Work, Working Women, Mentors Speak
- 03 Dec 2018
In school, I won my first debating competition on a topic titled: “A woman’s place is at home.” You are right if you thought I presented my views against the proposition. I argued fiercely against what I perceived a negative stereotype. And ‘wearing my attitude’ I went to the competition straight from my hockey practice in shorts!
Looking back on this experience, I confess, at the time I was all charged up with tons of western literature that advocated ‘if you are to succeed, you have to act like a man.’ And anything that seemed stereotypically associated with women, I would simply not do. The downside of all this righteous indignation is my lousy culinary abilities, and how I regret this, being the foodie I am!
Wiser over the years, I realize how I had been set up! All that social conditioning to be someone else to fit, to succeed. As part of our sports practice we did a lot of ‘weight’ training and being the ‘boy’ I was, I did more weights than anyone else, missing the point completely. We were not training to be bodybuilders. The weight training was intended to strengthen and tone our muscles, not to bulge awkwardly and cringe internally with all the pain it was causing. Thankfully I caught myself in time. Actually, the credit goes to my mother! She kept reminding me of how stupid I would look if I became the spitting image of ‘Popeye’ the adorable sailor man. Of course, she informed me with a grin that she did not mind investing in the sailor suit or cap, but had serious reservations about the cigar!
Success has many definitions in this dynamic, ever-changing world of human endeavor. But one that appeals to me the most is the piece about ‘being comfortable in your own skin.’ The ultimate to me is to be able to define success for yourself in your own terms and stay confident and inspired in your own definition of what makes you, you. In the humdrum of everyday life and ‘busy’ schedules, trying to catch up with the Jones’ we often cannot recognize ourselves.
Women have this blessing that nature has bestowed on them to take on various roles and to do this with all the alacrity at their disposal. One of these many roles is that of mother and homemaker. Many women pursuing careers, often find themselves embarrassed, ashamed even, of this responsibility. Keeling under the pressure of the everyday they find themselves often at the losing end of personal and professional transactions. I see this as a construct problem.
When you are being a ‘mother’ be a mother. Enjoy the role, be in the moment! When you are being a ‘professional’, be a professional. When I took time off to look after my baby I enjoyed every minute of it, I was professional enough to recognize that my career would take a hit briefly. What is wrong in admitting that? And what is the biggest definition of ‘hit’ in this context? That a few of your peers would move ahead by a couple of months, even a year in the context? That they would get compensated a little more for their contribution? Why would that burn you up? Why would that cause you to do a half-hearted job of looking after the little one? Why would that pose a threat to your confidence to pursue your career when you are ready?
I think this discontent is a product of the ‘quick gratification’ ecosystems we have built around ourselves. One that leaves you in an eternal state of disenchantment as you chase one thing after another, sometimes leaving you feeling like you’ve achieved nothing! Think of your career as a marathon not a sprint! The mental frame and preparation for each of these races are different. Start off at a punishing pace at the beginning of the marathon and you come to grief, take your time about starting off in a sprint and you could probably be the only one on the track long after the crowds have dispersed.
A mother occupies a special place in the home and hearth. Nature probably had a good reason for this! Look at your own growing up. You mum and dad were each special in their own way and played an important role in shaping your thoughts, experiences, and actions. When someone asks me what I am doing at home, I often say, quite seriously, I may add, ‘nation building.’ Yes, I am. I am raising my children to be the best they can be not in the world, but for the world. I am raising curious, sensitive, compassionate human beings grounded in values that they have seen practiced in their home ecosystems, and if that is not nation building I don’t know what is. Why should that be an embarrassing disclosure? Or something that gets your back up?
I had a friend who would rile me up ever so often with the old ‘so hubby dear is goofing off on the household chores is it?’ Somehow, in my emotionally weakened state taking a jibe at what I thought was my inability to get my husband to participate in doing his share at home. After all, I did not create the baby all by myself!”,that’s the other specious argument, I have realized. You don’t do work at home because your husband isn’t. You do it because you want to. What’s wrong in owing up to the joy of doing something?
Stephen Covey in his immensely readable Bible on people and endeavors titled: “7 Habits of Highly effective people,’ talks about a very important concept. He says, between stimulus and action there is a ‘space’ and in that space lies your power to choose your response! Highly effective people pay attention to that space. They use the ‘space’ constructively, in context, to choose their action. My wish for you is that each of you have the maturity to take a pause irrespective of the transaction to make an informed choice of your response. In this lies your power! So go out there and live your dream.
Aruna started her career as a Cost Accountant and has also worked extensively in the area of sales and marketing, quality processes and systems, Leadership development and Diversity Consulting. Over the last 27 years, she has traversed many fields gaining a rich experience and perspective across organizations, people and functions. She currently heads the Diversity & Inclusion portfolio at Infosys. A keen sports enthusiast, Aruna has represented Karnataka in Women’s Hockey for many years including captaining the state team, school, college and university teams in a sports career spanning over 11 years. She is also an amateur athlete (marathon) at the district level, motorcyclist and rallyist.