Thursday, April 9, 2015

Should I stay or should I go to work?

Remember the song by 'The Clash'. Darling you gotta let me know, should I stay or should I go? If I go there will be trouble, if I stay it will be double. This is dilemma faced by many. 
I recently met two very senior female executives with young children. Like many others who I have spoken with over the past few years, these two have the same concern. They are very conflicted about their decision to stay at home with their children or go back to work. 
This brings to my mind the ' The Paradox of Choice' a book by Barry Schwartz, where he discusses why less is more. The conflict in mind arises when we have a choice. If there is no choice about a situation we end up accepting the situation as it is. The question about going back to work or staying at home is usually a troubling question if the mums are in a position to make a choice. If it was a matter of putting a roof over your and your family's head and food on the table, no mother would be contemplating. She would be heading right back to work.
The debate and confusion in ones mind starts when going back to work is a luxury. It's not a matter of a livelihood, it's a matter of lifestyle. Often the mothers who have shared their concerns with me have been in the latter bracket. They have partners who earn very decent sums of money and are able to afford a good lifestyle. The women too are equal in their earning capacity and thus live a very comfortable - almost a lavish lifestyle. Both are on a fast track in their careers and staying at home with the children is sure to impede the chances of promotion. 
So what is a woman's choice?
It's funny I talk about choice as I recently watched a video by Deepika Padukone on a woman's choice . Although I don't agree fully with what is shared on the video, I get that it's a woman's choice how she leads her life. Sadly the message has gotten a bit too feminist for my liking. It ends up creating a divide between men and women by reinforcing the freedom of choice.
Similarly the debate on going back to work and staying at home to look after children ends up becoming an avenue for debaters to point fingers at the choices made by another. 
There is no right or wrong way. It is a way. They way you have chosen to live your life is a way you have chosen based on your own circumstances. If you feel that staying at home is what works for you then that is the right way and if you feel that going to work is what works for you, then that is your way. No one really knows what made you make that choice, only you do, so make the most of that decision. What you should not be thinking of is, being on the other side when you have chosen an option. The grass always appears greener on the other side and only when we walk on that grass do we see the chaff or hay in the path. 
There are pros and cons to both the choices. It's a matter of personal discernment and personal life situation that should determine your choice and not any kind of peer pressure at all. 
I met a very troubled mum who is in a very senior position and due to a work related travel was unable to attend her daughters school function. She was distraught at the thought of having disappointed her daughter. When I spoke with her daughter, her daughter didn't seem to be that upset. Infact she was very proud of her mothers achievements. In another situation however a young boy was very sad not to have had his mother around for his sports day where he won the gold medal as the mother had to travel to attend a funeral of a relative. Every situation is different, every child is different, every family is different. There is no right or wrong, there is no one size fits all approach. It is a choice you make for yourself by weighing in all the options. The only thing I can say is' once you make a choice- embrace that choice fully and enjoy it fully. Do not wonder what it would have been or could have been once you make a decision. It is your decision and it is the best decision. There should be no judgement. If you start second guessing and judging yourself for the choice you make there will be enough people who will join you in judging you.
Instead of asking others what choice to make, ask yourself a few of these questions. 
What do I desire and what do I value? 
Can I live with my choice without feeling any regret or guilt?
Am I in a position to reverse my decision and choose the other option?
Am I a perfectionist or a satisficer? ( satisficer is a person who will reach a conclusion based on an adequate level of acceptability and stop looking for best possible solutions). 
If your desire and values are aligned - you will be happier.
If you can live without regret or guilt, you will be happier.
Interestingly, if you have a choice of reversing your decision you might be less happy.
If you are a satisficer instead of a perfectionist, you will be happier.
There is no right or wrong way, it is your way and what ever you choose is the right way for you.
If you stay it will be good and if you go it will good too. So enjoy your children in whatever capacity you can. Working mom or a stay at home mom. It's your choice smile emoticon

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