You can’t keep your eyes off the clock — this meeting was supposed to end 25 minutes back. Your cleaning lady and cook must be banging at your door just about now. And your two-year-old must be throwing a fit and howling for you at his grandparents’ house. Tick tock … it’s 6pm, you muster your courage and blurt that you must leave. On your way home you wonder if you will get sidelined from this project too because you have had to leave as soon as the clock inches close to 6pm. This evening is no different from any other weekday. As soon as your son is asleep and the house has a semblance of sanity, you switch on your laptop and quickly check if the project team has been announced. Your fear is now a reality: you have indeed been bumped off Project Apollo and once again you wonder if this is ‘worth’ it.
Even though your organisation encourages work life balance and the official work timings are 9 to 5, you can’t help but feel that ever since you had a baby you have been relegated to routine, non-exciting tasks. The truth is that, after maternity leave, you have been more organised, work from home after your kid goes to sleep, have lunch at your desk and take fewer breaks at work. You have never missed a deadline, been more punctual and supported other colleagues more with their assignments. Still, you see important projects and major tasks being assigned to others. Project Apollo is a wake up call and you seriously consider what your options could be:
1. Talk to your line manager:
It’s always best to face your fears because sometimes they could just be perceptions. Be honest and open about how you feel without naming your colleagues or comparing yourself to them. Reiterate that it was your choice to return to work and how important it is for you to have a successful career.
Volunteer to take a few items off your line manager’s list of things to do. Use that as a starting point to prove that you are just as committed now as you were before motherhood.
2. Create a project:
If they won’t give you one, you can always create one for yourself. Look at processes or structures that could use a facelift. Pick things that would have the maximum value or benefit for the organisation. Once complete, share your findings with the relevant stakeholders. No one can ignore or overlook improvements and this is a great way to show that you take initiatives and are truly driven.
3. Take charge of meetings:
There’s always the prospect of a meeting running late and not everyone has to worry about domestic responsibilities — someone needs to police the ticking clock. Start on time even if it means some people are missing; next time around they will make sure they are on time. Circulate the agenda and any material that you will cover as a pre-read. The meeting time would thus be for discussing and sharing views. Assign someone to take minutes and circulate them after the meeting. Pretty soon you will have a reputation for being organised and a time manager.
4. Do your homework:
Do your research on upcoming assignments, get a head start so you have already covered what approaches you could use.
If you know more and have already thought about it you have an advantage over others. It shows you are proactive and eager to take on more than your day-to-day tasks.
5. Get a mentor:
Never underestimate the power of mentoring. It is a wonderful opportunity to pick the brain of someone successful who has been there, done that. Talk to your mentor and get advice on navigating through your organisation. Get them to help you network and broaden your immediate work circle.
word to the wise
If you expect to be treated differently because you are a working mother, then you may be feeding the myths about them. Everyone has issues and problems in their personal life and you are no different.
So when you are at work be 100% focused and get the most out of the day. But once you are at home make sure your kids get your devoted attention and care. Resist the temptation to take work calls and emails at home. The key is to find balance where you don’t let one aspect of your life interfere or disrupt the other. It is possible to have a work life balance and a successful career. Don’t let your work define who you are and what you are capable of. Work smarter not longer.
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, June 24th, 2012.
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