As I entered the conference room to join the farewell party of one of our youngest staff, Neelima, an energetic and passionate software tester, I was mentally preparing myself for hearing the Farewell Speech. This was standard protocol and I expected this to be a standard meeting. I had to get home quickly, after this meeting, to attend to Toyna, who was running high fever. Everyone one in the team was happy for Neelima as she started a new phase in her life. She was getting married and moving to new regions. We shared the cake, ice cream and some light hearted jokes. With that we immediately came to the point of Farewell speeches. Neelima started the speech thanking the Organization for all that she had learnt. She then looked directly at me and thanked me for being an inspiration in her life. She hoped to do someday strike a balance between home and work, like me. She hoped to be strong and committed, like me. She hoped to be one day leading an organization, from the front, like me. As she continued, I felt a lump forming in my throat. I quickly averted my gaze, not sure where to focus my eyes. I furtively searched for any inanimate object that I could stare at, just so that I didn’t have to look into the eyes of this young girl who held me in such high esteem. If only she knew the demons that I was carrying in my heart. If only she knew, that today was my last day too, in the organization as the Asia Pacific CEO of KINDUZ Business Consulting.
Wasn’t it just six months back that I took on this role with much élan!?! At that time, I was so sure about myself. I had worked hard to get to this role and I was determined to work harder to prove myself. Then what happened? Why was I stepping down? Why did I let go so quickly? While I knew the answers to these questions in my heart, and I had no regrets whatsoever for my decision, for some odd reason, I could still not look at Neelima in the eye. I could not tell her that all it takes for a woman to succeed, professionally, is grit and determination. Even though we might have spent decades in a profession, our first natural instinct still remains that of rearing young ones. Given a choice between welfare of children and a professional career, most women, even in today’s age, will choose welfare of children. We just cannot compromise on the needs of our family, even if it means leaving our dream job in someone else’s hands. It is not only my story but the story of thousands of women, out there, every day, who give up career in the interests of the family. In the last three weeks, just within my small circle of colleagues and friends, I have come across three senior women, having more than twenty years of experience, who took a sabbatical from work for family reasons. They are all extremely intelligent, passionate and in the prime of their career. But they choose to put their dream to rest, for some time, in order to focus on the needs of their family.
I am sure, a lot of women, who are reading this are scowling at me from behind their glowing mobile phone screens. I am sure, right now, I am being branded as the loser who is hiding behind her children as an excuse for not surviving in the corporate jungle. I am sure, feminists, around the globe might want to ban my blog warning women professionals about the negative impact my writing can cause on their careers. I honestly couldn’t care less what the world thinks of my decision. In my heart, I know, I am doing the right thing to focus on the one thing that is most important to me, my children.
So yes, if someday I was to be remembered as an inspiration, I hope I am not looked upon as an inspiration for making high profile careers/businesses. I would rather prefer to be looked upon as an inspiration of someone who had the guts to follow her heart, even if it meant leaving the air conditioned glass office and entering the steaming kitchen. Even if it meant that the only intellectual conversation I have in a day is about water vapor and trigonometry, I still chose to follow my heart.
Right now, my heart calls me to focus on the needs of my children. As my children grow more independent, I am sure my heart will have a different calling. Right now, all I can tell my heart is, “ Thank you for speaking! I am listening!”
P.S. Although I have stepped down from the highest position I have ever held, I still head the Shared Services team at KINDUZ. I plan to continue in this role for some time to come.