The picture you see above is of my son and me. Aren’t we adorable together ?
Last week we had an official welcome reception by INSEAD Dean Ilian Mihov. All this is indeed real. The Dean said a few words that have stuck with me:
“INSEAD is your present and YOU ARE THE FUTURE. The year ahead will be the BEST year of your life.”
Inspired and empowered, I sit at my study desk reflecting on how I made it to INSEAD. Thinking about things that made it possible for me to call myself “I AM IN-SEAD”.
An year ago, at this time, I was working full time at an American bank in Singapore. I was happy and settled but unsatisfied. I wanted to do something different and more challenging. People often treat motherhood as a pause-point for a women’s career. But I am here to say that these stereotypes are not valid. Motherhood does not obliterate your ambitions. It only makes you stronger and determined. The world is full of leaders who dared to walk the path of self-growth holding their toddler in arms. The journey may not be easy but its worth.
As a mother of a 2 year old, my preparation struggle was much more then what I anticipated. I spent many a nights holding my kiddo in my arms along with learning the tricks for the GMAT or writing my applications. I would often read him my notes rather then his story books. We would rhyme the formulas and sing them along.
I even went ahead and developed a set of ground rules so that I don’t miss on. These rules helped me to stay away from motherly guilt and live for the moment. Some of the key strategies I followed and will continue to follow for my INSEAD year are :
- Record where you spend your time: This is perhaps the best activity to do to make best use of your time. Try to write down how you’re spending your time, as often as you remember, as granular as possible. Every night I spent 5 minutes to write how I used my day. By maintaining the time journal, you will observe patterns in how you use your time, and you may see that you’re devoting lots of time to things that aren’t important to you. You would be able to prioritize what’s needed and what can be skipped or delayed.
“Life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.”
- Do not multitask: Do not multitask ever. All my friends take pride in their multitasking talent but when you’re with your kids, enjoy your kids, rather than trying to sneak in an email here or there. Likewise, when you’re focused on work, there’s no point stewing over whether you should be doing something else. Once you’ve chosen to do something, do it the best you can. Full focus and full attention will drive you for success.
- Quality VS quantity: I can literally show you 20 charts, and 19 of them would show no relationship between the amount of parents’ time and children’s outcomes. Many parents — specifically mothers — stress themselves out trying to spend as much time with their children as possible. But the research shows that time spent with parents who are stressed, anxious, and sleep deprived can actually be harmful to children.
- Accept and let go: When you choose to combine motherhood and career in any way, shape or form, there will always be trade-offs, sacrifices and compromises. What is crucial to your happiness – as well as your ability to stave off guilt – is reconciling those trade-offs by being crystal clear about why you are making them in the first place. Always remember “There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.”
- Create a list of the reasons you work – money, satisfaction, sanity – to provide a helpful reminder of your personal convictions when your work keeps you from attending a concert or compels you to outsource the organization of your child’s birthday party. While I’m often not able to be as involved with my kids’ activities as might seem ideal, I am very clear that my kids, my family and myself are ultimately all better off because I have a rewarding career outside the home.
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” Marie Curie