Mar 16, 2014

Published in The Hans India March 16, 2014

In a marked departure from the working women of the 90s who struggled to manage home, little children and family, many women are now taking a well-timed break to tend to families and young children. Using that three or seven year period to upgrade their skills, they are jumping back onto the career wagon soon after their little ones grow up to a manageable age. Best of personal and professional worlds, they say, writes MANJU LATHA KALANIDHI

Pick any two Your sanity. Happy kids. Clean home. This muchshared Facebook post seems to be getting many women think thrice before they take up the familiar route of degree, work, marriage, kids, work, quit, work, quit etc. They do not want to end up as harried working women trying hard to balance young kids and a demanding career with the feeling that neither are they doing justice to their work nor their family. So what's new, you ask.
Well, in a case of `once bitten twice shy' syndrome, most women are now embracing a conscious break ranging between three years and seven to ensure they are done with rearing their children to an age where they are semi-independent and they can get back to careers with gusto.
Bollywood actress and `Gulab Gang' leader Madhuri Dixit-Nene is among those who got her life's timeline bang on. After nearly a decade-and-half long career, she settled down for matrimony, enjoyed her homemaker status for eight years with her sons Arin and Ryan in the US. She admits to having stress free days without a full-time job while a lot of her Indian neighbours in Denver , US, were struggling to take care of both work and children. The actress has now returned to India to pursue a full-time career in the film industry as her sons are merrily busy with their activities. That she spent her time learning horse riding, ballet dancing and Taekwondo during that period has helped her immensely in her new avatar of an action heroine.
Closer home, Sandhya Janak, 50, a familiar face in Tollywood with movies like `Happy Days,' `Maryada Ramanna', `Baadshah' and now `Rudhramadevi' was, a decade ago, busy tending to her banker husband two sons Abhinav and Anirudh. Now with two grown up sons, she has the time to pursue a career in movies. “I was sure that I wanted to be with my kids when they were growing up.
This is the most crucial phase which will never come back, no matter what you do later on in life. Then there's no point regretting later for not having spent enough time with them (the kids) when they needed you the most! I'm of the opinion, that a woman is truly liberated only after her kids reach a certain stage of maturity and gain independence, so she needn't have to suffer from a guilty conscience!“ Vasanthi Hariprakash, TV and radio anchor besides being a renowned Emcee in Bengaluru, went back to work after a four-year break. After having worked at The Indian Express followed by a stint at a property portal for over eight years, Vasanthi decided to take a break to spend time with her four-year-old son Anirudh.
Four years later, when she was offered the job of a radio jockey's job in Radio City, she just couldn't refuse it. “It was a job where I could reach lakhs of people and was close to my passion of being in the field of communication. My son was around seven years then and it did not seem unreasonable to get back to an exciting and demanding job.“ Later, she shifted to NDTV 24x7 for a few years and now she is busy with a multitude of events to host and shoot. “At that time, I felt that I had a good run professionally and things were getting too busy with work, home and a child in his formative years. It helped me enjoy bonding with him and also take a breather to understand what I wanted to do next. I also did not have to deal with the mommy guilt of leaving a young child in the care of others. It was a feel-good period which helped me bounce back with renewed vigour,“ she says in between an event where she hosted Anna Hazare and an awards ceremony on Saturday. Swapna, Telugu TV's most famous news presenter, recalls how from a homemaker in Seattle, US, with two kids (who are now teenagers) and her classical music to keep herself engaged, she suddenly found herself thrust into a demanding career of a live TV show host for TV9 in Hyderabad. “Certain professions like media, hospitality, high-end corporate jobs and glamour can be demanding, with erratic working hours. So being able to give one's 100 per cent will ensure a great take off in your career, even if you start late or had a break. While there is no time a parent ceases to be a parent, it is better to be able to be in a position where one can focus on work without having to worry about things at home, especially children.“ She may have been a late bloomer on the career front, but her personal and professional timelines ensured that she took off in a big way.
Satvika Biswas, a consultant with Get Going Career Consultancy in Hyderabad, says that it is professional suicide to get back to work too early if one is not sure of giving his or her full commitment to career. “I have seen many women who get back to work much too early with young kids without a support system and they end up facing problems on the work front only to quit or be thrown out unceremoniously . Yes, not having a nanny or a reliable day care centre or parental support system can severely affect her personal and professional front. Frequent absenteeism citing childcare reasons, unable to take up challenging professional assignments are not good signs for one's career. So if one can afford to stay at home, it is best to get back to work when one is fully ready,“ she advices.
But then HR experts in India say that women suffer a compensation hit of 37 per cent following a career break of three years or rlonger. Isn't that a big f blow to them?
“It takes a lot tof effort to r keep both , going. So if you think you are blessed with great discipline and back-up system, by all means con by all means continue. Otherwise, time your come back wisely,“ she advises. Recognising this new need of women to get back after a break, Tata Group runs a Second Career Intern ship Programme for women (SCIP), a career transition management programme for women professionals who have taken a break of six months or more for any reason, and wish to re-enter the professional space. The programme provides opportunities for such women to take on flexi-hour assignments with various TATA group companies.
Under this programme, Tata Group companies provide live business projects requiring approximately 500 hours of engagement spread over six months on a flexi time basis.
Tata SCIP does not provide full-time job opportunities.
Assignments under SCIP are short-term and aimed at developing alternative talent pools in traditional/non-traditional formats although there is no placement guarantee at the end of the project. All SCIP consultants go through a short induction programme, are provided access to mentors and guides on the project and HR support. For details check Currently, the Second Career Initiative is for women professionals in marketing, legal, corporate, HR, communications etc who have worked for a minimum of two continuous years in any of the domain areas listed below, prior to taking a career break of six months or more.
Fleximoms, a website for those who want to take time before jumping into a full-time career and prefer to test the waters first, promotes workflex work formats that allow an individual to marry their personal and professional objectives. Whether one is a working woman in a metro city, a housewife in a suburb Fleximoms may have career advice for them.