I recently stumbled upon an article while surfing the web. It was one of those serendipitous discoveries, which is what makes reading on the web so addictive, and delightful. And no, it wasn’t suggested to me as one of the, you-would-also-like-to-read links, which I never click on as a matter of principle (if you must know, it’s because I dislike being spied upon).
No, this was serendipity in its true sense. I was reading a brilliant article about Dorothy Parker, whose acerbic writings I have long admired. After finishing reading it, I clicked on another, then another, while trying to dodge the picture of a flask I had contemplated buying a few days ago, and which was now stalking me wherever I went in the hope that I’d give in (I won’t; yes, as a matter of principle). Anyway, one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was on Harvard Business Review staring at an article titled, ‘The 40-Year-Old-Intern’.
I was dumbfounded. This was not remotely connected to the previous article, or the ones before that, or anything I had read on the topic in the recent past. Yet, there it was in front of me, the headline bleating at me like it had been written for none other than yours truly. Maybe this whole AI thing is seriously reading people’s minds, and subconscious ones at that.
Anyway, coming back to the article. I stared at it for a while – ‘The 40-Year-Old-Intern’. That was me. As the name suggested, it was about women (and sometimes, though rarely, men) trying to relaunch their careers after a break. I fall quite squarely in that category, having taken more years off from work than (I hope) Trump will get votes. So it got my undivided attention and I soon found myself nodding in complete agreement as I read it.
The article talked about something that I have been going hoarse saying (mostly ranting to the unsuspecting husband), but which not many have payed heed to – that returning professionals are a great investment. I don’t believe this because I am one, but because it’s the truth, which, for some reason, eludes those who are in a position to hire talent.
According to me, it’s a no-brainer: hire women who’ve been away from work for a while, but who are looking to get back in. You’ll get the maturity that the position requires (as opposed to twenty-somethings who send mails that sound like truncated What’s App messages – cld you pls tell me when can i join). What’s more, she’ll be so happy to have a foot back in the door that she’ll be on the back foot, and that, as any employer will tell you, is precisely the milkable (for lack of a better word) situation you want someone in. She’ll not even negotiate the paltry sum you pay her, and work harder than the other (jaded) employees. If you are a really clever boss you’ll also throw in the word flexible, which will keep her from negotiating anytime soon (her children may be in middle school, but they will fall sick, her mother in law will need knee surgery and, heaven forbid, her maid will go on leave, which is when the flexibility will allow her to work from the confines of her home without feeling the guilt).
I know countless, super-bright women who are sitting at home because they took time off for their children, got sucked into domestic abyss, eventually came out of it, but not before they’d begun to doubt their abilities and skills (women are masters at self-deprecation). I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that most of these women would jump at the idea of getting back to work, with some sort of flexibility. In return they’ll probably work harder than anyone else in the company – taking work home, working weekends, et all, and they will settle for pay that goes with the title of that post – The 40-Year-Old-Intern. Win-win, if you ask me.
However, sagacious as this advice is, it seems to not go down too well with the powers that be. Returnships, as the terms has come to be called, is a catchy word and looks good on corporate reports, but it’s not something people embrace wholeheartedly. A boss had once told me, when I asked him if I could have a somewhat flexible schedule, that he was all for flexi work and supporting me, but that HR believed it would “set a wrong precedent” (when in dilemma, shoot from HR’s shoulder). I then did what many women in my situation do (yes I know there are exceptions who lean in, I could not). I quit and freelanced till my kids became old enough to be away at school for the most part of the day.
Now, I am back to work, and yes, I am on the back foot. Why? Because when I was looking to get back to work, I was told, countless number of times, that my “limitations” (a commonly used euphemism for kids) were a worry for employers.
So the truth, I have found, is this. That with all the talk about gender diversity and women in the workforce, it’s still hard for a woman to lean-in. Sure, it’s easier than before, and there are many companies which genuinely support a woman through her fork-in-the-road quandary, but these are few and far between. And even then, such support from work has to perfectly calibrate with the support at home, because understanding as your boss might be, there’s only so much you can stretch the mom thing.
A working mom is always walking that tightrope, and she’s ever-so aware of the two sides that she walks between.
Crabbymommy writes about the not-so-cute side of parenting. She like to say it as it is, which usually does not make her popular. She’s a writer, blogger and a works as a content head in a company . You can find more of her writings at mommyrage.com