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Looking for a pandemic rebound? Working parents shouldn't be too hasty in making up for lost time in their careers

With the lifting of many Covid-19 restrictions, many of my peers are rejoicing over the return to normalcy in both our professional and personal lives.

Looking for a pandemic rebound? Working parents shouldn't be too hasty in making up for lost time in their careers

The author (left, with her family) notes that not every parent is blessed to have a support system in place and there are sometimes costs to pay in one's relentless pursuit of career goals.

With the lifting of many Covid-19 restrictions, many of my peers are rejoicing over the return to normalcy in both our professional and personal lives.

Business trips and work-related conferences are being planned and scheduled again. There’s a flurry of WhatsApp messages to organise gatherings with friends and family.

It seems like people are in a hurry to make up for lost time.

Many whom I have spoken with, in the course of my pro-bono career coaching work and mentees whom I take care of, have been telling me that this shall be the year when they will charge forward to restore what had been “lost” to them because of having to slow down or simply to survive during the pandemic.

These include promotional opportunities, professional visibility, the head space to think and plan for themselves and their careers, their personal dreams and aspirations to venture into a new industry, a new role, a side hustle or an entrepreneurial pursuit.

As a working mother who has high expectations of myself and works hard to realise my own dreams and aspirations, I fully understand where they are coming from.

But I hope that we should proceed with caution, wisdom and clarity of mind. 

This is because in this charged-up and relentless pursuit to recoup and restore, we might end up losing sight of what might be the most important in their lives.

Many whom I have observed and known are already either suffering from burnout or at the cusp of burnout due to juggling so many tasks; before and during the pandemic.

Sometimes, being in the thick of action and doing something which gets them moving might temporarily give them a “high”, nullifying the burnout, fatigue and “sian-sation” (colloquial term for feeling out-of-sorts).

However, if they move into an action plan without giving it much deep thought as to how it might impact them in the long run, it may backfire on them.

For example, some might think it’s finally time to search for a new job because the pandemic is almost over and the economy would be recovering further.

Furiously and blindly sending out resumes might make them think that they are making headway into their job search efforts and if they clinch a job offer, they might grab the opportunity without thinking what it means to their career portfolio.

Some working parents whom I have spoken with also shared that their careers took a back seat because of their caregiving responsibilities for their families these past two years.

Hence, they hope to step on the accelerator for their careers this year.

I would often be very gentle and careful about this topic of how working parents can manage their careers alongside their family commitments, much of which depends on factors such as the presence of a good support system on the home front.

Not every one is blessed to have this and there are sometimes costs to count and a price to pay.

LOSE A BATTLE TO WIN A WAR

Some years ago, I gave up a job role which would have allowed me to travel extensively and develop professional competencies which I had longed for.

My children were very young then and taking on the role would mean I would likely not be able to put them to bed, do the back rubs, read the bedtime stories and have our deep and sweet conversations which we deeply cherished and which were the highlights of our days — mine and the children.

Without going into details, I rejected the role. 

I felt like a dream died. A part of me faded. I thought to myself that I had probably ruined my career trajectory and all that I worked so hard for.

Six months later, I was putting my children to bed. We had our usual bedtime conversations and back rubs. For reasons which I could not really recall, my son suddenly asked me: “Mummy, when I grow up, will you grow old?”

Without knowing where this was leading to and somewhat bewildered by this sudden question, I replied: “Yes… I will grow old, of course.”

“When you grow old, will you die?”

Biting my lip, I said in almost a whisper.

“Yes, I will die.”

My son started bawling his eyes out. He sobbed and reached out to me so tightly.

“I don’t want you to die! I don’t want you to grow old! I don’t want to grow up anymore! Can you please don’t die, Mummy!”

With my eyes tightly shut, tears brimming as well, I remembered telling my young son: “I will not die until you are ready. I will be here for you. Mummy loves you.”

I was acutely aware that while speaking so tenderly and gently with my son, I was negotiating with my Maker, too. “Please don’t bring me Home until the kids are ready. Please.”

That night, I knew why I had to reject that job role. 

Had I not been around to put him to bed because I was on an overseas business trip, he would have gone to bed while sobbing and in fear that his mum would leave him when he grows up. 

At that moment, only his mum, only I could comfort him there and then and be with him.

A mentor once told me: Be willing to lose a battle in order to win a war. 

I might have “lost” the battle then by giving up on what I thought was a dream role, but I did it to win the eventual goal of being there for and with my children.

My mentor likened it to being a plane in an airplane hangar — I might be kept at the hangar for a while but I could do regular maintenance, make sure my wheels are polished and my fuel is topped up.

One day, when I am given the opportunity to fly off from the hangar, I would have been more than ready to soar and thrive in the air.

To my fellow working parents in the workplace, I hope you will choose your priorities wisely.

Especially if you are raring to make up for “lost time”, I hope we will all keep in sight what is most important to us and our families.

Take a long-term view and be clear about how your career portfolios can help ensure greater career longevity and fulfillment.

It is vital too, to be attuned to your emotions and avoid neglecting the importance of your personal well-being in the midst of juggling the many balls in the air.

Enduring strength comes from being aware of your strengths, areas of growth and what you stand for.

I believe there’s a time to do everything, just perhaps not at the same time. We are too precious to allow ourselves to be subjected to burnout in our pursuits to do everything and to think that we will never be able to realise our dreams.

With proper planning and self-awareness, I believe we can be the best versions of ourselves at home and at work.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Yvonne Kong-Ho works in a university, specialising in workforce development. She has a son aged 13 and a daughter who is 11.

Related topics

Covid-19 job career parenthood motherhood

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