It was only last week I was feeling the frustration of my corporate career, making the active decision that I wouldn’t go back. The decision was made. I was starting my own business. A family day care to be exact. But it’s been much harder to leave at the peak of my career then I had thought.
The Opportunity – A Rewarding Career
After you have been in the industry for a number of years, opportunities do open and present themselves. Especially in this day and age and with social media sites like LinkedIn. I wasn’t looking for a job, but LinkedIn does tend to attract recruiters to your profile. Recruitment companies are also very active in maintaining their databases these days, so my file and resume still sits in many systems used by recruiters to source candidates for the roles they are trying to fill.
As these job opportunities present themselves, I am naturally a very curious person so I do have a read through their offer. Although I ignore the majority of them, there are some that catch my attention. One recently presented itself to me and has got me questioning my recent decision to leave my corporate life behind me.
One role in particular presented me with the very direction I wanted to take my career into for a long time. So I agreed to attend the interview. Over the years, I’ve become very good at interviews. Mostly because I am confident in the work I am delivering. I know I’m passionate about business and marketing and I know I can deliver on what I am saying. This generally results in a high offer rate. 90% of interviews I have attended will result in receiving a job offer either on the spot or in the following days. The problem for me was never the interview. It was getting the interview. Which is why I don’t bother attending unless I sort of want the job.
So there I was. Sitting in the interview. I guess the fact that I was there meant I sort of wanted the job. Let me expand a little bit on the history here.
My Early Life
Growing up I wanted to be a fashion designer. I would be sketching and sewing away all through high school. My mum was a seamstress so I learned how to sew from her. But after being accepted into fashion school, I did what every Asian parents want their children to do, I accepted a position in Science instead. I knew in the first year that this was not what I wanted to do, so I enrolled into legal studies through a night school/course. The first subject was business law. That was when I realised I loved business. I soon withdrew from both legal studies and science to pursue a business course, where I majored in Marketing and Economics. After graduating I wanted to prove to my parents I could have a successful and respectable career without becoming a doctor or lawyer. The best part was that I could combine my business skills with my first love of fashion design.
Like many fellow students, I struggled to get into the marketing industry straight out of uni. That was marketing for any product! I realised my dream of marketing for a fashion brand was further then I could reach with no experience. So I did what we all do. I compromised to get my foot in the door.
I started in sales. Most of my friends laughed at me. Mainly because of the product I was selling. Car park spaces. I didn’t even know there was a business in car parks. But there is. And it is a corporate business. Whenever I told a friend I was working for a Parking company they would tease me and ask if I sat in a car park booth. I guess it was funny, but I knew I needed to get that corporate experience. I focused on running mini campaigns to grow my sales results within my portfolio. I ended up doing really well and becoming one of the best sales reps. Then it was time to break into marketing.
The beginning of my career
I left the parking company because I didn’t want to build my career as a sales executive. I knew it would be hard to leave behind me if all I had was sales experience. So I pursued my marketing career. I went to many interviews where I was consistently offered sales roles (even though I was applying for marketing roles), but I always declined and emphasised how I wanted to be in marketing. With no luck, I decided to just apply for a personal assistant role to a GM which would include a little bit of support to the marketing activities. At my interview, I was lucky enough to have stepped in at the right time. The hotel group I was interviewing for just had an opening for their marketing executive. The HR manager asked me why I had applied for a PA role when my resume was so heavily marketing focused. She asked me if I wanted to also be put forward for the marketing role and to my excitement I said ‘YES’. I was interviewed by 3 senior managers and offered the job. That was when my marketing career begun.
So I wasn’t selling fashion but marketing for hotels was great as well. After a year, I tried my luck with fashion roles but I quickly realised that it was nearly impossible without experience or connections in the industry. I had to leave that dream behind me.
Soon after I became a marketing manager in the Airline industry where I was managing my own little team for the first time. This was the peak of my career. I had entered a large organisation with limitless growth opportunities. Within the first year I was given the opportunity to be part of big projects and then I was recruited to launch a new product. That’s when I fell pregnant.
As mentioned in my previous post. I had to leave work after I gave birth. Since then I have been presented with a lot of offers of which I have declined. But one offer has caught my attention. For the first time in my career I was asked to interview for a senior marketing position with a fashion retailer. I went to the interview and it sounded like everything I ever wanted. The salary was $120K plus bonuses and super. It was a strategic role. But mostly, it was in the fashion industry. This was my door through the window I had been gazing into for so long. If I took this job…. I would be in. Getting a job in the fashion industry would be a breeze after this role. And hence, the dilemma.
I was called the next day after the interview. They told me they absolutely loved me and think I would be perfect for the role. Now they want me to come in and meat their CEO.
The Alternative – Family and Motherhood
I love being a mother. Although it comes with it’s challenges, I do love those moments when you feel the greatest happiness in the world. But the decision to leave behind everything I worked so hard for all these years was extremely hard. After giving birth and during most of my pregnancy, I felt like I was suffering from a mild case of depression as I came to realise so much of my life was about to change. I spent most of my pregnancy crying about how the timing couldn’t be worse and then after giving birth, I spent more time crying about how I was ever going to go back to work without feeling the guilt of leaving my newborn baby of 6 weeks in child care. For the first time in a long time, I was conflicted beyond my ability to solve it.
I do consider myself a family person, so naturally I felt selfish for wanting my career back. I know if I HAD to choose one or the other, it would always be my family. But I also know that sometimes you don’t have to choose. There is ‘compromise’. No body was saying I couldn’t do both. No body was telling me to choose only one. I just needed to weigh out what would be compromised and I had to agree to those terms.
So I debated the pro’s and con’s of my options. I googled. I spoke to family and friends. I did everything I could think of that I thought would help make my decision clearer. But the truth was…. Nothing made it clearer.
The Decision – Finding out what matters
As a child, did you ever try balancing in the middle of a seesaw? Finding the balance is always hard. It doesn’t matter if it is a physical balance or mental balance, before you find the center point of gravity, you need to sway left to right, up and down before you know where that balance is.
Juggle a career with being a mum?
Do I try my luck in juggling my career with being a mum? I don’t mean a job. I mean a career. You know, the type where you work yourself to the bone only to grown your skills and keep expanding your growth and climb the corporate ladder. Late nights, early mornings, weekends, working from home. That’s what it took for me to achieve my success in my early career. The compromise would be that I would need to ease on the extensive workload I tend to take on. Learn how to say no. Keep work at work. But like any senior role, there were going to be the regular occasions when I was going to need to bring the work home. I was going to need to do the late nights and weekends. Nobody pays you over $100K to work 9-5. You have responsibilities.
Or do I be a mum, with a job. Take a position with lower responsibilities. Reduce the pay, reduce the stress, reduce the reliability. I could just find a job and focus on family not my work. The job would pay the bills, keep me busy and allow me to spend more time with my son. No over time, no weekends, no bringing work home.
I’m an ambitious person. So I know having a job wont make me satisfied but if I continue to pursue my career I will get lost in my addiction to working and the hustle and bustle, forgetting about everything around me (I did it to my marriage for the last 4 years… my poor husband). I just need to find something else to be ambitious about. Which is what I’ve been doing for the last 6 weeks. I took a part time job that pays me well. I’m still in marketing, but I don’t have the responsibility that I use too. It’s a small family business, not a large corporate organisation. I never work a minute over 5pm. I am home 2 hours earlier then I use to be and it’s only 2 days a week. It pays the bills, but I won’t be paying off the mortgage any time soon. But I guess most importantly it gives me time to spend with Dominic and build my own business. The problem is, building a business requires money and money requires working. At this rate, I know my business being a financially stable source wont be coming anytime soon. So it makes working a less then satisfying job extremely difficult. Which is why I am swayed by this idea of returning to my career. But I am scared I will go into overdrive again and neglect my family, like I neglected my husband for the past few years.
It’s a double edged sword. There are sacrifices all mothers have to make when she decides between her career or family. For some people the decision is easier then others. For others, like me, the decision is extremely difficult. I want to feel a sense of self accomplishment for doing something well (which is not related to being a mother). But I also don’t want to miss out, or overlook, the important things in life like watching your children grow up and being there for all the important milestones in their little lives. I’ve already put so much strain on my marriage and I have a forgiving partner, but I don’t want to expect forgiveness or live in regret when it comes to my children. My husband has a choice to be married to me but my children don’t have the same choice (they are kind of just stuck with me haha).
Sure I could pause my career and pick it up later. But knowing that doesn’t make the decision easier. Because at the end of the day, you still need to weigh out the pros and cons of doing that. You have to let go of where you are today, which can be particularly hard when you are sitting exactly where you had always wanted to be.
I think the decision for every mother is different. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s just another thing in life where we may not make the right decision initially but we will continue working towards finding the right balance. Some decisions are easier for mother because their choices are limited or they know exactly what they want. For others it’s just a juggling act and we have to try different things before we can re-evaluate the progress, results and what really matters to us.
I guess I’m not one of the fortunate mothers who know exactly what I want. But I know I am fortunate enough to have a choice. My husband says I need to ‘find myself again’. It makes me feel like I am 18 again.
I’ll let you know how I go ;p