"Don't leave before you leave" - Sheryl Sandberg
Women in the workforce, at some point in their lives, have to face a dilemma when they decide to become a parent. This was brought to the forefront by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. Having been the most senior woman at Google, before she joined Facebook, she is one of the fastest rising stars in internet business, and one of the youngest too!! In one of her TED talks, she brings to light certain issues that pose obstacles in a woman’s career, and often either cause her to quit unreasonably, or deprives her from her fair share.
Of course, marriage and motherhood bring along immense fulfillment in a woman’s life. However lucrative a career she might be in, she longs to have kids and raise a family, in a nutshell, she can never abandon the desire for domestic bliss. However, it is disheartening to note that many women let go their career too early in anticipation of “settling down.” This is what Sandberg draws our attention to, that there are so many talented women who leave the workforce before she is actually supposed to, just because she plans, half-consciously, too well in advance. Typically, once an ambitious woman finds a partner she starts making plans to have a baby. And thereafter, before she knows it, she starts retreating from her professional sphere, in fear of neglecting her child who is far from actually being in the picture yet. This thinking process of hers itself deters her from exploring new possibilities, looking for opportunities at work or taking up challenges.
No matter how competent a performer she was, or how enthusiastic about her work, she is more than likely to fall behind. All of it, not because she has an added responsibility, but because she has planned for it too early on. While many women choose between a full-time job and being a mother, there are women, who simultaneously do justice to both the roles, believing it to be the right, and necessary choice of their lives. It is sad that some others slow down much before the circumstances actually change, and often ironically so, for they believe that they are readjusting to make room for everything, while in reality, they are pulling back. By the time they are back in the league, they find themselves in positions that are no longer rewarding in any way.
Becoming a parent is one of the most profound events in one’s life, be it a man or a woman. It goes without saying that it precedes many significant life-changes, that one voluntarily makes or has to make. In such a situation, why should a woman ruin her chances of being actively involved in the workforce, before life actually demands of her to prioritize? As Sandberg rightly puts it, “Keep your foot on the gas pedal until your life actually changes. Then you can make the decision to keep driving quickly, slow down, or step out of the car.”
Life is arbitrary, and tomorrow is always an unpredictable reality. Our plans and proposals can all be thwarted in a moment by life’s unforeseen moves, and opportunities knock at our doorstep only once. While it is advisable to be far-sighted, making decisions too early, trying to plan life too seriously, will only narrow down our choices, that too with inadequate information. For we can never have a glimpse of what the future holds for us, and before arriving there, we have no way of knowing that at that point how we shall feel or what choices we will make. Thus, it is better to take one step at a time and not make decisions before one has to. Women contemplating starting a family must keep this thumb rule in mind and not let go of a bright career before time.