By Sarah B Khan
‘So, what did you do for the 1.5 year in between?’ I must say, this statement made my heart race faster than my morning jog. It made me feel like blubbering fool as I tried to ‘corporatize’ my time as a stay-at-home mum (SAHM). There’s apparently even a term for it; the ‘mummy gap’.
So now here I am, at a job interview ready to get back to work, when I am asked the dreaded question about what exactly I was up to during those 1.5 years. There seems to be a perception that when women take some time off to be mothers, they also willfully sell off their brain cells, one feed at time.
To give you some context, I have been working since the first year of college. And I was working up until the time that my daughter decided to shake things up and enter our lives. I burrowed myself deep into motherhood, the telling of stories, the pureed food, the elaborate playdates, the sleepless nights and the constant fascination with how amazing this little kid is. However, at the back of my mind, I had a niggling doubt that I was losing a little bit of myself every single day.
Then came along my son, and our cycle, even though similar in it’s demands, became slightly more chaotic. Let’s just say, I was having a great, exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, exciting yet sometimes boring, time. I just knew it was time to return to work. So, when I showed up for this interview, this question threw me off. Did I really lose those months, or did I in fact, gain an additional set of skills?
Patience: There is very few things or people that test you as much as your kids. Whether it’s spending half your day waiting for them to put their shoes on, or finish their meal, they have a way of pushing all your buttons. Well, it helped. I used to be a jitterbug, always rushing because I didn’t want to waste time. Now, I’m open to long debates and questions because well, I get a lot of them at home.
Time management: Remember the days when it was all about you? When you languidly made it through the day, doing as you pleased. Those days are long gone. Say hello to the schedule and routine. Without that, kids are just a hot mess. I spent so much time putting my kids on a schedule, my own free spirit somehow caught on as well. Now, I’m the master of time management. I can get them to classes, dressed for a party and in bed, without blinking an eye and losing any time. So imagine how much that helps while working? You’re suddenly not drowning in deadlines and not having panic-attacks when someone requests a 3000 word document by end of day. You’ve got this.
Multi-tasking: Ok I was always good at this. But now, I can order groceries, change a diaper, put baby-shark on the TV and velcro my other kid’s shoes at the same time. Which means, I can use this trait to better manage my work as well.
Perspective: When a kid get’s sick, even with a minor flu, a lot of stuff falls into perspective. All the stuff you’re worrying about seems less daunting. You stress less about the house being too messy, not fitting into your old clothes and not reading enough. You focus on the big stuff. And it carries forward into work also. You pick and choose your battles at work. You realize if you fail, it isn’t the end of the world – you will do better the next time. If you’ve got too much work, you take a breath and plow through because at least the important stuff is in place.
Appreciation: Time away from work leads to a greater appreciation of it. You realize how privileged you are to be able to work towards something you love.
Conflict management: Two kids, barely 2 years apart. Need I say more?
I’m sure there’s more to this list, and I’m sure I’ll revisit it at some point. So whether you’re a SAHM or working mom, you’re constantly learning on the job. So, if you’re returning to work and someone asks you the question, just refer to this list. And no matter how daunting it seems, because sometimes it inevitably does, just remember, you’ve got this.