Choosing between being a careerwoman or a housewife and mother

Housewife and motherhood or Career-womanNo matter what your qualifications and capabilities are, if you are a woman, the roadmap is more or less pre-defined for you. After marriage, you’d be expected to settle down. Which indirectly translates to – give up your career and take care of your husband and kids.

Ranjini Shankar takes us through her thought process as she made a difficult choice – to pursue her career aspirations after becoming a mother. And she had a rock solid supporter.

 


Why I chose to go to Business School after becoming a mother

by Ranjini Shankar

 
I married my husband at the age of 23. Before I met him I had toyed with the idea of quitting my job as a chemical engineer at Merck to pursue my MBA. I had wanted to move out of making process decisions and into making strategic decisions and going to business school seemed like the perfect way to do that.

But I fell in love. And I got married. I very nicely put away my thoughts of grad school and put it in the corner of my mind labeled ‘What ifs‘.

Luckily for me I married an amazing man. When I told him I planned on staying home to raise our kids he was supportive and told me I should do what was right for me. He then asked me what it was I really wanted to do and I told him how I had always wanted to be part of the decision makers in the pharmaceutical industry.

I wanted to be part of that team that decided who would have access to life saving medicines, how much the drugs should be priced in order for people who need it the most to have access to them, and most important of all, what drugs should be researched and developed.

After a few minutes of silence my husband asked, “Why is it again you’re not doing this?” I told him my list of how I wanted to raise a family right and how that was what a good woman was supposed to do.

I told him how my mom had been amazing and stayed at home. How she always had dinner ready and picked us up from school. How she had always been around to help us with homework and wake us up in the morning and how I thought it was my responsibility to provide that for my children. My husband looked at me and said something I will never forget.

He said, “If you raise our children while never following your dreams, then that is what our children will grow up remembering. If you want our children to follow their dreams, you have to lead by example.

It was like someone had dunked me in a tub of ice water. I realized that just because society has made it such that when women go after what they want it is considered selfish and harmful for the family it doesn’t mean that it is actually true.

My mom was an amazing stay-at-home mom because she wanted to be whereas on the other hand if I had decided to be a stay-at-home mom I would have been terrible and unhappy because I didn’t want to be at home. With that realization I applied for business school thinking that the hardest part of overcoming my own fears was over. I was in for a surprise.

While my immediate family supported me completely in this decision, as soon as anyone else found out I was going back to school to pursue an MBA I was met with a mixture of shock and disappointment.

I heard statements like “On your gravestone it won’t say that you were a powerful decision maker, it’ll say you were a good wife and mom. If you go through with this, then it won’t even say that either.”

Or horror stories like “Didn’t you hear about that woman who was an executive at some big company? Her son became a drug addict and dropped out of school. Do you want to end up like that?

While in theory I thought it would be easy to handle all of these outrageous opinions and advice it was incredibly difficult. It was difficult because it fed into my pre-existing doubts about myself and my decision to go after what I wanted.

A small part of me was convinced that they were right. Convinced that while in school and after I graduated my husband wouldn’t love me if I wasn’t home to make dinner every night.

Convinced that my son would hate me for hiring a nanny to take care of him and not making him snacks when he came back from school. I just kept repeating what my husband had said to me.

If I didn’t go after what I wanted then my children wouldn’t either and I didn’t want to let that happen.

When I got the news that I had gotten into University of Chicago’s Booth business school I was ecstatic but nothing compared to how happy my husband was.

Two days later my son was born so I took that as a sign that he approved too. With my new found confidence I was able to start pushing away all the whispers and focus on the future.

There will always be doubt as to whether I am doing the right thing or not, but I know that if I had made a different decision not only would there still be doubt but I would also have enormous regret.

I want my son to grow up and be proud that his mom followed her heart. I want him to know that it is OK to make a decision that is not fully supported if you think that it is right for you and for your family. And most importantly I want him to realize that whether a mom chooses to stay at home or go to work (or to school ) it will never change how much she loves her child.


Editor’s note: I bumped into Ranjini on Quora and found her story interesting. I asked her whether she’d be willing to share it with our readers and her modest answer was ‘I don’t think it’s impressive enough‘. And then I found a response that she had posted on the same site, which got 7500+ upvotes! Check it out here and upvote it: Who is the biggest supporter in your life

Btw, who’s the biggest supporter in your life? Give them a little tribute by sharing their story in the comments below.


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here’s more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

12 Comments

  1. Quora says:

    Who is your biggest supporter in life?

    My husband. When we got married I told him I wanted to be a stay at home mom when we had kids and he would have to plan his career accordingly. He smiled and said no problem. After working for a couple more years, I decided I didn’t want to be a stay…

  2. Nayana says:

    Hey Ranjini ,

    Your story is really inspiring. I can correlate to what you felt so way since I am also in the same boat :) .
    With 10 years of IT experience and 5 year old daughter, I am planning to venture into getting my MBA done which has always been my dream.

    All the best.

  3. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Nayana: Good luck with your MBA application journey. Do come back and share the results and your overall experience with other moms-who-want-to-apply-to-MBA-programs.

  4. Gaurav says:

    Hi Ranjini,

    Really inspired by you, more so by your Husband. What a great man he is! Always follow your heart, somehow it knows what is best for you!

  5. Gaurav says:

    First, pass my respect to the person with you. Secondly, to you, for your hard work.

  6. Sohail Khan says:

    I have read the messages of the inspired people have sent, I will present a different outlook – what is more important, following your dream or being able to select the right priority?
    The story about the child who became a drug addict maybe a bit extreme, but for sure, the psychology of a child CAN be negatively affected under the care of nannies and by not having the love and care of the mother all the time – I put can in capitals because there is only a chance – should a mother be willing to take that chance.

    • Vandana says:

      Sohail, there’s always a CHANCE that things go wrong. Not being a career woman does not guarantee your child’s happiness or well-being.
      I appreciate the point that you’re trying to make, but we take chances everyday when doing anything. There’s a chance that we might be hit by a bus while crossing the road, but that doesn’t mean we live our lives staying at home and never venturing out into the world.

      I think it is a little condescending to say “should a mother be willing to take that chance”. It’s an equal partnership, and it’s clear from the article that she has a supportive husband. Between them, I’m sure they’ll manage a well-balanced and happy life.

  7. Faiza says:

    Hey Ranjini, you are very lucky to have such a supportive life partner. In our society its a blessing to have such supportive husbands as its a male dominated society. People are mentally blocked and want only females to sacrifice their future at the cost of family. Also, I appreciate your multi tasking effort for managing at both personal and professional front at a time. Keeping a helper is easy but supervising and monitoring them is a task, people think that if a female hire a helper its done. Secondly, if kids grow they eventually understand and respect how their mothers managed both house and work in a proper ratio. I am highly inspired by your husband’s thought that pushed you to move ahead in fulfilling your dream.

  8. Deepak Singh says:

    This is inspiring. I really want to take an opportunity to salute the strong ladies who are mother, wife and great human being. Please keep moving on, we are there to support you always. You make us proud in all good work you do. No matter it succeeds or fails but we take pride in your efforts.

    Jai Jannani !!

  9. Hetal says:

    Hi Ranjini. Thanks for sharing us your story. I am actually in the process of making the decision whether or not i should pursue a career in MBA. I can relate myself to your situation. I have an equally supportive husband and yours and Archana’s article has boost my confidence.
    Thanks and All the best

  10. I Just Told The Truth says:

    Well there are many of us Good men out there that have been Ruined by a career woman already do to their Greed And Selfishness since these type of women will only want the Best of all and will Never settle for Less. Now with so many women making a Six Figure income nowadays it is all about them unfortunately since they really think that they’re all that but their Not.
    Very hard to find a real Good housewife these days since the old days when the Good old fashioned women were around when Most of them really did make a very Good wife at that time.

  11. sara says:

    My great husband supported me to do my postgraduation.I was off from home 24hrs train journey seeing my family once in 3/4months.My mother-in-law and my husband looked after my daughter for 3years till i got my MD.

    He is the one who encouraged me to progress and become a Senior Consultant.

    There are great people but finding/having them in your life is a gift.

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