Marriage and Motherhood need not put brakes in your career. This is the story of how I continued to work until the day before my daughter was born!
Back to 2002. Yes, I am still in the 2000’s and I have a lot more stories to tell, if you have the time to listen and read.
Way back in 2002, I was handling corporate salary accounts in one of India’s largest private sector banks. After the initial challenges, we were well on our way to becoming the Leaders in the corporate salary space.
However, we had not managed to make inroads into the public sector enterprises (PSE’s) and Government owned entities. Traditionally, they had banked with public sector banks (PSB’s) and the leading nationalised bank had a monopoly in this segment. We met with stiff resistance every time we approached them to open salary accounts as we were not one of their consortium bankers. Also, private sector banks were perceived to be “not as safe” as public sector banks which were majorly owned by the Government. "Aggressive, new kid on the block, modern, private shareholders, no guarantee that your money will be safe" were some of the reasons we were given when we approached them for salary accounts.
After much follow up and liaising with General Managers of 10 + divisions, we were given the mandate to start opening salary accounts in one of India’s largest PSU’s located in Bangalore, the IT capital of India. This was in February 2002, and I was all of 9 months pregnant.
The mandate gave us the opportunity to speak to the individual employees and convince them to open salary accounts with our bank. The ultimate decision rested with the employees despite the corporate mandate as the PSU would not influence salary account preferences.
We sent mailers showcasing our benefits (office banking/attractive loan rates/credit cards etc) in advance to build credibility and convince the employees to shift to our bank. We had done some research on their salary account requirements and found that most employees preferred banks which provided retail loans at attractive rates and credit cards.
My team arrived in the sprawling campus of the PSU in the city outskirts. We were led to a state-of-the- art auditorium with superb acoustics and told to make our pitch. I opened up my laptop on the stage and got ready for the presentation. This was around 11 am on 26th February 2002 - yes I do remember the exact date and you’ll see why as you go on reading! I expected 40-50 people to attend and thought we would be done in one round as the auditorium had a seating capacity of 300+. To my surprise, nearly 200 employees trooped in for the first presentation. They were obviously attracted by the quick and simple loan approvals and credit cards for preferred corporate employees.
We completed the presentation in about an hour and there was another round and another as word spread, and more employees began to troop in. I was making the presentations and was pleasantly surprised to see cups of almond milk and biscuits arriving for me. We had set up 2 desks for account opening just outside the auditorium. As soon as the presentation was done, my team started on the account opening formalities. This went on the whole day with breaks for lunch and tea. The HR Manager took great care to see that I was comfortable as it was obvious, I was due anytime. He insisted that I sit down and “deliver” the presentations after lunch as there were still many employees waiting to listen to the presentation. By the time I completed 4 rounds of my presentation, my team was deluged with requests to open accounts. We collected around 300 + forms that day and went on to open more than 5000 corporate salary accounts from this PSU, one of our biggest acquisitions that year.
By 6.30 pm, we decided to call it a day and continue later. I reached home at 7 pm and went to bed after a quick dinner. By early morning, I was feeling uncomfortable, and I knew the baby had decided it was time for her to “open her account” by arriving in my world.
My spouse drove me to the hospital around 7.30 am on 27th of February 2002. I reached and was provided with a private room to wait for the right time. My due date was 2 weeks ahead and hence I had not applied for leave, nor was anyone aware that I was in hospital. I called my Reporting Manager, the same strict, ex-army man I had mentioned in my earlier story. I told him I am calling from the hospital and I will be on leave from today as the baby is arriving any time now. He was flabbergasted that I seemed to be in a “no hurry no worry” frame of mind. He sternly told me “What are you doing on the phone? Keep the phone down and focus on your job (He meant the baby, of course).
She arrived at 3.37 pm, our tiny bundle of joy and happiness. She continues to delight, surprise, aggravate and teach me new lessons every single day – even after 20 years.
My rewards professionally- My promotion to Branch Manager.
Personally- My role as a mother, fulfilling, rewarding, enriching and humbling.
Marriage and Motherhood need not put brakes in your career. You can continue to work till the last day (provided you have no medical complications).
Pregnancy comes with its physical challenges, but most are not unsurmountable.
Lean on your eco system for support and you can make it through this phase- friends. Co workers, your Manager (My Reporting Manger and co-workers had my doctors/ spouse’s numbers and took great care of me)
Be practical about what you can do and cannot do. Don’t try to move mountains in one day. Take it one day at a time, have a positive attitude and listen to your doctor - not the neighbourhood aunty who makes you feel guilty about working or “putting your baby at risk".
Choose to be a mother when you are ready and listen to your body! Rest when you are tired, put your feet up in the office if you can - I did!
Have the courage to try. Don’t imagine the worst even before you start on the motherhood journey.
Don’t give up when it gets tough or because “people” around you tell you to give up your career.
Your career and life choices are your own. While I respect women who choose to be full time home makers, that choice is ours to make.
Don’t let your circumstances limit you or define you. Instead choose your own path-mother, professional, leader, it is possible to do if we only Believe We can.