Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Resignation Story

It’s been a while since I mentioned that I had resigned my job and joined the ranks of stay at home mothers (SAHMs). At the time, I had said I would write  a more detailed post on why I did it. Well, hold your breath – here it comes. Actually, don’t hold your breath – this is likely to be one of those long, rambling posts. There might even be bullet points, but if you’ve been coming around here a lot, you already know to expect those ;)

In the immortal words of Julie Andrews “Let’s start at the very beginning… a very good place to start”. The beginnings of this decisions do not, as you might expect, lie in the birth of Tarana but go back to the time when Ayaan was a wee babe a few odd months old and I was faced with the prospect of going back to work. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. But the fuzzy cloud of expectations of family and friends hanging over my head and the markedly less fuzzy spectre of a massive home loan hanging over our bank accounts ensured that I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. So I whined and wept, but pulled up my socks and went back to work.

After the initial teething issues, I settled into work well. It helped that I had an amazingly understanding boss, a job that I liked and some great colleagues. I never really looked back and questioned my decision and while I did regular attacks of working mother guilt, I was largely comfortable and content with my choice.

Four years zoomed by. I did well at work and was due for a promotion to middle management when I found out that I was pregnant. Giving higher responsibility to a woman who was pregnant and would be disappearing for six months soon was obviously not something I could expect from the organisation so I tabled my expectation that I should promoted post maternity leave and left it that.

Tarana was born and before I knew it, six months of maternity leave had gone by in a flash of diaper changes (Tarana's), attention-seeking behaviour (Ayaan’s) and sleep deprivation (mine). And before I knew it, it was decision time again. This time, the loan was almost paid off and I cared a lot less about what other people would think about my decision to stay at home or go back to work, as the case might be. This time, the battle was purely internal. On the one side, there was an opportunity to bury that infernal guilt monster, at least temporarily. On the other hand, there were my career aspirations. The promotion, if it came through, would be a level jump from a junior manager to a boss, with a ‘director’ designation. If I turned it down and took a break, I would have to put in a few more years of slog at the junior level to get back to where I was.

I decided to be coldly rational about it. I knew that the regret from turning down the promotion would haunt me so I decided I wouldn’t. But I would only go back if it came through with immediate effect and the role was something that excited me. It would still be hard to leave the kids and go back to work, but I knew I could make it work. I had already done it once and while my opinion might be biased, I know deep in my heart that my working for four years of Ayaan’s life did him absolutely no harm.

If the promotion didn’t come through, then I really didn’t have that much to lose professionally by taking a break. Either way, I would have to put in months or years at my existing level when I did go back to work.

In a way, I copped out. The seemingly simple decision was too hard – the kids or my career? So I decided to leave it up to fate. If I was destined to go back to work, the promotion would happen and I would rejoin the workforce. If not, it was the universe’s way of telling me that staying home, at least for a while, was the right thing for the kids and me.

So anyway, that was my thinking as my maternity leave drew to close. I got back in touch with the people in my company who were supposed to help me figure out what I was supposed to do next. In my first meeting with the HR manager responsible for my move, I was told that there were a couple of interviews coming up for jobs at the higher level. (In the organisation I worked for, there is a system of shortlists and interviews even for internal candidates). Both did not pan out – the HR department, in all their wisdom, forgot to send in my application for one of the positions and while my interview for the other job went reasonably well, the hiring manager was looking for someone with a somewhat different experience profile.

I was then offered a choice. I could either continue to be on leave till other positions became available or I could return to work at my current level and move up when the next opportunity presented itself (subject to, in both cases, clearing the interview). I was counselled that choosing to extend my maternity leave would reduce my chances of landing a promotion, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and all that. Since I was clear on my decision matrix (no promotion = no going back), I decided to continue staying at home.

Over the next couple of months, I applied for and attended another couple of interviews but again, they seemed to be looking for someone with a different set of skills and exposure and I wondered why I was shortlisted in the first place. I got the feeling that the whole process was a mere formality. I also started to get really irked by the way HR was treating me - almost as if they were doing me a favour by even returning my calls, when all I was doing was asking for my due.

Finally, I decided I didn’t want to go through the whole charade any more and told them that I wanted to resign. It wasn’t an idle threat just to make them sit up and notice but they did. And within a couple of weeks, a job materialised with the promise of a guaranteed promotion within 3-6 months. I turned it down and resigned anyway.

It was not an easy decision. I worked for this same company since I passed out of business school over a decade ago. I enjoyed most of my time here, and the ups were way higher and far more numerous than the downs. I also had the good luck to find some great colleagues and bosses, many of who are and, I hope, will continue to be friends. But I decided to leave for a bunch of reasons, which I shall get into now. (Enter bullet points – numbered ones, no less!)
  1. Often it takes just one person to destroy years of trust and loyalty that you feel towards your employer. In this case, it was the HR person who single-handedly managed to do so and I was left feeling undervalued and ignored. 
  2. The whole process took six months – six long months filled with uncertainty, bitterness and even moments of self-doubt. Again, this didn’t leave me with a very positive feeling about returning. 
  3.  What they finally offered me was too little, too late. They still expected me to wait around for 3-6 months before getting the official promotion. Maybe if they had offered me this at the outset, I might have considered it. But after 6 months of being put through the emotional wringer, I was in no mood to compromise. 
  4. While this was going on, Tarana’s w-sitting problem came to the fore and we started physiotherapy for her. If I had already been back at work, we would have found a way to make it work – between Jai, me and the maid, we would have ensured that she made it to all her sessions. But since I was on a break already, this was another very strong reason for continuing to be on one. 
  5. Now for the biggie. (ALERT: More big news in the offing). As I was still figuring out my choices, Jai was approached for a job that greatly excited him. The twist: it was in Hyderabad. Since I was veering towards quitting in any case, we decided he should interview and see where the whole thing went. Eventually, they made him a really attractive offer at the same time that I was offered the job with the delayed but guaranteed promotion. With everything else, it just was the final nail in the coffin of any plans to get back to work. So, yes! WE ARE MOVING TO HYDERABAD!
  6. The last reason is what I like to refer to as my need to scratch my SAHM itch. Through the post-Ayaan years of a full-time career, I had the guilt monster sitting on my shoulder. I looked at moms who had stayed home and felt a mixture of curiosity and envy. It was my ‘grass on the other side of the fence’ and it looked temptingly green. If for nothing else, a break will allow to me experience both options and hopefully find a greater degree of peace with whatever I finally choose to do.
So that, in a very large nutshell, is it. I don’t know what lies ahead for me career-wise. I am hoping I will figure it as I go along and that I won’t live to regret the choices I have made.

46 comments:

  1. It was an articulate post.. and the thought process made sense.... kudos... yippie yeah.. and now please share the greener pastures with us :-)

    Congrats on the move.. and good luck to all four of you for the move, the packing, the settling, the good byes and the new city!

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  2. Excellent post! First timer here. You did what works for you and all the very best!

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  3. Official congrats for the move!

    Hyd is AWESOME. I may be biased and all that but still :)

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  4. Anonymous12:32 am

    Rohini,

    It is a good decision. What I've learnt from my corporate experience is that unless there is some sort of flight risk with a candidate, people dont take it seriously. Being assertive and following up are much needed. And of course if pregnancy/kids come into the picture, there is always an assumption that the woman will not be serious about her job anymore. Often times it is subtle, but yes, discrimination on these fronts sadly exists. I'll post a bit more in my next comment. I have a ton to say :)
    -Kutty's mom

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  5. Anonymous12:44 am

    My story -
    I was this totally career minded person until I became a mom. I had a good job and was doing well in it, mostly because I was so driven. Kid #1 came along and I went through the same thing that you did with Ayaan. I went back to work though, with a flex-time option. Worked out reasonably well in terms of how I got a good chunk of the day with my baby, and I accepted the career growth implications (fair to expect slower growth since peers were working much more). After kid #2, I quit.
    So, for my 1st pregnancy, I slogged. I was healthy for most part, and so it wasnt that hard. I took care of myself of course, but my deliverables were strong. Come review time, i didnt get what I expected. (they raved about my work in words, but the rating wasnt the best).. go figure :)
    Come 2nd pregnancy, I was wiser. I didnt push myself and also it was much tougher since I also had my 1st kid to attend to. Review time, I got an avg rating and I accepted it graciously becuase I knew it's what I deserved.
    Anyway, I've figured the 1st couple of years are super-hard (I dont have house help or family close by), so why add to the stress by worrying about career too? I felt like I was stretching myself all the time, going nuts in office trying to get work done in fewer hours so that I could get home early. Also, I had to turn down good opps/projects because of the time demands and learning curve that I couldnt have managed given my personal situation (2 young kids). And then the guilt of kid in daycare. So anyway, I have been home for almost a year now and have no regrets. It is less stressful and much more fulfilling. Havign worked before, you wont face the 'grass is greener syndrome' because you know the downs of working outside. And yes, you'll always have the confidence to get back... the working woman world is familiar to us, so there's ont going to be like a huge adjustment.
    One more thing, no decision is like irreversible or set in stone. That's how I took it when I quit.

    Take your time and enjoy. Best wishes!
    -Kutty's mom

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  6. Loved this post! You have put it beautifully. I have lived in hyderabad for more than 6 years and moved out to Bangalore only a few months ago. Still if you need any help, do let me know.

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  7. I went back to "work" work when the bubturned 40 days, it was my band-aid moment, dont look back, just run towards the building, it was two evenings a week but you know what I mean.. by the time he was 6 months I was itching to stay at home and I didnt take up the additional classes that I was supposed to, by the time he was 8 months old I took an extended break and took off on the amazing adventure you all know. We are now easing towards our own version of "settled" and "thoda stability" but I dont want to be the old Aneela any more and am trying to discover What Next.
    Hyderabad from the one week I spent there is a beautiful city and I wish you luck and a lot of love. May your new adventures treat you well.

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  8. Just take it as it comes, babe, better things may be waiting for you, whether with family or with career. I think most moms these days get to keep shuffling their roles according to their needs and their family's needs...and it's a good thing. all the best with the move. And with all your plans, just as long as you keep trying, the best will always come to you :) Hugs!

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  9. It was very interesting to read your post, as I have been thinking what I would be doing post the baby arrives. I am expecting in May, and I am presently thinking of getting back to work by Jan 2012. I do not know how things will pan out... or maybe I would need to work from home and office... work out a 3 day office schedule. Everything is hazy now.. but on reading your post, one thing that I felt was I need to do what I am comfortable with, irrespective of what people think is right and what the situation at that time demands.

    Most of my relatives have been just asking me to quit altogether, but knowing me I know I would just feel dejected and wasted in the process. I want it to be my decision, which I think will make things better for me.

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  10. [Garima] Thanks. As for the greener pastures, I am still conflicted about where they really lie :)

    [Mahes] Thanks :)

    [Chox] Maybe I'll finally get to meet you now!

    [Kutty's Mom] Thanks for sharing your experience. Yeah, most big organisations have these party lines about gender diversity but the reality is often quite different.

    [Poornima] Thanks! Will be in touch if I need any help...

    [Aneela] Ditto. Having taken the break, I am not sure I can go back to being old Rohini either. Thanks for the wishes and maybe the new adventures will include another trio to Hyderabad so I can meet you? One can hope... :)

    [Starry] Thanks, i needed to hear that :)

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  11. [Aathira] Wow! Congrats! My experience from my two pregnancies has been to not over-plan from before. You never know how you will feel. I know women who were itching to get back at Month 3 and others who cannot fathom going back to work at Year 3! So take it as it comes...

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  12. Yay! Well written post. I am sure you will find something to keep your both worlds balanced:)

    Welcome here :)

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  13. I think its a very sane decision. Yes your point about a single person destroying years of trust is very true. I had also quit earlier because of the same reason and a break from work always gives the peace that is required to take the right decision. :)

    How is Tarana and how is her W-sitting. My sister's daughter also had this problem and she is fine now.

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  14. hi Rohini.. such a pleasure reading your well-articulated blog as always :) I was in a different position and could just about afford to give up my job when my 1st one arrived, but I can relate to the feeling bypassed and undervalued bit - once you're missing for a few months it's like you were never there :(.

    Kindle update - I ordered one atlast. Just wanted to let you know that you can possibly bypass the $2 charge by choosing "Transfer to computer" and moving to Kindle later. Haven't tried it, this is what i read, will confirm once I have done it. Bit of a waste if you have Kindle 3G but atleast hopefully you can get the free books really for free!

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  15. You listen to me. You will LOVE Hyderabad and you will LOVE your SAHM days. Your time at home though is numbered, so you make the most of it before you find yourself going back to work which I just know you will. Not all companies make the same mistake your old one did.

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  16. Good for you! You did what felt right for you at the time. Who says you cannot go back to work later? I think life has many phases and cravings for working or staying at home come and go with time. Luckily we have the choice to do these things unlike most men in the Indian society for whom the choice doesn't even exist.

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  17. Hey! I admire you for the decision you have taken and more than that for how rationally you have taken it - thinking more with your head than with emotions (something I am completely incapable of doing). Every time I consider the decision of wanting to try my hand at being an SAHM (and I consider this every 3 months!) I feel my decision making progress gets completely clouded with unnecessary and unwanted emotions! So kudos to you. Hope you enjoy this phase....and am certain you are not going to regret it...you can always re-join the workforce if and when you get fed-up.

    And wow Hyderabad eh? When? when?

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  18. Sometimes it's great to have the luxury to give in to an 'itch'. So congrats.. may the SAH itch work well for you. Cheers to Hyderabad.

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  19. Very well reasoned out though don't blame my brethren in HR, we guys are mostly blamed for all wrongs. Also enjoy in Hyderabad, I feel its better to move cities after sometime; that too you are moving to a growing city

    Rohini I also wanted your honest take on working wives. As someone looking for a life partner now I would prefer a working wife for reasons - more income, time occupation, exposure to world, btter personality etc but time and again I have seen this reluctance in women to work. In some cases it is justified or maybe compulsion like in yours; but after sometime why most women would want to relax inspite of having supportive husband baffles me? Maybe you can shed some light here having been a succesful mother, careerwoman and blogger!!

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  20. Anonymous10:28 pm

    Sounds like a well thought out decision - Good luck with the move and the new city!

    M

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  21. You will love being a SAHM and you will get back to work when you have satisfied the SAHM itch and a pox on the HR manager and may he/she never see a promotion in her/his life.

    Of course, I'm not even mentioning how heartbroken I am that you're going to Hyderabad.

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  22. First things first - Congratulations on your move to Hyderabad.. It is a lovely city and very close to my heart! I hope you have as great a time there.

    Now, the post was as well-written as could be expected only from you :) Though I do not have an ability to write such posts, I do have a similar decision making process, hinge my decision on a few parameters and stick to it! So was nodding along.. I have been a SAHM, it is as gratifying as working if not more. Wish u ATB.

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  23. As Shakespeare said, "There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will".

    With your clarity of thought it is highly unlikely that you will ever regret a decision you make. May the gods conspire to make all your choices the right ones:)
    All the best for this new adventure in your lives.

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  24. hey there all the best for the SAHM phase. as always we know u will do well inw hatever u choose to do!

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  25. You sound excited and happy about the move and choosing to be SAHM - Congrats on that!

    I went through a very similar phase (undervalued...etc. which makes me feel - no matter how good you are, they still doubt a 'mother' to give her best at work) after Pattu and eventually took a break - I don't regret my decision one bit. Enjoy your days as SAHM! And I've heard there are many things to explore at Hyderabad...

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  26. All the best Ro. Am sure you will love Hyderabad

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  27. Anonymous5:57 pm

    Welcome to Hyd. Been through 'climbing up the ladder, hit by the glass-ceiling and finally quit'. i now spend time with my two darlings. Its been over a year and no regrets yet!

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  28. Hi,

    I have been a silent /On/off reader and just got back to reading blogs again. I am not here to say what is wrong and what is right. Hope you are happy with the decision you took. Hyderabad is lovely place and I met my husband in Hyderabad couple of times before our marriage and he took me around the place. It’s a lovely city and I liked it a lot though I am from Chennai
    Good Luck with everything and just to let u know i just found out that I am pregnant and I am going back to ur archives to get some hints :)
    All the best once again
    Divya

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  29. Congratulations Ro! This all seems so pre-ordained, I wouldn't have any misgivings if I were you. Congrats to jai too....this will be exciting getting to know what I assume is a new city for you all, find new friends and a new life. And if work happens for you, that's great too. When I was in my 20s, every year that went by I groaned and measured my "progress"...my 30s I feel so much more balanced and every decision doesn't seem like make or break. If life isn't about trying different things, some unplanned...then what's the fun. Good luck!

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  30. Good post written with such clarity! All the best to you on your move.

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  31. Preeti6:39 pm

    Hi Ro!
    OMG - moving to Hyd!! Though I've never been there, have heard that it's a wonderful place to live and there are some really good schools there, so you all should have a great time there. Food is pretty awesome too! All the very best for everything to come. Hope to run into you before the move happens:)

    As always, your post was very well articulated (bullet points et al:)) And I like the new look and the new tag line as well.

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  32. [AA_Mom] Thanks. Hope to bump into you once we get there :)

    [Kowsalya] Tarana’s w-sitting is improving slowly but steadily.

    [Aparna] My Kindle is not the 3G version, just the wi-fi one. Let me try what you suggested.

    [Sue] Thus spake the Sue!

    [Divs] Currently, I am looking at my life in 3-month buckets. The future seems too distant and fuzzy :)

    [Lawyeramma] Jai already spends weekdays there. We will move between April and May. All the best with decision!

    [Obsessivemom/ M/ Artnavy/ HGM] Thanks :)

    [Pesto Sauce] The HR brethren were just one of six reasons :) I am surprised at your experience. All the working women I know either continued to work after marriage and babies or were conflicted about putting aside their careers. I’m obviously missing a trick – why would these women have studied and worked hard for years to build a career if all they plan to do is to chuck it the moment they meet Mr. Right??

    [Kiran] Thus spake the Kiran! :)

    [Violet] I am not sure about being SAHM more gratifying. It’s been a mixed bag so far. Will post on this some time.

    [Dipali] Thanks for the cote of confidence :)

    [Itchy] Awwww…. Thanks.

    [Uma] While I was there as a working mom, I never felt that they doubted my abilities or work. I think the bigger problem was not being physically present and in their face.
    [Anon] As of now, no regrets either. Let’s see what life brings.

    [Divya] Welcome back and congratulations!

    [GOTB] Doesn’t it? So many things coming together – the promotion not working out, Tarana’s physio, Jai’s Hyderabad job offer – all the in the space of a few months! I am not a great believer in destiny but this is making me rethink :)

    [Preeti] The schools are pretty cool. We are very happy with the one Ayaan will be going to. Hope to bump into you before we leave :)

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  33. I know I am late...but I think super decision and congrats on the move to hyd...Its weird that your HR manager turned out to be such an idiot that too..to someone who has been in the company for SO LONG! How insensitive...I somehow still feel that being a woman has its disadvantages...if it were a guy on a 6 month break and back would he have been treated the same way?

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  34. dude, if i said it once, i said it a 100 times - you will love Hyd as well as being a SAHM. Anyway the world is topsy turvy now, what with you home and me working. next thing i know we'll have winter in May.

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  35. This is a lovely post. I have always wondered what leads most women to quit post baby, esp after having put in years of effort in building a career. Was nice to read about the way you made your choices - it sounded like there were some choices indeed!

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  36. Ro: I envy you your clarity of thought! I have been sitting on both sides of the fence and have made some pretty unusual career choices but one thing that has always plagued me is self-doubt....if you have gotten over that, the battle is already half won, believe me!! And enjoy the new city and the kids!! Congrats!

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  37. this post sums up very nicely why working women quit after child birth.What was really good about this is that Jai got a good offer same time you were deciding to quit.So financials can be taken care..

    Enjoy your stay in Hydrabad..went there for a week ..lots of options there for roaming arouns

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  38. You will do great whatever you choose to do. One thing I have always admired about you is how methodical and motivated you are. Am feeling excited on your behalf and looking forward to reading lots of posts about Hyderabad.

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  39. Mint Chutney4:51 am

    Great post Congrats on your decision and your impending move!

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  40. Hi,Rohini
    I have been an on off reader of your blog. First thing congrats on your decision......It is the most difficult thing. Post Kid 2 (2.5yrs now).... i'm still in self doubt. Even though work is not deadline prone...the thought of neglecting the boys always makes me restless. I wish i cld jus boldly take the decision and stay at home. ...

    After all these experience .....i feel the uncertainty of career after a break pushes us to sit on the fence. I wish we as women cld come up with opportunities exclusively for careeer mums after a "maternity/baby-break"!!!!

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  41. [R's Mom] Agree. No matter what the party line is, it is a rare organisation that genuinely offers equal opportunities.

    [MM] In hot Hyderabad, a May winter may be quite welcome so let's keep this up :)

    [Anita] Thanks. Not choices so much as a lot of serendipity really in my case. If things had turned out differently, I would have quite likely been writing this while pretending to work in my office ;)

    [BM] No way. Self-doubt is a constant companion. I don't know many moms who are 100% with their choice.

    [Vandana] Thanks. We are particularly eyeing the direct flight to Port Blair :)

    [U] Thanks for the compliment *blushes*

    [Mint] Hi, stranger!

    [Susan] Check this out http://www.fleximoms.in/

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  42. I can imagine this has been a hard decision for you - the tug of war between the career you've worked on so hard and for so long and the pull of your babies. But it sounds like life is pulling you in the SAHM direction for now at least, so enjoy and take it easy for as long as you want. There will always be organisations and jobs that will want your talent whenever you want to get back - I speak from experience :)

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  43. Hey Ro! that post crammed a lot of things into it. I'm sorry about the job, I know you liked it and having good colleagues makes office a welcome place....
    but having said that, I'm so envious of you being able to scratch your itch!!! Happy scratching, Momma!:-)
    And good luck on the move to and settling down in Hyderabad. errr.... its so much closer to Blr, you know... ;-)
    and- I miss the old look, but am sure will love the new look in time. It has a carefree air to it...

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  44. Great post Ro ... caught up on a lot of things going on with u! You did the absolute right thing in my opinion ... both ur kids are at such a fun age, u'll relish the moments u spend with them, the move, settling them down will take up ur time and effort and the newness will keep u excited. How are u feeling abt it all?

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  45. [BEV] That's what I keep telling myself. That it won't be that hard to go back when I want to.

    [JLT] Thanks. And the look is a standard blogger template...

    [Neera]One word. Terrified. :D

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