Tag Archives: stay-at-home

Do you stop developing if you decide to stay at home?

This is a comment I heard way too many times. “I cannot imagine that I would stay at home! That will be a total degradation!”; “A woman has to get a job otherwise she will become stupid and not interesting”, and many others with different words but the same basic message. Arh! To note I am not talking about situations when a woman has to work to provide for the family, I am only talking about cases when a husband actually earns enough to ensure a decent living of his family.

I hate labeling. You can have a salaried job and have no personal development whatsoever. You can have no job and have an amazing personal development. If you are lucky you can have both. Whatever your choice, don’t think it’s the only right one. If somebody chose not to go to work everyday it by no means automatically signifies that this person is not interesting or will face “degradation”. Personal development is only a matter of a personal choice. And a job as such doesn’t mean that you will stay or become interesting. Let’s face it: a lot of people go to work, have their morning coffee, gossip with colleagues, do some stuff, go to have lunch, procrastinate in social networks, do some repetitive stuff again and count down until they can go home; and that’s what they do day in and day out every single working day. The funny thing is that one of the classic representatives of the above example actually did comment on “no job means no development!” – oh, seriously?!

I did have a salaried job, I did freelance, I am thinking about my own business, when kids grow up a bit, but at this particular point in time I am a stay-at-home mother by choice. As I already said in some previous posts just that already hones a whole bunch of skills. Yet, at all times in my life, whatever I was doing to earn the living, I also had  and still do have quite some hobbies.

  • I love reading and I am usually even reading several books at the same time – just finished Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury and am almost done with Walden and Civil Disobedience by Thoreau. After I discovered Kindle my reading hours increased even more, as it makes reading in all circumstances so extremely convenient – Kindle Paperwhite has an in-built light, so you can read in the dark; you conveniently hold it in one hand and don’t need your second hand to turn pages; it has an effect of a paper, so no reflection, allowing you to read in a bright sun; not even talking about being able to have a lot of books without the need to carry around a lot of weight. And it’s not only fiction that I read, but also quite some non-fiction, mostly business books or articles on raising bilingual kids.
  • As regards cooking – it is not only a mere necessity, but also an additional hobby of mine. Frequently it is inspired by Foodpairing (c) and sometimes – by a molecular cuisine. I love experimenting, I love surprising. Cooking allows for that.
  • I did quite some online courses – e.g. Child Nutrition and Cooking by Stanford; Open Permaculture School by Regenerative Leadership Institute; Cognitive Psychology, as well as Crisis Intervention: theory and practice, as well as some others by WEU; Introduction to Psychology by MIT, just to name a few.
  • A week ago I have already planted tomato seeds inside for the subsequent replanting into my square foot garden – yet another hobby of mine.
  • I do cross-stitch embroidery .
  • When an inspiration comes I write poems which couple of years ago I assembled into a book published by Lulu. I write in Russian but for the book I provided translations into English, mostly for my husband to be able to understand them.
  • Recently I started calligraphy;
  • Also recently I finally got to sewing resulting in a nice set of clothes for my daughter and son.
  • I learned to play golf and when the weather outside allows for it, my daughter is in her “school” or willing to join and my son is peacefully asleep in his buggy, I am pitching in the garden with my Tailor Made or hitting some perforated balls with Big Bertha. Also, we do escape to the field with my husband from time to time.
  • I am intensively learning Dutch to get it to the fluency level. Next will be Spanish, where I have some basics, and Italian which I just love.

The bottom-line is – and I repeat it once again – everything is a matter of your choice and your priorities. If you want to keep on developing you will find a way, if not – you will find an excuse.

As a Postscriptum – no, I don’t have a nanny and never did. It is possible to cook together with even a very small kid and in that way develop the motor skills and the speech, if you talk at the same time of course; it is possible to do calligraphy together, when you little one is scribbling something on another piece of paper; it is possible to sew and make a toddler cut the threads; it is possible to pitch and allow the happy toddler bring the balls;… But I will talk about all this in one of the subsequent posts on how to include a kid in your life.

Solutions, no excuses!

Why is a “stay-at-home mother” a profession?

Just a stay-at-home mother does not exist! It cannot be be “just” when you have to balance in between so many different professions and change so many hats throughout a day. Let’s have just a quick peak at a non-exhaustive list:

  • a caregiver;
  • a teacher. Even if your kids go to the kindergarden there are still a whole bunch of things that you need to teach them;
  • a cleaning lady. And yes, you can just sometimes take out that vacuum cleaner and dust off some shelves, or you can approach the whole cleaning up differently and follow, for example, a”fly lady” concept. I am not talking about hiring a cleaning lady, that’s also possible, but then that requires you to hire, delegate and supervise, which also is a set of professional skills;
  • a laundress. Same as with a cleaning lady;
  • a psychologist;
  • a stylist. And for your own kids, while they still allow, and for your husband (LOL);
  • an interior decorator;
  • a stock manager. It’s up to you to fill up the pantry after all – in time and on budget;
  • a chef. And once again – yes, you can just heat up ready-made meals or order pizza, or make one and the same dish over and over again, but you can also become a real master in the kitchen. It is a skill and it is an art!
  • an animator;
  • an arbitrator;
  • an emergency situations’ manager which is so-to-say a first-aid specialist plus. Anything can happen and usually does happen: from a torn favorite sweater to a broken tap in the kitchen, cut finger, drawings on the official documents,… You have to be able to keep calm and figure out a solution. On the spot.
  • a family life manager. You have to learn to divide tasks, to delegate, to supervise, to search and hire help if you need it. You need to be a strategist and a planner, and a supervisor,… Well, basically you need to be at least a CEO (!).

The above list as I have already mentioned is in no way exhaustive. Of course, everything is a matter of choice. But that is the same everywhere else, in all other professions. You can be an ordinary sales manager or an ordinary nurse, or you can choose to excel. This is the same with being a stay-at-home mother – you can be ordinary or you can bring this profession – and damn it! it is a profession! – to the highest level.

“Why did you even bother to do an MBA?”

I am writing this post for a couple of reasons.

The first one is probably just to reassure myself once again that I am not actually downshifting, but on the contrary – I am applying everything that I have ever learned, I am progressing and moving forward not only in personal growth but also in terms of professional development.

The second one is even more emotional. There is a thing that was really bothering me – the phrase that I heard from somebody – “if you decided to be a stay-at-home mother in the end, why did you even bother to do an MBA?” And here I come to the second reason for writing this post – an external affirmation. Even though I claim that I do not care that much what other people say about me, even though I do insist that I have accepted my new identity (maybe… yeah, ok, still in the process), the lack of an external affirmation cannot be denied. But that is so not fair!

Being a stay-at-home mother in itself requires me to use all the skills and knowledge that I obtained both in my working life and in all my studies. Mediation? Try resolving a conflict over who get this or that toy! Negotiation skills? Try persuading the toddler to eat her soup! Operations management? Household! Corporate finance? Well, family finances in general, as well as investments and expenses are so far still pretty much on track with us. I will get back to MBA and its applicability to my life as a stay-at-home mother in more detail later on.

Yes, one can clean the house and buy groceries and pick up kids from school without having studied at one of the back then best European business schools. Yes, it is possible. Likewise, being a manager and even being a consultant is possible without an MBA. What I have learned in my professional career was that a lot of things are just a matter of common sense and a bit of an outside view on the problem. If you are smart, creative and able to learn you are able to reinvent the wheel yourself.

Here! Reason number one: you get an MBA and learn all those things like “lean operations”, “marketing mix”, “strategy execution”, “BATNA” and so on to be able to just do whatever you do without reinventing the wheel. In that way you just become more efficient. Also as a stay-at-home mother!

Reason number two: it was actually during my year-off to study an MBA that I actually took a first moment to think about myself, my values, my priorities. Maybe back then, during that year I still did not decide what I want, but I for sure did decide what I do not want. I now, more than ever before, have a choice.

As a final note, Tim Ferris had a great phrase in his book on 4-hour workweek: “It’s not giving up to put your current path on the indefinite pause“. It is not if you did an MBA that you now have to go and kill yourself working for a large consultancy firm (unless that’s what you really want); and if you decided to stop whatever you are doing and change a course, it is your choice. Your life. You don’t owe anything to anybody in this respect. And if you really truly want to go back, you will. And that will also be your and only your choice.

(Re-)discovering myself

 

I used to be a successful career girl: a lawyer, patent and trademark attorney, as well as strategy consultant and mediator in cross-border civil and commercial disputes. I hold an International MBA degree and I did two years of doctorate in business.

At this moment, I am a happy stay-at-home mother.

I was born and raised in Latvia, yet I am ethnically Russian and culturally homeless. Six years ago my MBA studies brought me to Belgium, where I also met my future husband and settled down. We now have two amazing little kids whom we are raising bilingual: Russian and Dutch. However, they are exposed also to English language, as this is the language I speak with my husband.

I ended up as a stay-at-home mother partly by chance, partly by choice. After the graduation from an MBA I started with PhD in Business for two years attending the Doctoral School in Social and Behavioral sciences and in parallel working as a researcher in a business school. My focus was on risk management in non-financial companies. However, the academic world turned out to be not my cup of tea, as the reality is so much more stimulating than a statistical report with numerous reservations. Also the cooperation with my supervisor was far from being smooth. I now understand why all the three PhD candidates who started with her at different times, quit shortly. It got worse after I said that I want to take not only the 3 months maternity leave, but also the additional 4 months parental leave after my kid is born. I was told that I obviously lack the motivation required for doing the PhD (which was probably true). So I got fired when I was 7 month pregnant with my daughter and in the hindsight that was the blessing which spared me quite some nerves and left me with some extra cash.

After that I freelanced doing mediation and consultancy work in strategy and intellectual property matters; I lectured in risk management; I worked as an international coordinator for one of the mediation associations, assisting them in their internationalization efforts. And then…

Then, I lost my third child when I was 12 weeks pregnant… And it dawned on me. What a hell am I doing? I have changed but I am still pretending to be someone who I am no longer.

What I really want now is to be there for my kids, write, learn, golf, bake,… open a coffee house in the future, one day have my own vineyard and maybe see to apply my mediation skills to a different level (I will come back to that in detail in due time). So I have finally collected myself together, identified my new priorities and goals, and took full control of my new life. And I intend to make the best out of it!

cropped-image1.jpegThank you for reading this and I would be glad to meet you: be it in the virtual space of this blog or over a cup of coffee some day.

Feel free to contact me directly by e-mail: familylifeceo@gmail.com or via social networks: LinkedInInstagramTwitter

An identity crisis of a stay-at-home MBA

It was an obvious choice and a well-thought through decision. Nevertheless, that does not mean that even inside myself I immediately understood the consequences and the change that this choice will trigger.

Yesterday I was an ambitious rising-star in the intellectual property law domain, the youngest patent and trademark attorney in my country (and let me boldly assume that also in Europe and perhaps even in the world; I made it when I was 23 years for God’s sake!), fresh MBA graduate at 25 and even an aspiring PhD candidate.

Yesterday I knew how to make fried eggs… Well, most of the time. Except all those times when the eggs burnt down sometimes even together with the frying pan, but those are details, no? And one can always dine out.

Yesterday I was open to hop on the plane and go to any location in the world. I was young, ambitious, free, easy-going, well-educated, with over five years of an impressive career progress,…

I had it all.

(Today I have so much more, yet it took me a while to understand that).

My identity crisis started with becoming a mother. Yet, after my daughter was born I was still in denial. Yes, I was already a stay-at-home mother but I had plans to return back to the workforce; I subscribed myself to the course on commercial and civil mediation; I finalized my risk management notes into a decent report; I was planning on opening my mediation practice; I lectured on risk management in one of the business schools in Paris; I was in denial. Then, when my daughter turned 9 months and the start of the mediation course was rapidly approaching I found myself pregnant again. Still breastfeeding, already having all the “pleasures” of an early-pregnancy toxicosis, I was nonetheless performing outstandingly in the mediation course. And then my son was born.

Drowning in the deep blue eyes of my newly born child I realized that I don’t remember the first look of my daughter! With her I was so preoccupied with other things, so much living in the unknown tomorrow, building some sort of plans, even breastfeeding with my computer on. However, I still did not change significantly. Not yet. It was only when I lost my third child at 12 weeks pregnancy that it finally dawned on me. Done. I finally admitted that – I have changed. The only question remaining – changed into what?

I’d like to be honest first of all with myself. I am no longer a lawyer and patent attorney, no longer anything I used to reply when somebody asked me – what do you do? Even when already taking care of my daughter, I still was doing a lot of legal stuff, coordinating one of the mediation associations’ internationalization efforts, still advising old clients and new referrals on strategy vis-a-vis intellectual property protection. I could not let go. I still pretended to be what I no longer was. Why? It is immensely difficult to let go of what you believe to be your identity; to let go, what you always thought defined you. And when I finally did that I found myself in the very depth of an identity crisis…