Three and a half years ago I was a full time working mom about to have my second child. I had a job I loved in a company that felt like home, working with people that were like family. That was that until management announced they were closing the operation in Beirut, I was basically being forced out of a job.
Given the imposed unemployment situation, I decided to take some time to figure out what I wanted to do next. I had always been a career-driven person determined to grow within the organization ready to put in the extra hours, work on weekends, do whatever was needed to deliver beyond expectations. Hence when the next work opportunity came across, it never crossed my mind that working full time would not be an option. Despite having two young babies, I was ready to take on the new challenge, and I did.
In retrospect, could I have been more mistaken?! The year I spent on that job was probably the worst year of my career life. Looking back I’m still surprised how I managed to get through those 12 months. Half way through I was a complete wreck, miserable at work and at home, not delivering at work nor at home! I would start work at 8 a.m. and get home by 6:30 p.m. in such a state of tiredness that I literally had no energy to spend time with my kids, my husband, and no will to take care of anything or anyone. At work I would struggle thinking about home and feeling guilty about leaving my kids all day, and when I was home I was thinking about work and what I was missing there. I was caught in a vicious circle that was impossible to maintain, culminating in my resignation a few months later.
I spent a year catching up on all the things I had been lagging on at home, with the kids, with myself, friends, until a new opportunity came about. Given I had always worked, I knew that I was not the stay at home mom type, I say this with all the respect in the world for those who are, as it’s as tough a job as working in an office, yet in many instances less appreciated and acknowledged. This time around, there was one thing I was certain of, my one un-negotiable condition, that I would not go back to working full time at least not for several years until I felt my kids did not need me around. I was not ready to continue missing out on giving them and myself the quality time we deserved together.
The new opportunity was with a big multinational professional services firm and truthfully I was very skeptical going into my first meeting as I was 99% sure that they did not have the kind of flexibility I required, especially for a new hire that was aiming at a senior position. Yet to my surprise they did, and after several interviews, meetings, and a presentation, they offered me the job. I took it still unsure of how things would go, worried that the job would start with flextime and then I’d be sucked in and end up working more hours than I had agreed to. So I decided to try the job out for 3 months, which were the probation period anyway, and determine if it would work out.
It’s been almost a year now that I work at Deloitte, and so far it’s been a great ride. I’ve managed to strike the right balance, leave work on time, and go home to my kids who would have just arrived from school, and start a new day with them.
However striking the balance has not been easy and would not have been possible without the following: 1) being extremely organized, disciplined and focused during the working hours, 2) setting the right priorities, 3) having an 80/20 mindset, 4) knowing when to say NO, 5) having a fantastic team of young highly motivated people, with a great attitude and team spirit, who are eager to learn, and are driven to deliver best in class results, and finally 5) great support and a little flexibility from my boss. A little flexibility really can and does go a long way.
By: Nour Khoury, senior manager, Brand and Communications leader at Deloitte Middle East