Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Shifting Gears

Are you a career woman? Are you a mother? Have you ever had to choose between two life goals and dreams? If you answer YES to all these questions, then we probably have a similar story.

I am a wife and a mother of two. I was also a Vice President in a multinational bank. You see, ever since I was a kid, I have dreamed of becoming a mother and a career woman who rose from the ranks. In my 30s, I have reached both my goals. I felt happy, contented and proud. Or so I thought...

I had everything I wanted, a family, a career, our own house, cars and a few luxuries. But there was one thing missing... TIME - time for myself, time for my kind husband and time for my kids.

I have always been impatient and would do everything to achieve what I want. I had a history of rushing into things. I met and fell in love with my husband, got engaged, got married and conceived our first born. This happened in just a year! Every two years, I see to it that I get promoted. I do work my butt off to get a 1 or 2 performance rating at work, for me to deserve that promotion. Even when I had 2 kids, that didn't stop me from performing at work. But then, just when I thought I had things under control, I got burnt out.

I started to feel depressed. I was going home past midnight everyday and crying myself to sleep while my husband and kids sleep soundly beside me. Since I have responsibilities both at work and at home, I didn't have time to unwind or go out with my friends. I became hot-tempered and soon my sons were slowly distancing themselves from me. Arguments here and there started to explode between me and my husband due to petty things. I felt no one understood what I was going thru. I felt that I was doing too many things, thinking about everyone else except myself. And then it hit me, am I really doing this for my family or just for myself?

When things got really bad at work, I requested for a time off. I was too worried my boss won't allow me. But to my surprise, he told me I can have a week off. During this time, I accompanied my husband for a business trip in Japan and had 4 free days. I wanted to shout FREEDOM in the midst of the cherry blossom trees in Osaka Castle. I couldn't hold back my tears then. For the first time ever, nothing is on my mind... just me and my husband. We got to talk like we used to, hold hands while walking, leaned on each other's shoulders during our commute, saw new things together. Finally, I was able to spend quality TIME with my husband. I thought, this is what I really needed.

I opened up to him and told him I wanted to quit work. He was shocked because he knew how much I love my work, the company and most especially, my team. He told me that I have just reached my dream role, a VP for Ops. Why quit now? I told him how I felt each time we fight over petty things that are usually my fault, how I cringe whenever my youngest would call his yaya instead of me whenever he cries. He immediately understood and told me he will support whatever decision I come up with, but reminded me of the big adjustments I had to deal with.

When we got back to Manila, I scheduled a one-on-one meeting with my boss. As we sat down in the conference room, I started crying. Suddenly, I couldn't open my mouth. I couldn't get myself to tell him that I am resigning. It seemed like my worst nightmare! I thought to myself, are you sure? This has been your second home for the past 11 years. Your good friends are all here. You've done so many things for this company. You love your work, even the overtime, the irate customers, everything about this company you adore! Are you out of your mind? You've sacrificed a lot to reach your dreams. You've sacrificed a lot for this company! You've always encouraged your team to weather all challenges, then you're going to give up on them? What kind of leader are you?

Then my boss slightly tapped my shoulder and said, "You did well. You did what you can do for the team. There's just so much we can all do. But at the end of the day, what is important is your role as a wife and a mother. I do understand that. Times are changing. This company won't adjust for you. But you need to decide what your priority is. If you're thinking what others would think about you, I tell you, a leader is defined by how good a person she was when she led the team, not by the number of accomplishments she had. People will remember you as someone who greets them every morning, asks them how their day was or how their families are doing, not someone who was scolded by a customer because of a failed project. You do not need to worry about the team. The truth is, even when you are no longer here, everything else will continue as it is. Don't get me wrong but I know how you feel. Been in your situation a few years back and the decision-making is really painful. Now what you really need to think about is your priority."

These words struck me hard. He is right! If I'm worried because the team might not survive without me, I am wrong. The company can always replace me with a better manager. But as a wife and a mother, obviously I don't want to be replaced. The team will survive without me, but my sons, will they be able to survive as I have wanted them to without me guiding them?

My boss was indeed correct when he said, that a leader will not be remembered by the number of successes she had, but by the good deeds she did for her members. During my farewell party, each of my team members had a message for me. One said that he will never forget the time when I asked about his mom's condition. He said he felt the sincerity and the concern. One recalled the time when I had to fight for their promotion and succeeded after trying to justify to the higher ups. One said that he will forever be inspired by how I see challenges and issues - as an opportunity for growth and new learning. The other said that I was like a mother, friend and adviser rolled into one. Lastly, they said they admire how brave I was in deciding towards my priority. In whatever decision I make, I made sure it's for my first priority, which is my family.

A lot were concerned about how big the adjustment in my lifestyle would be if I resign. But life is not always about money. It's our contentment that makes us feel happy. Before, I can buy whatever I want for our family, toys, clothes, etc. But did I ever feel contented? No, because I never get to spend quality time with them, like playing board games at home, watching cartoons with the kids, date nights  with the husband, etc. The simple joys of life is indeed precious. TIME with your loved ones makes life enjoyable and fulfilling. Our family still can enjoy decent meals and my kids still go to good school. This is enough for us.

Now, I'm happy, stress-free and contented. Sometimes, shifting gears is what we need in life. When everything around us is moving fast and we feel that we can't keep up, it's probably time for us to slow down and realize what our priorities are, and change gears. Yes, there will be big adjustments and setbacks when we shift gears, but do remember what Matthew 6:25-26 said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink... Look at the birds, they do not sow or reap, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" As long as our family trusts and seeks the Lord for help, and be a blessing to others, we believe that we will forever be blessed and we need not worry about the future.