When I decided to get married, I was living and working in the UK while my fiancé lived and worked in the USA. So, I decided to take a career break to live with my husband and look for a new job once I joined him. I have seen many couples getting married yet continuing to stay in different cities (even different countries!) but neither we nor our parents wanted us to live separately immediately after our marriage.
Soon after I joined my husband I applied for the necessary permits to start working and also started my job search, which was not a pleasant experience, of course and took a long time. I had many ups and downs during this time and finally after months of struggle I found a job. It was only a few months into my new job when we were required to move back to India. With a heavy-heart of leaving the job that I found after toiling so much, I started to pack. People told me, I would have a lot of opportunities in India since I had 2 overseas experiences in my CV! So, I was very hopeful when I started to look for a job in my country but I faced hardships here too.
The interview questionsWhile the problem with finding a job in the US was more about not having US-specific experience, the problem with finding a job in India was more about having taken a career break! During the interview process in US, when I told people that I took a career break post marriage, they would congratulate me and say that it was a great decision since marriage brings about so many changes and there was also a factor of moving to a different country. On the contrary, a few interviewers in India told me that I would need to provide a surety that I would not take another break soon! I found it amusing in the beginning but soon this became preposterous. I fail to understand what kind of a society we live in. On one hand, a woman is expected to be a perfect homemaker while on the other she is not even allowed time-off to balance her career and personal life. Some interviewers even considered my MBA (which I did in the UK after working for 5 years in India) as a career break, which any sane person would consider as a career progression.
Job search in a foreign country vs at homeMy job search in India ended up being more stressful than the one in US, despite having worked in India earlier. During this stressful time, I often wondered if my decision to take a career break at the time of our marriage was a right decision.
My advice to women who dared to take a career breakI have now found a job, but when I was going through troubled times, I thought of other women who might be in a similar situation. Here are my two cents for them:
- Before your make a decision to quit, understand where you are going to stand once you decide to join the work force again – both geographically as well as industrially. Like some countries, some industries are also more open to such breaks compared to others. If you are based in India and thinking of a career break to settle in the new life post-marriage, good luck to you (unless you are engaged in one of the preferred industries!).
- While on a break always keep yourself engaged in things other than the household work (which I agree is difficult as household work takes up more time than most people think). Develop hobbies. Try travelling. Try doing something new. There was a time when all I did was household work and I started losing my self-worth.
- Talk about your feelings. Whenever I felt low or unimportant, I would talk to my husband and tell him exactly how I felt. He was always very supportive and listened patiently. It always important to have someone who would listen. Your spouse, your parents, your friends etc., anyone who you can trust with your actual feelings without needing to feel ashamed of saying ‘I think this career break was wrong decision’.
- Whether or not you take a career break should be your decision. Never take a career break because you are being pressurized to do so by your family or your husband’s. I never blamed my husband for what I went through during this time because he never forced me or asked me to take a break. It was a well-thought of decision which was taken solely by me.
- Finally, when you step back in the work place, be ready for remarks like, “oh! so you were on a break. What did you do in all the “free” time?” or “so, you were just chilling at home all this while”. Such people do not know that being a homemaker is no less a challenge than being employed! Forgive them!