Rubini Narayanan is a young mother and has recently received the Tier 1 Exceptional talent leader endorsement in the UK. She talks about how she couldn’t have balanced motherhood and career without the unconditional support of her family. 

When I became Rubini Narayanan from Rubini Mahalingam, I was determined to continue reaching the milestones as I had before marriage too. I finished my PhD in Geomatics Engineering from the US which is one of the niche areas, at the age of 27. I was walking confident and made several plans without realizing that success is not earned by one person, but it is bestowed upon a person by several people in the background.

A woman’s life is definitely classified into two timelines, pre and post marriage. The pre-marriage time has a very steep curve with time to achieve a milestone, may it be academics, career, or sports. However, as soon as the post-marriage phase begins, whether the society says it or not, we assume that we have much more responsibility and the curve either goes down or reaches a plateau.

A lot of stories on these struggles has been narrated. I was no different than this and I realized it in the first two years of my marriage itself that I was going down in my career graph and it is very likely that I will become obsolete in the next few years if the trend continues. I have wonderful mentors who time and again remind me about my aspirations that I would once tell them and check on me where I am at. I continued giving them excuses until one morning, my mentor Rakesh challenged me saying it is not possible to be successful in career and personal life. I was beginning to agree with that statement and move on as such I had mounting pressure and judgmental looks from the community for not having a baby even after 30.

I realized it in the first two years of my marriage itself that I was going down in my career graph and it is very likely that I will become obsolete in the next few years if the trend continues.

I could see my lab mates who I worked with during my PhD doing serious jobs whereas I was busy telling the people why it was important to reach a platform in my career before taking a break. I was essentially standing at the juncture and I had to decide which lane to take, motherhood or career. I had to strike a balance to pull both the carts well. We all have stood at that juncture and looked at both the lanes, isn’t?

I gave up on convincing people and with self-doubts about delaying pregnancy, I was not able to perform to my fullest at work. Husband suggested me to take a short break to relax and I eventually got pregnant. Unfortunately, I miscarried, and all eyes turned to me pointing out that I have failed in my duties. I decided to believe in them thinking maybe they are right, and I stopped my work for a while and tried to focus on pregnancy alone. However, on the back of my mind, I was scared of being left out in my career, after all that was my only identity otherwise, I will be known just as a wife of an IRS officer. The mounting mental pressure had a reversing effect on my body that I miscarried again. I was shattered beyond explanation. I was failing in both the lanes.

Unfortunately, I miscarried, and all eyes turned to me pointing out that I have failed in my duties.

My husband came home and said the most encouraging words of my life and said, “Focus on what you like and other things will follow”. That’s when I decided to start afresh after two years of mental agony in trying to find out which lane to be given preference for. I went ahead pulling the career cart and moved to the UK. My work kept me very happy and I was leading in my career lane as planned and alas, I was pregnant. Now, that is when I was diagnosed with antiphospholipid syndrome, which put me in the high-risk pregnancy. As an independent woman, who has complete support of your husband just like any other woman of these days, I realized it takes more than that to succeed.

I knew I cannot pull both the carts by myself and that I will need help!

First, I reached out to my in-laws and asked them if they would help me post pregnancy since taking a break in my career will be difficult. They immediately agreed and were willing to help me. Then I rang my parents to seek their support during my pregnancy and they agreed to help whatever it takes. Of course, as grandparents both the families would want to see their grandchild, but in this instance, they came forward to uplift me too.

Two months after my delivery, my mother said some of the powerful words, “This is the time most women decide to slow down and regret after a few years, you have our support in case you want to do something in your work before your son begins to need you when he goes to school”. I was emotionally week to be away from the baby and go to work, and that’s when my brother said, “you will be stuck in the vicious cycle of guilt and regret if you do not do what you want to do”.

First, I reached out to my in-laws and asked them if they would help me post pregnancy since taking a break in my career will be difficult. They immediately agreed and were willing to help me. Then I rang my parents to seek their support during my pregnancy and they agreed to help whatever it takes.

Such words stuck in my mind and I went back to work and started focusing and things started to move well.
My parents had to leave the UK since their visa expired and my in-laws arrived. I was a bit tensed about the transition, but I quickly realized that my in-laws were motivated to help me beyond what I could ask for. They had the feed schedule and would update me every one hour when I was at work and just like that my baby was one year old already. I did not have to take a break and sailed through the toughest part with the biggest support.
When my in-laws were getting ready to leave for India, I jokingly said if I had some more time, I would be like to try my luck and apply for Tier 1 exceptional talent visa in the UK. They offered to help me further so that I can apply for it. My parents, my chithi chithappa and in-laws decided to look after my baby for four months in India while I focus on getting my application ready towards the visa.

I did not have to take a break and sailed through the toughest part with the biggest support.

It was an emotional turmoil when I boarded the flight to the UK, but the support system I had ensured that I am not alone and that they have my back. I spent a good three months reaching out to my network, collected all the required evidence and I applied for Tier 1 exceptional talent promise visa. This visa is meant for early to mid career professionals like me. The surprise came in the letter stating that I was approved with Tier 1 exceptional talent (leader) which is endorsed for people who are already proven leaders in their respective field. When I thought, I am only in the process of making myself a leader, the endorsing body trusted that I am already a leader evaluating my professional achievements.

During the struggling times, as a person, we fail to understand what we have achieved so far but it is the visionary people in the powerful endorsing committee such as Tech Nation and Royal Society remind us about what we have endured and achieved. That is the point I realized; it is not earned by me. It was bestowed upon me by the support system I had. I was just another woman struggling to decide which lane to give preference to. The only thing I did differently was, I reached out for help. I told them openly letting go of my ego that how much their help would make a difference. The endorsement I have received now will take me to good places even if slow down a bit to focus on my baby. This is the exact platform I wanted to reach before slowing down to look after the baby. I would be a fool to think that I got it all by myself. My efforts and work is less than 20% but the peace of mind and motivation offered by the support system is what made the leap.

It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a family to raise a woman and to keep her going.

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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