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Balancing Work and Family

Sudha Raghavan

SVP, Software Engineering at Oracle

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Problem

"Having a second child amounts to more than double the work; it is a very difficult lifestyle to coordinate."

When I had my kids, I had to take a step back from the industry. I have two boys who were born two years apart. For my first pregnancy, my husband and I had planned out everything ahead of time. We knew exactly what we were getting into, and we were ready. It went really well.

My second child was a different story. This pregnancy was also very well-planned, but he had some health issues that we were not prepared for at all. After his birth and recovery, I took the same maternity leave as I did with my first son and returned to work.

I realized shortly after that having a second child amounts to more than double the work; it is a very difficult lifestyle to coordinate. I was feeling very guilty, like I was doing a disservice to both of my children by being away from them while they were still so young. I actually decided to quit my job. It just wasn’t working. I was so stressed out about it.

Actions taken

"Taking that step back and having a chance to take a break was the best decision that I could have made by far. I’m happy, my kids are happy, and everybody is growing."

Something wonderful ended up happening before I actually resigned, however. I have known my husband for many years; he knows me inside and out. When I shared my plan with him, he looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re not going to stay home. I know what’s going to happen. Instead, just take a break. Use your paid time off.”

I took six weeks off to spend with my two sons on top of my maternity leave. I told my team that I may not be coming back. In the beginning of my break, my husband would text me constantly to remind me not to hover over my empty inbox. He would encourage me throughout the day to just be a mom, to stay at home with our children and to bond. He knew that I needed some time to think about whether or not staying at home was what I really wanted. In four weeks, I was ready to lose my mind. Staying at home all day was not who I am.

I felt like a machine — being a mother is a lot of physical work. I love my children, but when you’re surrounded by babies and nobody else, you have nobody to talk to. Sure, you can talk to an infant, but a baby cannot carry on a conversation. My poor husband would come home at the end of the day to the overload of thoughts that I had bottled up since seeing him that morning.

It was not a good way for either of us to live. He had been right — my heart really was in my work all along. How much can you think about groceries and laundry without feeling the need to do something else? I am not that person; my brain was empty.

I spent the remainder of my time off planning. I am so grateful that my partner was there to talk me out of a more permanent solution. Taking that step back and having a chance to take a break was the best decision that I could have made by far. I’m happy, my kids are happy, and everybody is growing.

Lessons learned

  • When you need to make a decision, come up with a solid plan. If you have a plan, you will execute. Your ability to correct a problem depends on your ability to figure out what’s really wrong or what is missing.
  • I am a mom, a wife, and a daughter, but, even when all of that is put aside, I am still myself. We are more than the sum of our roles in life. It took me some time to figure that out.
  • I am a scheduler; I schedule everything from our meals to our cleaning regime. If I have a plan, I don’t stress about what needs to be done. Spending one hour a week planning is enough to get my life together for the week without any stress. Nobody is perfect, but small improvements every single day will end up making a big difference later on.

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Sudha Raghavan

SVP, Software Engineering at Oracle


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