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Updated: September 22, 2009 14:36 IST

Bend it like Kim

GEETA PADMANABHAN
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MOM AND HER PRIZED POSSESSIONS Latest tennis sensation Kim Clijsters with daughter Jada. Photo: AP
The Hindu MOM AND HER PRIZED POSSESSIONS Latest tennis sensation Kim Clijsters with daughter Jada. Photo: AP

Decide if the job's worth spending hours away from the kid

See if you can work from home

Adjust work schedules; don't ask for privileges because you have kids

Use your experiences as a mom to get that edge

Look at your job as part of a larger, richer life

From the assembly of screaming, shrieking, hard-hitting women rose the quiet, smiling Kim Clijsters, to win the 2009 U.S. Open Women's Single - the first mom to win a Grand Slam since 1980. She played like she came back to attend an unfinished business. Her overhead smash that ended the match and made her champion demolished an enduring myth: women cannot concentrate on a career post childbirth.

Close to the heart

Kim held one of the greatest tennis trophies, a cheque for $ 1.6m, and the world's attention. And, said: "It's the greatest feeling in the world, being a mother," smiling at her 18-month-old daughter Jada, running around in the court. In 2007, Kim bade goodbye to a lucrative career, citing injuries. She also wanted to "settle down", start a family, which, she assumed wouldn't leave her time for the demanding tennis schedule of training and travel. "I just didn't look at it as an option," she said in her post-final press conference. And, then came the invitation to play at Wimbledon. She decided to give it a shot, two-odd years after she left the scene. "I think that's how I got that competitiveness back. To challenge myself was the biggest thing."

Remarkably, the come-back player was hitting the ball harder than before; Miss Clijsters would choke on closing shots. Motherhood seemed to have helped her get over her nerves. She discovered a formula for balancing tennis with picking up teddy bears. She also managed to shed, along with pregnancy fat, the stabbing guilt of being busy away from home and kid. And, post match, her priority was clear - "I'm spending the next two weeks with my daughter."

However, balancing home and work may not be easy always. Agrees Shabana Tharkar, dentist earlier, now epidemiologist, MV Diabetes Hospital. She did her postgraduation while pulling teeth, but "had to close shop when I had kids". She shifted to Royapuram to cut the commute, and has trained the kids to be alone after school till she gets back. "Depends on how career-minded you are," says Anu Parthasarathy, CEO, Global Executive Talent. "Make up your mind on what you want; stay motivated, prioritise work, build a back-up system, and jump to juggle." With the conveniences around, there's no need to compromise, she says. "If you're looking for recognition, want to be somebody, you will work it out. Women are great managers."

Working moms agree. "I feel I've done much better professionally, since my kids came along. I'm much more decisive than I used to be, and there is little that rattles me these days," says Joyce, a mom. "There's better clarity about my goals."

"If I had not had children I wouldn't have given as much thought to finding my specific niche," says another mom Sunitha.

"Having a family and being an athlete, I think it's possible," said Kim. Not every working mom will win the U.S. Open or wear the "Best Worker" medal. "But, women are stronger; they can build a career with kids at home," says Dr. Shabana.

So, why would you give up on something you love, are trained to do, and get paid for? To wash clothes?

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