Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Attaining a new kind of job satisfaction nirvana as SAHM (Stay-at-home Mom)

For the past five months now, I have moved into a new job that has long hours, no pay and is not even included in the workforce statistics – job as a Stay-at-home Mom or SAHM that many prefer to abbreviate it to, hoping to make it sound “cool”!

As a software professional for the past twelve years, I have had my fair share of job satisfaction highs and lows. There have been times when I have been working for nearly 12-16 hours a day with no breaks even for weekends and still have the energy and enthusiasm to go to work the next day since my job gave me “satisfaction”. There have also been times when I have been in office for the designated business hours wondering what a waste of time it has been, finding it difficult to “look busy” and then dreading going for work the next day.

I have learnt that the following still hold true and to attain job satisfaction “nirvana”!

  1. Look at the holistic picture – When I started out as a software programmer writing long mundane lines of code without knowing how it mattered, I used to end up feeling like my boss was having all the fun and parties with the client while I spent nights out in front of a black and white computer screen. Only when one of my “good” managers pointed out how a bug in the line of code that I was developing would result in wrong electricity bill being sent to a customer, did I start looking at aerial view and understood how important it is to know how things fit in the big picture. Even as I try to get my daughter to wear a jacket on a cold day and she vehemently refuses and cries at wit’s end, I think how her mental well-being is more important than her physical comfort of not catching a cold. It makes me realize that I should just carry it with me and she will eventually end up wearing it when she starts feeling cold rather that get into a fight on it and spoil everything.

  1. Customer is king - As recession hits us today, companies are realizing more than ever before how important it is to remember that customer is king. Although it sounds like a basic thing, we all tend to forget and try selling the product we have manufactured rather than manufacture the product the customer wants! I might have made the healthiest breakfast consisting of right proportions of protein, carb, fat and fruits but unless my customer likes to eat it, it is not “marketable” and I might need to start and prepare something all over again or else feel unhappy / unhealthy!

  1. All that matters is results – At year end evaluation time when all managers need to follow the bell curve to separate the high, medium and low performers to allocate bonuses out of budgets, it becomes strikingly clear that the effort in achieving something is not at all important. Someone might have slept through the year, had a row with clients but still met his year end numbers whereas another one spent all waking hours building relationships but alas could not sign on the dotted line, it is no secret which one is going to get a hefty bonus! Similarly, I might work very hard on my son so that he gets excellent grades, but if he decides to be angry for some reason and not write on his test, heaven save me!

  1. “Best Effort basis” is a bookish term and has no reflection in real life – If it is the date for the system to go live and it happens to be your 25th marriage anniversary, no guesses for what you will try to do on “best-effort basis”! Similarly, if it is a school concert that your son is participating in and also your mother’s 50th birthday, take your guess on what can be done on “best-effort basis”!

  1. Long hours are not equal to low productivity and even if they are, it does not matter - the long hours still need to be put in! If my computer program has identified bugs in it, it does not matter whether I am in office till 1 am or 3 am in the morning; it needs to be fixed even if I have been at it from 9 am the previous morning! Similarly, if my kid is not well, I still need to stay up till the wee hours of the morning, even if I spent the previous day cooking for and then entertaining guests at home.

  1. Rewards/recognition should be correctly timed – When I have done a good job and the recipient has instantly said so, I have always been far happier than when I get a big prize money at the end of the year (not that I do not like to get money – who does not?!) Often, a pat on the back is better than big prize money. Similarly, when my son has learnt to roller skate and I take him for ice cream and pizza the same day, that is far more rewarding to him (and me), than waiting for a long weekend to visit an amusement park!

  1. Simple things give pleasure and keep employees motivated – Tickets to a movie with coupons for popcorn and a cola goes farther than prize money that comes along with pay slip as another line item at the end of the month! A relaxing day at the park where the kids are busy playing by themselves while I can just read a book in the hot sunshine is a great reward! One does not necessarily need a good looking bank balance at the end of the month!

I have heard a quote that says that “life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it “ - so I try to look at the glass half full rather than half empty! The overwork, stress and fatigue of a SAHM’s job is hugely outweighed by a smile on the face of the child when you kiss the hurt away or are present for the first step or when your child receives a prize! I will still try to attain the job satisfaction “nirvana”!

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