Country Head for ACCA Sri Lanka and Maldives Nilusha Ranasinghe says she’s had days, months and maybe even years when the second work shift at home was more demanding than her work schedule in office, but insists that looking back, she wouldn’t anything differently.
“There were days that I was pushed to think that balancing the two roles was overwhelming, but I always believed that there were better days ahead. This thought process actually kept me sane when juggling the role of a working mum and a mother,” she says, in an interview with the Daily FT, adding that it is important to make a life of your own and create an identity for yourself.
“The only thing to remember is to have a set of priorities in your life and work towards them. There will be moments that you will question yourself as to whether you are being fair by your family, but then it is up to you to make a conscious/informed choice and be happy with the choice that you have made,” she asserts.
Following are excerpts:
Q: Why did you choose to be a working mother?
It was not a conscious choice that I made. It so happened
Nilusha Ranasinghe and family
that I started work at the age of 25 as an Attorney-at-Law in a private practice. At that time when I commenced my career, I did not have kids and I was not required to decide between being a stay-at-home mum or a working mum. But subsequently once I had my daughter, I went with the flow and thereafter chose to be a working mother.
Q: How do you balance the demands of working and raising children?
There were days that I was pushed to think that balancing the two roles was overwhelming, but I always believed that there were better days ahead. This thought process actually kept me sane when juggling the role of a working mum and a mother. Also my husband Dhammika was and still continues to be a great support in ensuring that I fulfil my career demands to the best of my ability but most importantly he supports me in raising Nishakya, my daughter. So as a result raising my daughter became a joint task with shared responsibilities.
Q: Could you describe a day in your life today?
My day begins with ensuring that my daughter is ready for her day in school and all other extracurricular activities. This entails ensuring that
she has a healthy meal option and planning of logistics if the extracurricular activities and other school-related activities are outside and/or within school. I usually drop Nishakya to school and thereafter I come home to get ready for my day of work.
My mornings in office are generally filled with in-house meetings and/or meetings which I have fixed with external stakeholders and also the conference calls that are scheduled on a regular basis within the MENASA region. I generally try to go home for lunch to ensure that I catch up with my daughter and get updated with her activities in school, but this is not a rule since working for a UK-based parent company means that your afternoons and the evenings will be the busiest with the time difference.
I usually get home by around 6 p.m. subject to there not being any pre-planned conference calls and/or business social engagements. If my daughter does not have any classes in the evening, I usually spend time with her in assisting her activities, but if she is occupied with either her school and/or extracurricular activities, I meet with friends/family or go for a walk.
Although the day sounds relatively easy now, it has not been so in the past. Since my daughter is just over 15 years old now, things have become relatively easy. But the point to note is that children do not grow within a day. I’ve had days, months or maybe even years when the second work shift at home has been more demanding than my work schedule in office.
Q: How was your decision to work after having children accepted by your family and those around you?
There was no significant opposition from family from what I can remember and friends and colleagues around me only supported me in my decision to be a working mum.
Q: What are the positive and negative reactions you have encountered along the way?
The positive reactions have been since although you play a role of a working mum during the office hours and beyond, your shift does not end at that point. Once you get home your second shift begins, which is also very demanding with home chores. Since your mind is trained to multi-task, you approach all issues on the basis of finding a solution that is best required for that moment and also long-term solutions as well.
Q: Looking back, what would you do differently?
I would not do anything differently as at now. The only thing to remember is to have a set of priorities in your life and work towards them. There will be moments that you will question yourself as to whether you are being fair by your family, but then it is up to you to make a conscious/informed choice and be happy with the choice that you have made.
Q: Are you satisfied with the level of recognition for women, their voice in national issues?
No, since there is no adequate representation of women at the moment, therefore the point of view of a woman may not be included when taking decisions at national level.
Q: What new roles should women/mothers play in the future?
Women are fundamentally different from men in terms of their strengths. Employers have noted that certain characteristics of women, e.g. attention to detail, meticulousness, and aversion to risk, make them particularly suited to specific industries and functions such as banking and finance, audit and risk management. Their collaborative leadership and nurturing styles also make them excellent bosses and mentors. Therefore women should not confine themselves to certain roles but keep their options open and venture out to all sectors.
Q: In terms of policy, what changes would you like to see that would assist working mothers?
In terms of policy, if employers can look into flexi hours for mums that will not in any way be detrimental to the organisation’s growth but will create the necessary environment and mindset for the mum to give her best to the organisation whilst balancing her household activities and family. It is also important to equip mums with the necessary tools which will enable them to work from home if the need arises.
Q: Your advice to aspiring career women who intend to continue after they have children?
Don’t ever be guilt-ridden that you are not giving your 100% to your family. Remember that your children will grow up and once they complete their primary education, during their secondary education term it is the logistics that you need to look into rather than to be around them 24/7. It is important that you maintain that emotional connection with your children at all times; be it a toddler, child and/or a teenager. Therefore, since there is a definite lifecycle in a child’s life prior to him/her pursuing studies abroad and or working abroad, it is important that you also make a life of your own and create an identity for yourself.
Q: Any tips you can share with working moms?
Plan your regular daily and weekly activities at home. There will be a few surprises along the way, but since most of your routine activities are planned, you will be better equipped to take the correct decisions. Also during each stage of your child’s life, your set of priorities will keep on changing; e.g. a toddler’s requirements and a teenage daughter’s requirement will differ from one to another and you will have to focus on your set of priorities and responsibilities at home.
Q: How do you stay inspired and continue on your chosen path?
I stayed inspired by the fact that being a working mum in my chosen path has greatly benefited my family. As the Country Head for ACCA Sri Lanka and the Maldives, it gives me ample opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life and also to contribute towards society, the profession and the country at large. By doing so I am well-equipped with current trends in the field of education, which will benefit the younger generation who are looking at equipping themselves with a business-relevant, first-choice qualification.