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An Indian woman writes about handling the challenges of working mothers who want the best of both worlds.
Guest Blogger Barnita De is a Bengali by birth, brought up and educated in Kolkata. Working in Bangalore for the past 12 years she has 2 daughters aged 8 and 4 who are her world. She loves gardening, crafts and cloth work like applique.
I am a working mother, balancing a family, job, home, husband, two kids, etc. So what’s the big deal? Plenty of women do that. There are women who belong to the lower strata of society who do that and quite effectively too. Hence a holier-than-thou attitude does not help. I am not doing something no woman before me has ever done!
But why is it that some days seem to be so challenging? When all problems seem to find me only…. days when your child has an exam coming up, the other child falls sick and the promised report to the client is due the next day. All of this with of course the husband travelling, no full time maid or family support. There have been days I have looked around myself and thought – why me? Especially when the kids were small. But now I don’t. It is not that the situation has changed much. Maybe the kids have grown up a bit or my level of immunity to such problems has gone up?
Well it’s neither. It is the ability to accept the situation on hand. Such things will continue to happen and they have to be faced/ confronted, a solution found and life will go on.
Maids are the lifeline for many working mothers like me. No mattes how good a maid you get and however much you pay, suddenly they will walk away without looking back. Maybe they have other compulsions or priorities in life. Life will not stop without a maid. Some clear headed thinking is required, contingency plans put in place and a focused search for the next maid.
The client workshops are coming up and suddenly my daughter returns from school and excitedly informs that her oh-so-important play is scheduled on the same day as the very first day of the workshop. No panic. Smile and think about plan B. Not attending my daughter’s play would be an unforgivable sin but the client not being addressed on the first day would be near curtains for me in the project. So I had some explaining to do to my daughter, the father arranged as a “near” substitute with the assurance that mamma will not miss her next school event. It is not that I always miss her school stuff. In the 6 years she has been in school this was only the 2nd occasion that I have missed something. My daughter understood and all was well.
It is the similar to the often heard saying – it’s the way you choose to react to the situation that matters.
We want the best of both worlds – we want a family, a loving husband, happy kids and a home straight out of a home décor magazine. Also at the same time we want to be successful at work. I cannot talk for others but I do work under constraints. Constraints of housework, cannot stay too late, cannot travel often etc etc. But we put in our best efforts at work, and want to get recognized for that. We feel bad when we are passed over for promotions. Superwomen is a nice term but making that happen is next to impossible. I feel the only way to achieve it is to balance all out. A bit of all, may not be 100% in all. If we try to put in our 100% in all, we will satisfy only some not all. Plus we will be very hard on ourselves.
I understood this very clearly through certain experiences. I felt bad, just bad, if certain things did not happen. Sulked about it, maybe vented my ire as well. But then I learnt to balance out my expectations and along with that the level of disappointment if certain things did not happen the way I would have liked them. Life did not stop if they did not, so why waste my energy on them. Fine, if the less deserving colleague got the promotion instead of me, I felt bad but then moved on. I had grand plans of decorating the house prior to Diwali, complete with handmade paper lanterns and imaginatively placed fairy lights. It just so happened that my daughter fell sick so I ended up spending the most part of the day at the medical centre. Hence no time for the planned decorations.
Life will continue to throw challenges at each and every step. More than thinking and worrying about it, take them head on, if possible with a smile. Solutions to the problem will exist, we just have to think clearly and find it. And then all will be OK. If we fret about it, it will only add on to our anxiety and tensions.
*Photo credit: Kristin Smith.
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I huffed, puffed and panted up the hill, taking many rest breaks along the way. My calf muscles pained, my heart protested, and my breathing became heavy at one stage.
“Let’s turn back,” my husband remarked. We stood at the foot of Shravanbelagola – one of the most revered Jain pilgrimage centres. “We will not climb the hill,” he continued.
My husband and I were vacationing in Karnataka. It was the month of May, and even at the early hour of 8 am in the morning, the sun scorched our backs. After visiting Bangalore and Mysore, we had made a planned stop at this holy site in the Southern part of the state en route to Hosur. Even while planning our vacation, my husband was very excited at the prospect of visiting this place and the 18 m high statue of Lord Gometeshwara, considered one of the world’s tallest free-standing monolithic statues.
What we hadn’t bargained for was there would be 1001 granite steps that needed to be climbed to have a close-up view of this colossal magic three thousand feet above sea level on a hilltop. It would be an understatement to term it as an arduous climb.
Women making compromises for the sake of their families is real; I have seen, heard and read about them. My family has been my biggest cheerleaders!
‘I suppose you will work after marriage?’ My (then) prospective mother-in-law asked a few minutes after we had met.
I was in the penultimate semester of my two-year MBA at IIM Indore. Amid lectures, libraries, badminton, extracurriculars, and placements, I somehow managed to discover my future life partner there. His parents had arrived in Indore from Lucknow to meet his choice and deliberate about blessing the marriage.
‘Yes, of course,’ I replied without blinking, trying to gauge her reaction.
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