Back to Work!
After more than 6 months of maternity leave, it was time to return to work. Faced with a common dilemma of every new working mother, I braced myself to battle the odds. Being the daughter of a full-time working woman, I had enough inspiration to decide what to do. And yet, it wasn’t easy.
‘You must learn to love your job as much as you love your son, and sometimes more than him.’ This was some crucial and probably controversial advice Maa gave me when I was contemplating going back to work.
Maa did not give up her job to raise me and my brother, yet we couldn’t have asked for a better mother. There were times in my childhood when I wondered why she wasn’t always there when I was home from school just like most of my friends’ moms. I wondered why she often made the same dish for my lunchbox (for the record, she’s an awesome cook; ask my childhood buddies!). Daily meals were simple and I wasn’t given any special consideration in spite of being a picky eater. She always stressed on healthy habits, on education, and on being self-reliant, all of which irked me sometimes. We didn’t have the prettiest or the neatest home, but we had numerous cupboards filled with books that she always encouraged me to read. My father played an important role in all of this by taking over many chores involving me and my brother. So that’s another value she tried to instil in me – equality in marriage.
When I retrospect, I realize that most of the complaints I had about Maa are what inspire me today and keep me going. And it makes me proud that these minor ‘compromises’ that I made contributed, even though just a smidgen, towards making her what she is today – smart, confident, secure, and independent. At times, when I feel bad about not being with her now when she’s growing old, I remind myself of how busy and happy she is with her life (and she makes sure my father is too!). Sometimes I wish I was half as sorted as she is. Yes, she misses me and I miss her; yes, I will be there for her when she needs me. But for now, I find solace in the fact that she has someone who’ll look after her when I’m not around – she herself. And that’s who I want to be. That’s who I want my son to see me as.
The biggest gifts my son can give me are his health and happiness. And the biggest gift I can give him is self-reliance even when I’m old, so that he can pursue his dreams without being guilty of not being there for me. The day this realization dawned upon me, I stopped having second thoughts about re-joining work. And I haven’t looked back ever since!
With children out of school, physical distancing as the new norm, and children’s rights under threat, the new world order has “turned back the clock” on years of progress made on children’s well-being. However, it’s not all bad. As a human race, we’ve been built to adapt: we’ve seen a tipping point in technology-enabled education and the promise of a new education policy in our country.