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Tips from a working mother
Santana Pathak |
February 03, 2006
How do you manage both career and motherhood?
Over the past year, that has been one of the most frequent questions put to me. It is a question I had anticipated. What I hadn't anticipated was the disbelief at my reply 'I am managing fine, thank you!'
Parenting is considered a 24-hour ordeal for a mother. If you are a working professional, everyone wants to know when you are going on leave from the day the bulge shows. When you actually deliver, and rejoin office three months later, the look on most faces says 'Isn't it too early?' It is a tough situation for a mother!
It is tougher if you love your work. Then, it appears to be a choice based on your personal priorities rather than the need of your child. You have guilt pangs. The myriad little things -- feeding her on time, changing nappies, disinfecting clothes, sterilising… If someone else is doing it, you do tend to believe, at times, that maybe it is too early to get back to work.
On the other hand, doing just this does not seem to be enough for the days to pass by. Most of the time, the baby will be sleeping. For the rest of the day, apart from feeding, she will be busy exploring her surroundings. Now, if you take it on yourself to guide her all the time, the process becomes slightly monotonous, both for you and her as well.
Here comes the issue of actually letting your child grow. You can chose to be there to oversee all her moves as she grows, but then she might just consider your presence as a given. Moreover, you also need to think hard about how you want her to grow -- as an independent, responsible individual or as one who looks to the mother for all her needs, wanting to be pampered and guided all the time.
I recognised, very early in my life, that being independent is the most important thing. I always need my own space. Respect for myself and my child has kept me from becoming a doting mother 24/ 7 and cribbing about not being able to do anything in life. I want my child to grow up the way I have -- an independent, self-respecting individual, capable of taking responsibilities for herself.
For me, the decision to return to work was an imperative. I love my work! Being a 24/ 7 mother was not my cup of tea. Apart from the preparation, once the child actually arrived, the practicalities also seemed to be manageable -- with a little help. Deciding to return to work was half the job done. The other half depended on a supportive husband and careful planning.
Parenting, let me emphasise, is, in the literal sense, parenting -- it involves both parents. Anything otherwise is an aberration. My husband feels equally exhilarated when our daughter smiles or walks, shares with me the guilt pangs of being a working parent and goes through the same trauma when she is ill. Without this sharing, the parent-child bond remains incomplete.
The idea of metrosexual men is not just a trend. It is also a concept that conventional Indian society is in dire need of. It makes the process of bringing up a child a pleasure, with the bonus of increased bonding between partners.
You also need to consult a very professional and competent paediatrician -- one who can pooh-pooh your bouts of anxiety when she is supposedly not eating properly and can explain why the swollen gland behind her ear is a necessary defence mechanism. Also, if the childcare centre is open 24 hours, or caregivers available around the clock, that is an added advantage.
An efficient support system -- not necessarily your family -- is the next thing to look out for. For people like us, who stay hundreds of kilometres away from their families, having a babysitter is very important. The keywords in this search are dependability, experience and time. Professional centres help; your friends can also help. Do not feel guilty about having another person take care of your little one -- she would like the idea of change. On Sundays, the only time I get to spend the entire day with my baby, I often find her going to the door after a while and banging on the doorknob. She does this because she wants to go out to the babysitter's place.
Spend whatever time you have with your child. But an adult is not the company she would like all the time. Take her out to a park where she can interact with lots of other children, where they can play and fight. After a full day of activity, you can rest assured she will sleep contentedly at night. Then, in the morning, as you get ready for the office, you might be the one feeling a little sad as she happily waves you goodbye, sitting pretty in her babysitter's lap!
Santana Pathak is a working mother. Her daughter, Akangkhya Bezbaruah, is a year and five months old.
Do you have parenting experiences you would like to share with us? Do write in. Don't forget to mention your name, age, the place where you live as well as the age of your child.
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