Thursday, 14 May 2015
Working Mothers: Innocent Till Proven Guilty
I wake up on Mother's Day and apart from the surprises waiting for me, I stumble upon the interviews of a few famous mommies in well known dailies. The one thing that strikes me about more than half of these interviews, and generally about working mothers, is the common response to the 'most difficult part of being a mother with a career' – GUILT! I really don't get it and that's why I had to get down to writing this..
Let me explain. Ever since I set up my adventure travel start-up I deal with the work-life balance challenge everyday. Managing a venture, for that matter any job that you are passionately involved with, is like having another child and it can consume long waking hours of your day. But why should anyone be guilty about following their passion? I am not.
I do struggle to find the time to find time for my kids and truth is that I am never satisfied with the time I spend with them (read all my year end notes to see how this goal gets carried forward every year) but it doesn't mean that I don't spend time with them. I do spend many days travelling for work and I will be honest to admit that sometimes even for pleasure and I have even had to miss an odd sports day on account of work but I am not guilty that I am passionately and deeply involved with my work. And because I am that sort of person I am also passionately and deeply involved with my kids.
Sorry mommies. You can call me weird and heartless but that's the truth – I am not guilty that I spend hours, days and sometimes more that that away from my kids choosing my work over them. Sometimes, I do the same for the kids. I take off from work and take breaks that are totally devoted to them. I love my children as do all parents. In fact I love them to bits. They are the centre of my life and not a day goes by that I don't communicate with them, no matter what corner of the world I am in. Do I miss them? Of course I do. But am I guilty that I am away doing things that matter to me, help me get closer to what I consider my purpose and having an awesome time doing so? I am afraid not.
The way I see it is that it helps me to be a better person and a happier one and that in turn helps me to be a better parent and a happier one. And pray, why is this guilt honour reserved for the mothers? How is it any different for the fathers who do the same? How come we don't hear any daddy’s complain about how guilty they feel? It is just that they are not socially pressurized into believing that it's not okay for them to get away for hours and days at the cost of their kids, while we women are.
I confess: My time away from my kids seems to bother everyone else a lot more. The neighbours and an odd distant family member and even some random well wishers who know little about our lives. To everyone, let me settle it once and for all here: Our kids are fine! They have a mother – yes a real one – even if you don't know or see her. They are well brought up, know their manners, are healthy and clean, know how to have fun and even feel sad. They are just like other kids. They are independent – I would like to say as independent as any other kid whose mother has devoted her whole life to raising them but often I think they are more independent. Of course I am going to say that because I am their mother but truth is that my kids have had to figure out many things on their own while their mommy's away jamming on what she loves to do.
Don't get me wrong, I am totally respectful of mothers who have chosen to devote their lives to raising their kids (mainly because I could never do it) and everyone is entitled to their choices. This is not about working mothers versus home mothers but the point here however is that generally speaking, children of working mothers are far more likely to be handling their homework, uniforms, squabbles and schedules better than kids who have their parents (usually mothers) doing it all for them. And why should I be guilty of doing anything that contributes to my children becoming their own person? The entire purpose of parenting is to make children independent.
My kids know that my time is a huge asset in my life. I spend a lot of time away from them and therefore I love my time with them. They know that I do things that are meaningful to me when I could be reading film gossip magazines or attending kitty parties, that I don't. When I do purposeful things with my life and time, it teaches them to manage their time well. To fit in the things that matter to them, no matter what. Find the time to read, find the time to play that song, find time to cycle, find the time to be silly, find the time to bond with friends, find the time to stare into space. And working women feel guilty about inculcating that in their kids?
It’s also a ridiculous assumption that working mothers don't know what’s going on in the lives of their children, or that the kids are not cared for and looked after. Kids are extremely adaptable and whatever they see from childhood is what is normal to them. To my daughters having a mother who travels for work and loves to travel for pleasure is a normal thing. There’s a little drama sometimes – you know the clinging before a trip – sometimes hoping that I don't go. I am their mother and of course they will miss me. But I go. Because I want to. Because I have to. Because it makes me happy. Because it is what makes me me. I have never apologized for what I do. And that's how I want my children to be. A bit selfish. Because only when you take care of yourself and your needs can you take care of others.
It’s time we became the working mothers that the next generation deserves. My daughters will be working mothers one day and I want them to remember that they had a mother who's proud of the choices she made. Let's be mothers who are teaching kids, everyday, through their actions that they too should go after things they love, that make them tick and make them happy – no matter what!
Mother, amateur athlete, author of fictionalised memoir Wise Enough to be Foolish, traveler, entrepreneur and the founder of India's first outbound adventure firm The Active Holiday Company, like many of us on this planet - I am a little bit of many things and still not satisfied!