Jyotsna Ravishankar loved taking off for a late night movie now and then. That was before her daughter Shivani was born, four years ago. But she does not really miss the movies. “It’s a great feeling to be a hero to someone. I would not trade that for a late night out,” says the 29-year-old Dubai resident who quit her job when Shivani was two-and-a-half. “I tried juggling home and work for two years. It was nice to do it, but with a young child in a place away from your hometown, it is difficult. Every time the child falls ill, you have to take leave. So I decided to quit my job until she was a bit older.”A lot of mothers struggle with juggling the various parts of their lives once they have children. Generally, most give up their jobs and become full-time mothers. But these days, a small minority is loath to give up any part of themselves. It’s not enough to manage both home and work responsibilities; they also don’t want to, as far as possible, give up activities that they valued when they were single or experiences they cherished before they had children.
Mummy knows best
That ensures that life is a constant juggling act. Amrita Ganguly-Salian resumed work when her daughter Navyadisha was three months old. "I had to leave her alone with a full-time nanny, and was aware that even with the best of technology, I wasn’t giving my child the kind of influence stay-at-home mothers can afford," says the partner at Scribblepad Communications. But that wasn’t enough to deter her. Nor did the 32-year-old resident of Bhandup, a suburb of Mumbai, put travelling, an activity she loves, on the backburner. "As I have been lucky not to have a wailing kid, my travel and public activities have remained regular. I have travelled more than 50 times, with Disha in tow, all over the globe over the last six years," says Ganguly-Salian, who is also an ardent photographer.
This also led to her take a four-day vacation in Goa with her buddies, minus the baby, for the first time in six years. “It was fun to generally chill out, down a few drinks and take silly photographs. It was also fun to show Disha some of the photos and have her see for herself what I was up to,” reminisces Ganguly-Salian.
This is something that Mayuri Mistry, a counsellor with Pentagon Consultants and mother to a five-year-old girl, can identify with. “I believe that every individual has a separate identity, and that self-love is different from being selfish,” she says.
Mistry adds that as members of society, women must remember that they play different roles, even when they take on the all-important one of mother. “If a woman neglects her ambitions, there is a real chance that when she reaches middle age and the period after that, she will have lingering resentment that she did not fulfill her potential,” she says. “And this does not necessarily apply only to working women. Even a homemaker must realise that she must set aside time for hobbies, rest, see to her health and enjoy an active social life.”
The balancing act
Of course, it isn’t all that simple. Ganguly-Salian says she’s only able to pursue her interests because her family comes to the rescue. “When I have to shop or run errands, I leave Disha with a sister-in-law who lives nearby. I have also been able to catch a play or movie while someone else babysits,” she explains.
Mistry acknowledges that there are times when being a mother takes priority, but you also have to know when to let go. “Let’s say you plan to go out and your child has a headache, or you find out that your child has lost his or her first tooth and you were at work,” she says. “There’s no need to feel guilty – the child could have lost the tooth in school, and if you have a trusted maid or grandparents around, they can give the child a tablet just as easily as you. Evaluate the situation and take a practical decision.”
And, she cautions, remember that children have coping mechanisms too. “Do not expect to be around your child every minute of the day, and know that your child is not 100 per cent dependent on you,” says Mistry.
Ravishankar too sees her homemaker status as temporary. “I definitely intend to get back to work when Shivani goes to Class 1,” she says.