Mother, she wrote

Exactly a year ago, I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mother.

It was the only way I wanted to do motherhood. It was the only way I could, or knew how to. My desire to be a mother overrode my desire to be a superwoman who balanced motherhood, career, social life and her pedicures. I wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to grow with my baby, and not just watch him grow.

Yes, there were sacrifices. Like letting go of that dream of buying a house in real-estate mafia land. I didn’t think owning a few square metres in the boondocks would really make us better parents. Neither did I want to lose precious years of motherhood to EMIs.  P told me one does it so that one leaves something behind for one’s child twenty years from now. I chose to give my child what I have, here and now.  Which is me and all of me.  N told me I should quit when the child is two, because that’s when it gets to be fun. I guess I chose the hard path. I thought two would be too late, and I think I chose well.

Perhaps it was easier for me to make that decision having reached a ‘been there, done that’ stage in my career where there were no real milestones left for me to achieve. And of course it helped having an immensely caring and generous OPU who didn’t bat an eyelid when I told him this is how I’d like to do it, and even offered to pay me a mom salary.

After the first few months of quitting, I felt stripped, naked, tagless. The job was about power. Power that I chose not to use. It was about recognition, and social reference points, conversation starters and bylines, about an official id for emails when you want to sound more important than you are. It was about receiving invites to shows, parties, launches, book readings, previews and festivals. It was about people calling you and you saying you’ll call them back. It was about emails you never read, forget having the time to answer.  It was about keeping tabs on who is Cc’g whom on what and making sure ‘everyone is in the loop.’ It was about meetings and video conferences where you drank copious amounts of tea to stay awake and where everyone talked but no one listened.  Evidently, there was lots more to the job than ‘work.’

Since then, not a week has gone by when I haven’t been asked when I am getting back to work. Or if I am. Or if I want to. Or how long a break do I foresee myself taking.  Or if I could freelance or work from home or work flexitime (whatever those jobs are). And I am frequently warned by the supermoms that if I stay away too long, I might not want to come back.

The point is, I am too driven and enterprising to not be where the action is. So, no, I will not be relegated to a freelancer or work flexitime (which is a euphemism for working for a fifth of your salary) neither will I ever negotiate to work from home.

Do you miss work? I am often asked. It’s as though I am playing now, or have turned into one of those ladies who lunch. But to be honest, after a 16 -year career, I didn’t miss ‘work’ for a single day in the past year. I didn’t have the time to think about whether I missed it. I was too busy going through the motions of being a mommy. And I don’t really remember how many diapers I have changed or how many stories I have read or how many songs I have sung, or hours I have walked or play-dates I have planned or meals I have cooked or cries I have soothed or how many nights I have slept or how many hours I have nursed. I think if they invented swipe-cards for mommies, we would all have to be paid three times our last salaries.

But motherhood is about anonymity. About blending with the crowd, about being able to say, “Hi, I am Mommygolightly and I am a mother.” I don’t have much to show except a happy child, this blog, and perhaps some writing, lots of photographs and videos.

So a few days ago when I was registering for Re’s school admission, I was left staring long and hard at the column marked ‘occupation’. I vacillated between writer, blogger, columnist and finally I wrote, ‘mother.’

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29 thoughts on “Mother, she wrote

  1. awwww…..this is sooooo true..i can totally relate to what ur saying…i left a career myself to become a full time mommy….seeing ur child learn and grow and with the assurance tht his mother is gonna be there for him every single time he needs me is amazing:)

  2. Hi, i am mother too who left work after 11 years of working and now a full time mom. i too felt the jobs now a days are too demanding to give quality time to your little one. Anyway platform like this helps share feelings thats too hard for others to understand. enjoy reading your blogs. 😉 karishma

  3. Hi

    Liked your column. It was sent to me by my best friend. She too chose your path. I have a wonderful 9 month old daughter and I resumed work when she was 4 months. Although difficult but I have been able to get through work, home & my baby….am not a superwoman nor overly ambitious but am of the firm belief that I will walk alongside my husband to provide for the family. A lot of practical aspects are involved in taking a break & I think those who can & want to should take it but for those arnt making that choice…it could be not becasue they dont want to but because they cant!!

    • I totally understand your situation shobani. It is a very practical decision and needs a lot of deliberation and not everyone can take it. I consider myself lucky that I wanted to and did, while there are many out there who want to but can’t. I too feel helpless sometimes not being able to contribute financially, after having been financially independent all my life, but my husband and I reason it out and agree that I am making a different kind of contribution, and that keeps me going.

  4. Liked your blog because it touched a sensitive nerve. Having wrestled with the dilemma of giving up a career to be with the kids, I identified with the choice of ‘anonymity’ over an impressive portfolio. Sure the pf and the professional confidence took a beating over time but I find peace and pride that I did what I had to as a mother with all I had. The older one is 14 and I am back to polishing up on that resume and get that American degree I wanted a decade and a half ago. Looking back and then looking at my babies, I think I did good.

  5. What absolute crap! I can’t believe you sit on such a “moral high horse” regards your decision to stay home. You’re not saving the planet ,you’re raising a child!
    Now to give you a perspective on the “other side” life for a working mother is equally blissful and a lot more saner. The love for ones child in not measured in hours spent home but on the quality of time spent with your child. My child of 18 months and I spend every possible moment (which is over 4 hours every day + all day weekends) in raptures of joy. My moments with my child are fresh and innovative and not labored and boring, which they would be if I spent 24 x7 at home.
    On your point of reaching the pinnacle of your career, I honestly don’t know what that means. if there was such a thing won’t people retire at 40? Incidentally what was your “been there done that” moment out of curiosity?
    Finally if I wanted to hear such a straight jacketed view on raising a baby I would have asked for your home video!

    • Hi Sanjukta
      1.Congratulations on achieving what seems to be a magical balance between baby and career. I did try, but since my job as Deputy Editor at a national daily didn’t allow me four blissful and innovative hours everyday with my baby and since I had no weekends or public holidays to speak of, I couldn’t have done what you seem to have.
      2. Clearly, you seem offended, but I am not being moralistic about my decision, just grateful. And I do applaud women like you who are able to get on with it. My mother was one too and so are many dear friends of mine.
      3. But clearly my argument was not about ‘stay at home’ vs ‘go out and work’. It was about even if you choose to stay at home, the world wants you to get back in the race. That was my issue, so you seem to have missed the point completely.
      4. You seem very intuitive. I did retire at 40. Want me to go on about my ‘been there, done that’ moments?
      5. And just to clarify, my hours with my child are not laboured and boring. They are simply joyous and uplifting.

  6. It is nice to know u made such a logical decision. I sent my child to daycare when he was barely a 3 mnth old and i feel depressed at times at my decision. Probably i didnt know how to negotiate with management and sometimes there is lack of clarity in thought too.

    I guess ur job in a way was a boon too! i mean u arent in a software job where technology changes every other month , so getting back wouldnt be so tough for a writer ! for many of us software engrs we dread to quit since we might not be taken back after a long break!since technology changes so fast..

    • Hi Vani, much as corporates pretend to be these accomodating creatures with flexible policies, when it comes to new mothers and all of that, when it comes to action, there’s nothing there. So it is more or less a negotiation on a day-to-day basis, even if you are in a job where technically, a break is workable, like mine. But it can be tricky when you are in a profession which is so dynamic, like yours, where things change every day. But I don’t think you should be depressed, because you are doing it for the larger good, and that’s what’s important!

  7. Amazing post , and yes it touches a lot of touchy chords..
    I did consider leaving my job and be a stay at home mommy and look after my baby. but there were other practical things that were needed to be taken care of. so i just decided to stick to my work and frankly I love my job and I love my baby.
    Its not been a bed of roses being a mother, career woman and handling house etc. but I guess i am managing just fine, thanks to my hubby whos there for me always.

    sometimes its difficult to make a choice, but if you have made one and are happy about it truly then I dont think anyone else has a right to point a finger at you about it…

    frankly even tho i am working, I always make a point to attend all playdates, dote over him, spend quality time with him and even tho a lot of my friends think it would have been better for us for me quit my job, i think we are all happier this way.

    I am happy you made your decision too… to each his own..

  8. There is no right or wrong way in raising a child.
    Stay at home mom or working mom.
    It’s a very personal choice and its whatever works for YOU at that moment really.

    Neither of the above choices will determine how your child turns out eventually.

    If staying at home, makes u a better person to be around so be it. If working makes you a more fulfilled person, then so be it.

    Ultimately if your happy internally with your choices, that will reflect on your child.
    Keeping yourself happy as a person/mother is of prime importance. And as a women, you have to do what it takes.

    There is no right way!

  9. Just loved this piece 🙂 Its fantastic! Your write up is so rereshing and comes as a breath of fresh air in a world full of unnecessary complexities.

    cheers,
    Aaraty

  10. hii there i loved the way u hav expressed ur views and explained the deeper meaning of being a mother . it’s just not about spending quality time with your child , its much more to it and i feel the mothers who are workin :no offense to any of those workin : definately miss out on alot of aspects related to child raising and more than the mother the child misses his mom dearest who cannot be replaced by any other person or thing for him .so i absolutely agree that if possible one can try to spare atleast a few years from work and be with the child to kno the difference ……..

  11. Dudette! You said it! I live it and I so loved what you say…from your heart…the way I like it.

    I am amazed at how everyone (read family and well wishers) seem to think that one has hit a dead end with a decision to ‘stay at home’. Most people don’t really realise that being a ‘stay at home’ mum is a difficult choice as well and not the easier option. Yes, some of us are lucky that we can exercise that option but seriously it is a lot of work. Sometimes I think, going to a job was a lot easier to do.

    There are no rights or wrongs when it comes to raising our kids…whatever works for mum and babe really.

    As for me, I don’t miss the job but I do miss the pay…but for now, I am happy to be with this boy. Whether it reflects in the way he turns out in future…I have no idea…but did I have fun being with him…For sure, I did and hopefully, when he is older, we will continue to do so.

    • Can’t tell you how good that felt. Yes, I too feel that it would have been easier to ‘go to work’ and be assured that things will work on autopilot (with the boy and the job), and I do miss the money. But when i do a tally of what i gained vs what i lost, i feel rewarded. And then I think, hell, this is my way, and so be it! Hopefully it will show on the boy.. someday.. sometime…

  12. This post struck a chord inside me! Mi always wanted to take a one year break after having a child. I had initially taken a leave of 4 months which extended to 7 months after which couldn’t get anymore so left my job. Till date I think if I should join back ..my kid is almost 19 months old. But again I wud feel sad to leave him in care of someone else and cite the reason that he may not stay with someone else! Whereas the real reason is I may not be able to stay without him! There I said it..:) I love him so much..this I spite of the fact that he gives me a hard time by not sleeping well and not eating well..! But his one hug makes up for all the trouble. You made the right choice what works for you..and it’s only rightful if you feel so..!

  13. Pingback: When are you going back to work: Living the motherhood/career paradox | mommygolightly

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