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Working Mom = Bad Mom

Gunjan Sethi
Gunjan Sethi
Developer, Microsoft IDC
Gunjan is a mother of two,who works a... more>>
Many would like you to believe that. Most know it is not true.
I am a working mother; I have often been subjected to and felt great guilt for being a working mom. But when I am in a sane frame of mind, I always realize that I am a mom as good as any other, and just because I am working does not make me any worse than what I would have been otherwise. This is the story of my journey from guilt to the realization that to be a great mom, you don't have to give up the job you love.

I remember the time I was pregnant with my first child. I had made up my mind that I will not work after my baby was born. It was my mother who disagreed. I was young and she had experience. She had never worked nor had she a career; but she was a woman who understood the importance of “Me”. Her argument was, if my job made me happy, I should value it. She told me my children were my responsibility and I owed it to them to be the best mother I could be. I did not owe “myself” to them though. Her words made me think; her words got me to work.

I spent my maternity leave building a support system at home. I hired help as family was not available. By the time I got to work I was at peace that my child was in good hands. I came back to work when my son was five months old. I was a different employee with different needs. It required adjustments, not just by me, but my family, manager and colleagues. My husband juggled work hours along with me, my manager agreed for early come early go work hours. My colleagues respected my new work timings and kept meetings accordingly. And I was able to work as well, sometimes even better because of personal time constraints, as I could before I had my baby.

Still as a working mother, I was subjected to raised eyebrows, exclamated “how do you manage”, or “what can you expect from a child whose mom works” words often,from mere acquaintances. The remarks would makeme cringe and feel inadequate. I would go on guilt induced “being a supermom”trips. Things were not working out. It was only when I relaxed; I allowed myself to think that I was doing what was best for me and my kids when things fell in place. I started making changes in my demands from myself and my family. With time I created a way of life which helped me be a mom; not a superwoman; not guilty that I work;  There are a few simple rules I have made, which help me spend time with my kids in a way that matters, while I spend the bulk of my day at work, still.

Valuing quality over quantity:
It is true that as a working parent one cannot afford the same laxness around the house as one could possibly as a mother at home. In our house, television is never switched on while the children are awake. Time on the laptop or phone is kept to the minimum. From the time we (my husband and I) enter the house till when the children sleep, we give our hundred percent to them. Listening to their day activities, eating together, have some fun everyday are as important for our family as any other. I stay near my workplace and try to come home for lunch wherever possible.  Meeting kids in the middle of the day means a lot to them.

Leaving office stress behind:As a new mom, I felt anytime which was not with kids or in office(or doing something useful) was wasted. I used to be in a hurry to get home from work; even on a day that had sapped me at work. Not a great thing to do. It was not good if I ever reached home, strung up on things from work. Slowly,on days like that, I started taking an extra half an hour, having a coffee en route or some quiet time in the car before I walked into the house. Children are amazing de-stressors; but they are also very demanding – especially from a mom who has been away all day and the mom needs to be whole to be there for them.

Build a support system, both around me and the kids: This has been the most important factor in my success both as an employee and as a mother–People, I trust, to take care of my house and my kids in my absence and sometime even when I am there.Every time this support system has been broken, both my work and I as a mother have suffered. What I have learnt is that one has to build this support system with a lot of care, be it family or paid, and be thankful for it and value it once it is in place.

A happy parent is a good parent: This is a lesson I learnt from my mother. As a new mom I forgot all about “me”. Only with time, I found myself. I started making time for things I love doing; started explaining to my kids, why I needed to do something without them, even though I loved them. And when I did, despite initial complaints from my kids (including my husband), we as a family have got happier. It has helped me discipline my kids differently and understand them in a whole new way. I had read a lot of parenting of books but thing that helped me eventually was taking out time to be a happier mom.

Invest in your marriage: This probably sounds funny here but as a mom, who works, marriage and husband are the first things to take a back seat. If there is once advice I could dish out for a working mother it would be - Take out time for your spouse, work on your relationship. He is the best partner you can have in bringing up kids and he needs to be happy too.

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