“Oh my God! Your baby is so young – just two months old. How can you leave such a wee one and go back to work?” How many of us working mamas have heard this. How many of us have had to deal with this question from relatives, friends, or even the house-help?
Going back to work was not even a topic of discussion in my house. We knew that I would definitely go back to work at the end of my maternity, and you know what? I was actually looking forward to it.
The money was a factor, yes! I would be lying if I said I was not looking at the financial aspect. I do draw a fairly high salary compared to many my age, and I enjoyed being economically independent.
Of course, with a child, the monthly expenses of the house increase by leaps and bounds. I mean, who would have thought that a little human could actually cost so much! Go on! Tell me I am being horrible by discussing the money element in raising a baby. But secretly, you know it is the truth. Diapers, clothes, medications, toiletries, are just the beginning and it only goes higher and higher from there.
Double incomes are very important these days, if you want to continue maintaining the lifestyle you’ve been used to. More importantly, it is vital to ensure that you can provide the best for your baby.
But the money was just one factor. Another key factor was the fact that I was not willing to give up a career to which I had committed so much. I have been working since I finished my masters. Since 2009.
Continuously, and relentlessly chasing my ambitions. From trainee, to reporter, to editor, I had grown through the ranks through sheer grit and hard work.
During my university days, I have to stay in a village which had no bathrooms or clean running water to work on my thesis. In the beginning of my career, as a junior producer at the radio, and then the reporting days for the newspaper, every minute of the day was consumed by work. As a cub reporter, I have had to listen to painful stories and speak to families who have lost everything in life. I have listened and written stories which stayed with me for days, and emotionally drained me.
I have to put in 18-hour days, and sleepless nights, said no to friends and social engagements because of work commitments, and have been a complete workaholic to reach this position. I am successful in my career today. But it didn’t come easy. I paid my dues to earn my stripes, and I didn’t see a reason to give that up.
I am sure I can get back on the career-train at some point again, if I choose to stay at home now, but, I know it will set me back, and I will have to climb the steps I did a while ago once again. I might even have to take a massive pay cut in such a case. And I really didn’t see why I had to.
Thing is I do love my job. As a journalist working in the media biz, deadlines, mad rush, panic, confusion et al are a part of our daily lives. It is exciting and exhilarating and a world that I wanted to part of since 9th grade.
Another point that affected my decision was that I wanted to become a mother my son would be proud of. I am in no way saying that staying at home will make your child less proud of you as his mama, than a working one. No sir, not at all! I know that staying at home, and being a full time parent takes a lot of work, dedication, and sacrifice.
But I want to show my son that it is possible to wear multiple hats and be good at them. That being a mother doesn’t negate everything else that I am. I want to show him that being his mother is one of the most precious identities I have, but I have other identities including that of wife, and daughter. That I had a full life before he was born, and while priorities have changed, I still continue to be who I was before he was born.
I have also witnessed a number of women, who were stay at home moms, being unsure of what to do with their lives after the children have flown the coop. In the Indian community, it has been a norm for the mother to dedicate every moment in her life to the welfare and care of her family. Thus the only thing they know is how to be a mother. And when the scenario changes, they become lost, and confused. This impacts her confidence, and her well-being, and I knew that it was not a future I wanted for myself.
Baby Free Time
And as selfish as this may sound, I am ready for some baby-free time. I love my son to bits. But I am looking forward to going back to work, simply because it means I can be surrounded by adults. People will not constantly want to talk about the challenges, excitement, and changes that having a baby will bring. I was glad to be having a few hours a day, where I could have a cuppa or a meal, or a conversation, or get my writing done in relative peace.
I also think that having some time apart from each other will make mom, and baby value the time they have with each other a lot more. And that every minute (or most of it – apart from the crying and tiring and exhausting ones – which is most of the day anyway) will be valued and cherished.
Luckily for me, my immediate family was extremely supportive of my wanting to go back to work, as were my close friends, who actually had little ones of their own.
My friends who had kids almost a year old, and had opted to be a Stay at Home Mom – because of various factors – told me that it was best to go back when the baby was young. Younger the better, of course, within reason.
The older they are the clingier they will get to momma. I thought about using the word attached instead of clingy, but then I realized that all babies are attached to their mom, and all mothers dote on their children, so that is not the right word. Clingy is.
When you are available to the child 24/7, the child learns to depend on you alone, and changing that becomes a lot tougher once the baby starts understanding things, and people more. Their need to be around you is compounded, and then it translates onto the mom as well.
Leaving a 2-month old is tough, yes, but I am sure that leaving a slightly older baby, who will definitely understand that you have left them, is more difficult. It is beyond heart breaking to drop off your child. Because in some way, you might believe that you are breaking their trust, and that can really impact your emotions.
It will also become more difficult for the caregivers to assist the kids, as the children would be obviously suspicious of them in the beginning, and will take longer to connect to them.
With a wee one, all they need is their milky on time, a nice place to sleep and some kisses and cuddles. Yes, they do require a primary care-giver they can depend on, but I believe it is easier to create that bond when bubs is younger, rather than older.
Striking a balance between work and life is a challenge. Even more so when a baby is thrown into the mix. But I knew I could do it. With the support of my husband, who has always been my pillar of strength. He had faith in me, in us, and I knew I could do this.
That said, I know that work will be different. Especially now that there is a little person involved. I know that my priorities are different; I will no longer eat, sleep and breathe work and only work.
I will quit in a jiffy if my son needed me, and nothing would come in the way. But for now, the way things are, I am able to balance both – motherhood and career. And I can’t be more pleased.
Each family has different needs, and different priorities. The key is to figure out what works best for you.
PS – This is no judgement on Stay at Home Mothers. If it works for you and your family, that is all that matters.