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Almost all new mothers face some kind of prejudice when they join work post maternity leave- Statements like:
"Work will no longer be her priority."
"She would take too many leaves and make too many excuses."
"She would not want demanding roles."
etc. are not uttered but nevertheless hang in the minds of most bosses and colleagues. Add working from home or flexible timings into the mix and a new mother is pretty much written off as no good. Here, therefore is a story of challenges, tears and laughter as a new mother (as fictitious or as real as you and me) tried to rejoin the industry and actually survived the dual mandate of home & work...
"The arrival of a little bundle of joy turned my life upside down. The lazy me was suddenly Mommy me with responsibility for a new individual who was delicate, adorable and in need of the best care possible. The first few days went by in a blur- Was the water for the baby’s bath too hot or too cold? Was a sweater required? Did the bump on the baby’s head when he fell down merit Doctor’s attention? Doubts were many, fears immense but time became my best ally. I became more confident (sort of), found a good nanny (serious achievement!) and realized that my paid maternity leave was over (Scary). I was not out of options though- The company offered extended unpaid maternity leave that I could take up and did. After all, what could be more important than spending time with the baby? It was not like we were in any financial distress, right? What was there to miss about work when I had my little son for company? This line of thought was ideal and pure but I was not.
I was a real woman who felt the pinch when I wanted to buy things for my brother’s wedding and realized that I would have to depend on either my husband who was already running the household on single income or my father who was anyways spending too much to make the wedding a grand affair. None of them would have denied anything that I wanted but it was NOT the same. I was buying for my loved ones, there was no censorship but somehow the money was Not Mine to spend as I please..
Worse still, a certain loneliness seeped in uninvited into my life. My son was not yet of the age where he could talk to me and the maid spoke in a regional dialect. Friends became a distant memory (I guess they are the first casualties of motherhood) and even family was so involved in the baby’s life that they hardly had time to lavish attention on me.
I started becoming sullen and irritable- the feeling was never directed at my son- for him I have only felt and continue to feel unadulterated love but I did resent my husband and family. All of them had a life of their own, an identity of their own while I was the one stuck with responsibilities that were rewarding & overwhelming in equal measure. In hindsight, I was also the only one with the privilege of watching my son grow but my perpetually sleep deprived, tired mind did not seem to register that aspect. Life did not seem good anymore- It was time to go back to work!
The first day in office and I missed my son terribly. Unable to take the distance, I walked up to his daycare to find him crying hysterically for me to come back. Even when I brought him home, he continued to cling to me and shuddered in his sleep. What had I done? Had my desire to have a life of my own blinded me to the needs of my son? I knew he would adjust- all children in the facility had but I could not in my heart let him go at that age. So the next morning, I went up to my boss to tell him that I wanted to extend my leave. Surprisingly, he was empathetic and suggested that I work out of home for a trial period of 15 days. We could chart the next steps thereafter. Life had given me a second chance!
I treated this offer as a Godsend and gave it all that I had- after all it was the only way to stay close to the love of my life & yet stay relevant to my own person. It was not easy- try taking a conference call while feeding a squirming (no make that fighting), wailing, not-ready-to-eat baby and you will know what I mean. But I kept at it- Worked at ungodly hours like 4 in the morning to catch up on deadlines; Looked and felt like a harried rag picker but ensured that my voice oozed a certain confidence and enthusiasm every time I talked to people (Thankfully they were on phone and could not see me). And for the first time in my life (make that the last, unless I plan a second child), I proactively took up new responsibilities to ensure the Work from Home arrangement continued without a hitch.
Motherhood had changed me. From a happy go lucky individual, I became more sincere not just towards my son who was and continues to be my life but towards my work which is no longer just a means of paying my bills. It is actually the thread that ties me to sanity (amongst the never ending but super entertaining chaos at home) and ensures that I sometimes splurge on goods for my loved ones- After all, the money does feel like it is mine to spend."