“Even after studying so much, what happened to you? What are you doing now? Cleaning baby poop!” My 85-year old grandmother commented. My mother looked at me nervously, expecting me to react.
Surprisingly, it did not hurt. It was true. Cleaning poop is part of my job description as a Mom. I had willingly given up my job to be able to enjoy motherhood. I had made a choice for myself, one that I never regretted. I thoroughly enjoy my time with my children, knowing that they won’t be so small ever again. Their innocent eyes make me melt every time I look at them. Their questions and comments, unaffected by the world of stereotypes and biases make me wonder and laugh. I am glad I could give them a gift of my time or rather, I should say, I could gift myself this time with them. I was doing this not only for them, but for myself. Besides, there is always a time when a mother has to clean her baby’s bum, however educated and highly paid or not she is. I did not feel the need to explain myself.
The disappointment my grandmother was feeling accentuated the wrinkles on her face. I could see that behind her remark was her desire to see her granddaughter doing something more ‘meaningful’ with her life. I could understand her point of view and she somewhat reminded me of Amitabh Bachchan in Piku. Not only because she too discusses her ‘motion’ out loud with my father, but for her asking me not to lose myself in an attempt to be a good mother. There she was, a petite, wrinkled, octogenarian asking her granddaughter to leave behind the traditional roles to go conquer the world.
We were three generations of women in that room. I looked at my grandmother, my mother and then myself. All three are mothers, two are grandmothers and one a great-grandmother. Interestingly, I am the only one among them to have taken a break to be with my kids. My grandmother, was a physiotherapist of her own making, she was a widowed, single mother playing the role of father and a mother at a time when most women were limited to the kitchen and child-rearing.
My own mother, got just one and half months of maternity leave and managed to work for many years, perfectly juggling her responsibilities of a mother, wife and daughter-in-law. I still remember her running around the house every morning to finish her household tasks, before rushing out of the house with her breakfast of toasted bread in one hand and water still dripping from her hair, creating a wet patch on her blouse. She wasn’t alone in her generation to do this. I am sure you would also be able to see similar examples in your own family. These women refused to be bogged down by their traditional responsibilities. They did it all with élan and most importantly without complaint.
I cannot deny that I have it much better than them. They worked much longer and harder compared to what I can ever imagine doing. I feel we are in a much better space than they were. We have greater freedom of choice, to work or not and definitely greater opportunities to find a middle path as well...whatever works best. Even if there is a seed of an idea, let it grow, let it flourish. Who knows what may work out for you. We have the advantage of greater support and understanding as well. Luckily, Dads are a lot more hands-on than they were previously. Daycare and pre-school facilities that were non-existent earlier are easily available now. Corporates too have begun offering extended maternity leaves up to 5-6 months, along with part-time and work-from-home options. Most have Diversity programs in place to welcome women into the workforce. There are support groups, like SHEROES and Mompreneurs which are providing opportunities for women to get back to work. With endless opportunities and possibilities, I don’t think there was a time better than today for Moms who want to do it all.
Sometimes, what stops us from achieving our full potential is our own selves. We just need to believe in ourselves and chase our dreams till they are realized.
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho