By Vishnu Makhijani
New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) There are many challenges a working woman faces. But what are the three major obstacles to Working Motherhood that need to be weathered?
You’ll get the answers in a new book authored by veteran journalist Kaveree Bamzai, who herself balances her roles as a professional writer, a wholehearted supporter of good causes and a mother of two boys. Her household also includes two dogs.
In the book “No Regrets – The Guilt-free Woman’s Guide To A Good Life” published by HarperCollins, the author tells you how to live a guilt-free life – with a little help from a host of highly-accomplished women.
“This is not a book that tells you what to do with your life. If I knew, hey, I would be making millions. Rather, it’s a book that tells you what not to do, what to avoid, what to sidestep, what to remember, what to forget. It’s a book that does so with the help of a few people I’m happy to call my friends and a few whom I have met over the course of my work,” she writes.
It covers a wide sweep: From being a mother to lessons learnt from mothers, managing money to marriage, coping with pain and anger to taking ownership of their health and growing old.
“If there is one thing I learned well and in time it is this: there’s no point in having regrets or feeling guilty. It’s like carrying a whole lot of excess baggage and its not even monogrammed Louis Vuitton. So why bother?”
Noting that a friend once told her that the secret to a happy life is a good cook, a good driver and a good husband, she adds: “I agree. But you have to kiss many metaphorical frogs to find the perfect specimens of all.”
“The trick really is to do the best you can. It may not be good enough, it never is, or if it is, you’re really one of God’s chosen ones. But blaming yourself shaming yourself, and complaining about what you have compared to what you could have had, well that way lies disaster and a whole lot of regrets,” Bamzai explains.
What then are the three obstacles to Working Motherhood that need to be weathered?
The first is that everything that goes wrong is your fault. “So, if the children turn out wayward, it’s your fault. If the husband doesn’t pitch in as an equal parent, it’s your fault. If the world is coming to an end, it’s your fault…Turns out there’s a whole subculture out there warning women not to move towards unthinking motherhood,” the author says.
The second principle: You’re damned if you drop out and damned if you don’t.
“One of the greatest mysteries to me why companies push the ten-to-six workplace attendance in the age of 24×7 work culture. But equally big is the mystery of how several companies manage to shirk the mandatory six-month maternity leave and institution of a creche. Dropping out seems almost a relief, especially in double-income families.
“This, I believe, is the worst mistake a woman can make,” Bamzai writes.
The third principle: Don’t. Ever. Give. Up. Work.
“Just change the way you do it…Working doesn’t only give you a sense of self-esteem, it is also, let’s face it. We need something other than nutritious tiffins, falling grades, teacher admonishments, attitude adjustments, outgrown clothes, and after-school classes to occupy us,” the author writes.
“How many times have you had to face women coming up to tell you that they’re quitting because they just can’t manage home and work? They’re intelligent, good at their work, but just exhausted from the daily grind of putting food on the table, getting the children to bed and then to school on time, ensuring the fridge is stocked, all the school events are attended and all the social obligations are met (including, and especially ones that involve the mother-in-law),” the author states.
“Nothing irritates me more than men and women who make a virtue of the woman not working, to add to which there is a decline in the female labour participation rate as well as a shrinking of the total number of women in the workforce,” Bamzai writes.
What is the wisdom the author’s interlocutors have imparted?
Sudha Murty: All women must work outside their homes. Otherwise, they will not know what real life is like.
Ariana Huffington: I’m careful to create time and space to recharge at the beginning and end of each day.
Naina Lal Kidwai (on how to reach out to the right people gor help): At dinners, I would invariably be talking business with the men but I would always spend time with the wives.
Nandini Harinath: Grow together. All said and done, every action has a reaction. So help others and reap the benefits of it too.
Farah Khan: Don’t make children the sole purpose of your life; Moms, take it easy. Don’t give in to social pressures.
Lavanya Nalli: Focus on work-life harmony, not balance.
Kiran Rao: Most of my friends are not from the film industry, so it’s actually quite relaxing.
Sania Mirza: Women are good at multi-tasking and they must use this talent to expand their working capacity through better time management.
“It’s an odd thing in India,” Bamzai writes. “Women who are lucky enough to survive the vagaries of being born and giving birth in a male-dominated society manage to outlive the men.”
Through its 19 snappily-written chapters, “No Regrets” tells you how!
(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)