Monday, March 21, 2016

Go by your instinct and wisdom, and do not regret your decision...ever

Go by your instinct and wisdom, and do not regret your decision! You don't have to!

When there is all this talk of woman and her family or her job etc, I wonder how the child is taking it all. During one such conversation with my spouse much after I had left paid work, suddenly one day my teenage son said "Ma, most of the time the working mom does not know what is going on in the child's mind." He may be right, he may be wrong. One shouldn't generalize. For his case, when I had to dump him in a creche that he didn't like going to and later with grandparents he couldn't relate to and the two of us could spend only some time together, he had every right to feel confused and get upset. Just as he grew more independent and strong outwardly, he became more emotionally insecure and less empathetic, which only I was aware of, and maybe his teachers too who couldn’t say it upfront (I realized much later).

But then, there are cases, where the child takes to such arrangements like a fish takes to water, maybe because the child is very adjusting or inherently indifferent to such changes in her immediate environment (when the mom returns to full-time work) or maybe because the people she has been kept in company with are very understanding type and the environment is conducive to the child's growth. There are families where the mom is at home, but there is not enough communication between child and mom. So, we can never generalize. There are families where the sheer involvement of the mom is helping the child blossom consistently. And there are families where the mom’s absence during the day is wreaking havoc in the child’s life. Just as every child is different, every family is different.

When I saw things were not working out at all for the two of us, I quit paid work and now I'm glad I did it. Yes, I spent years feeling guilty of having saddened my mom, who had been very ambitious about me. When I found myself alone staring back at myself instead of poring over a computer screen in an air-conditioned office cubicle, I allowed time to teach me to take care of myself during those hours through extensive reading, writing and voluntary counselling to individuals. Of course, I still miss the handsome pay packet sometimes, particularly when the expenses shoot up for the kids’ education. I am also aware that I am at the bedside when any of my kids falls sick - I don't have to feel guilty for taking sudden leave from office when my team is slogging away or for not being there at home because a deadline has to be met at my workplace.

As Indra Nooyi famously said, one can't have it all.
If a woman strongly feels she must work, she should, else she won't be a happy mom. Similarly if a woman feels she should stay at home, she shouldn't be criticized or looked down upon. After all, her efforts are going to help create a better nation. When we accord respect to teachers for their noble work of helping children realize their potential, why do we forget the mom who is making it a bit easy for the teacher who has to work on many more children? Money is definitely very important nowadays, but does that have to overshadow everything, even when the child is continuously suffering? I’m told by a friend who runs a playschool and a creche that kids as young as eight and nine years old are victims of depression because they don’t get the mom’s company as much as they need! As a counsellor, I feel in such cases, the mom needs to pause and reflect over it all, while also involving her spouse and her extended family in it. Often, a stitch in time saves nine.

A woman is truly independent when she can take a decision after weighing the pros and cons and she is not under any compulsion and can silence a critic with polite but firm words. She also needs to be prepared for the consequences. A working mom will have to silence her urges to be with her child even when the child needs her badly and she can't be with him owing to demands of her job. A stay-at-home mom has to manage with a very tight budget. When a working mom turns into a stay-at-home mom, she has her reasons and the same is true the other way round too. A wise woman takes decisions as per the circumstances. And then she does not have to keep convincing herself or well-meaning relatives and friends what she decided is right. Sometimes I feel the media becomes too interfering in these matters.

The fact remains that time doesn't come back and we can't undo our actions. Just keep the consequences of your decision in mind. So, go do what your instinct and your wisdom tell you to do. And don’t regret it. Don’t wallow in self-pity. Don’t let strangers or anybody for that matter sympathize with you. At any point, if circumstances change and you need to rework on your decision, so be it. Because a woman has to think of so many different things before taking a decision, let us be kinder to women. Let us not put down any of them. Rather, embolden them more with a word of encouragement when you know that she is going by her instinct and wisdom and not by what society or relatives expect from her.

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