Today I was featured in this list of 'world class women achievers'. (along with the likes of Kiran Bedi and Anoushka Sharma).
It was indeed a pleasure and an honour to have been chosen.
I do get many mails from many women who tell me they find my life inspirational. My life does sound like a 'perfect-fairy tale' to so many people out there. So I thought I will write a post to tell you about the grit behind the glamour, about the struggle to get where I am today. This article is mainly for the women readers out there. (though men are welcome to read and/or comment too!).
Several years back, I made a conscious choice to quit my corporate career and be a stay-at-home mom. It was indeed a very difficult choice because, ever since I was a child, it was my dream to be financially independent. I was certain I would have a corporate career and rise to the top. That was all I ever wanted. But when I became a mother, I changed in ways that I never thought possible. I wanted to be there for my children and no way was I leaving them in someone else's care. So I had to kill that dream (of a corporate career with financial independence) , because I couldn't have both--I couldn't have a career as well as be a full time mom.
'Nothing but the best for both my children. after all if I have quit my career, I am going to be the best mother that I can be,' I had decided. But it wasn't that easy. (I made a choice and I breastfed both my children for one and a half years each. I had read up several studies and articles about how breastfeeding increases children's IQ by several notches. Click here to read one such from the Scientific American.) Firstly the demands of a baby are round the clock. You get no respite, no off, no free-time. Also, if you are breast-feeding, your diet has to be adequate. You have to eat enough and very nutritious food in order to be able to produce the required quantity. And oh--the pain! Breast-feeding is bloody hard! You have to be there all the time, around the baby. For me it was very hard. But I stuck to the decision because that was what I wanted at that point in time.
In the initial five years of both of our children's lives, I don't think Satish and I have ever eaten a meal together. We have raised our children, all by ourselves--with no help from anyone. (Satish had lost his mom long before I got married to him and my mom's health did not permit her to stay with us to help look after). Also Satish had a job which involved a lot of travel and so most of the time I was alone. While I did enjoy my children immensely, any parent knows how demanding child care can be. You have to be alert 24x7. You have to be there all the time. There are so many days when I wouldn't even have had time to have a bath till late evening, and sometimes only when Satish came from work would I even have time to shower.
I read to my children a LOT. (It has paid rich dividends now. Both are avid readers). I did a lot of 'brain games' with them. I did a lot of activities, which required them to be creative and required them to think. I discovered that I was naturally good with children. When my son was one and a half, I got an offer to teach in a pre-school. My condition to them, was that my son should be allowed to join me. They had no issues with that and I used to take him with me and drive to work. I really enjoyed my job and the stimulation my son recieved from so many children was something fantastic. When he was two and a half, I shifted him to another pre-school (as I didn't want him becoming too dependent on me) and I continued to teach there, till I had my daughter.
Once I gave birth to my daughter, I teamed up with a good friend and we started running 'thinking workshops' for kids, twice a week as an after-school acitivity. There was nothing of the kind at that time, and the parents as well as the children absolutely loved it. The children who used to attend our workshops didn't want to go home! They were that much fun and the amount of stuff they learnt and were exposed to was phenomenal.
Satish's job was a transferable one and soon we moved to Pondicherry. Again, they saw how good I was with children and they offered me a teaching job in my children's school which I accepted. Then we moved cities again.
After we settled down, I started Art classes for children and they were really well received. There used to be a long wait-list to join my classes. I also used to do my own 'summer camps' for children, offering them experiences which they never had before.
I also did several workshops for children for some international schools. One of the International schools offered me a teaching job (with excellent pay) but before I could accept, Satish's career required us to move again, this time to Pune.
So I had to again give up my dreams and put whatever I wanted to do, on hold. I felt very bad about it. But again made a choice to put my family before my career.
I was the rock for my family.Satish will happily admit that his career would never be where it is today (he is in the senior management in an MNC) had it not been for my full and complete support. (His job involved a LOT of travel and I managed the home and both kids always, all on my own--never have I grumbled as it was a choice I made). I was always there for the children when they came back from school. I have never employed a cook, as I am finicky about cooking for my family. Satish and I cook all the meals together.
Was all this difficult? Yes--it was very very hard to be the 'good corporate wife'. The problem with Indian society is that if you are a 'stay-at home' mom, you are never treated on par with 'working mothers'. Somehow in India, stay-at-home moms are truly not given the importance they deserve, as the work they do has no 'economic significance'. I faced my share too. In fact, I remember after one of the office parties, I had cried and cried because of an insensitive remark by one of the 'working women' about 'housewives'. (and years later, it is so darn satisfying to have 'made it big' :-))
To this day I have a problem with the term 'housewives'. They are definitely not 'house-wives' they are home-makers.
Anyway, my life changed dramatically when I lost my father all of a sudden. For those interested, I have blogged about my journey as a writer in my 500th post which I wrote when my second book came out. (I wrote that book when I was in the UK. We had again shifted countries by then)
That book (Life is what you make it) continues to be in top ten on the Nielsen list.
After that I wrote ' tea for two and a piece of cake'. That book was among the top five best-selling Indian fiction of 2012.
My fourth book 'The secret wishlist' has broken all records. It is just three months since it has been released. It finds a mention in the latest issue of Business World.
For me, what it means more than anything else, is that my words reach thousands and thousands of people and have an impact on their lives. I get mails from thousands of people telling me how my writing has changed their lives. I feel grateful for the gift.
My children are now 15 and 12 (nearly). I am able to work really hard at my writing as they are pretty independent. Now I am able to travel for my events, as they can manage well without me. They are so darn proud of all that I have achieved, as is Satish who is one of my biggest supporters and he will happily declare that he is my biggest fan.
Now finally, my long cherished dream of being financially independent (which I thought I would never be able to achieve) has come true too.
So, if you are a stay-at-home mom, feeling bad about giving up your dreams, your interests, have hope.
Children grow up. The time that you spend with them will never come back. Nurture your interests side-by-side and do not quit doing that one little thing which you do for yourself, which gives you joy. (In my case it was working with children initially, and later writing). Hold on to it. Nurture it. Protect it. It is easy to forget it in the daily rigours and demands of parenting and running a home.
Have hope and believe in your dreams.
They do come true.
I can vouch for this :-) After all I lead a perfect fairy-tale life ;-)
Check out my latest book here where it has been getting some fabulous reviews. You don't need a credit card. You can even pay cash on delivery. It has a whopping 41 percent discount too :)
And hey--If you like my blog, you might enjoy my books :) Grab them here. :)