Samidha is the founder of BrandStudio, a Pune based Brand management company. She started her entrepreneurship journey 3 years ago. Before her venture, she worked for 16 years in Marketing, Sales, Brand Building and Communication at Philips India and Atlas Copco.
Being a working mother for 16 years, she has gathered many learnings. Some came intuitively, some through first-hand experiences or introspection. She shares the ones that made life simpler and some things she could have done differently.
Work, life, motherhood … the balancing act
My personal and professional life has co-existed, ever since I took up my first job.
My work has been a source of immense joy, independence and constant learning. My fierce desire to work stemmed from the fact that my passion and profession converged: I did what I loved and loved what I did.
Having said that, I equally cherish being a mother, friend, wife, neighbour, daughter, sister and more. Each relation has a valuable role in shaping me. I would never trade off any of my relationships. In retrospect, having this clarity helped me balance my work and personal commitments.
But I have to confess that motherhood brings along tremendous changes – physical, emotional, personal and social. And the sum of all the changes does not come in smoothly. But as a new mother, I realised early on, that being able to do what I cherish the most helped me find the happiness, focus and strength required for this balancing act. And hence I could continue working, with a low guilt quotient.
A happy mother can raise a happy child
Clarity of what gave me happiness helped me channelize my time and energy. I needed my work, family, friends, exercise, new life experiences, learning things I like, for being happy, even with a baby in toe. But this balancing act is full of challenges post motherhood.
When my baby was born, my priorities did change. Motherhood became my primary focus but instead of giving up on things that made me happy I altered the proportion and frequency for them. This famous quote by Buddha, “You can’t pour from an empty cup” never sounded so accomplished.
The challenges of being a working mother
I firmly believed then and today: cross the bridge when it comes. This put to rest my anxiety that comes with being a working mother. I realised it’s difficult to have visibility of the next few years or sometimes even a few weeks or months.
With time I learnt that things work out as long as two steps were visible. This is sufficient to move on and gradually I learnt to not expect beyond this. On reaching the second step, the next two would surface. Instead of worrying about the unknown, I made myself comfortable with this pattern.
Of course, I had to lay the foundation for the first ‘few steps’. My job involved travelling and extended work hours, outdoor events and the constant target pressures. So post-baby, I had to ensure that while I was away, my baby got the required attention and care. An extremely reliable and round the clock childcare support was a non-negotiable.
It takes a village to raise a child. Meet mine.
“When you want something the entire universe conspires to make it happen for you”.
My support came in different forms viz. mother, hired help, daycare centre, etc.. Usually a combination works. For me, the combination that worked best was my mother (who lives in the same city) and domestic help.
My friends and neighbours have been tremendous support during the early years. I was blessed with four families that I could go to at midnight, literally, and ask for help. Or leave my daughter in their care, without guilt or being questioned, knowing well that she was in safe and loving hands.
Making tough choices for an easier future
Some of my friends and acquaintances often share their dilemma of whether to keep their child in someone’s care to go for work or give up work to give full attention to their child. Resolving this mental dichotomy calls for an absolute honest talk with oneself. There is no right or wrong. But there will be something right for each one.
For me, I saw myself as a happy working mother. Once this was sorted it was about taking responsibility, managing day-to-day logistics and finding solutions to problems/challenges that popped up. It did take a lot of planning, delegation and spending the buck. But the whole process made me feel empowered to take up responsibility and exercise the freedom to do things that worked for my daughter, my family and me.
In the process, I learnt ‘to let go’, for prioritizing my mental/physical resources. I coached myself to leave the home messy, kitchen unkept on occasions so that I could spend quality time with my baby.
How I derived strength & inspiration
Strength can come from different quarters. As a mother, other mothers can inspire you to face your challenges head-on. I was fortunate to know women hailing from different backgrounds where they are handling everything at home and working. Then the specially abled people with unimaginable challenges. This simply put to rest anything which I thought were difficult. I actually felt small to crib about things. I distinctly remember telling myself several times “No matter what, I will not give up.”
Never before did I experience such a power-packed drive within dismissing my failures, disappointments, delays, doubts and whatever that came over. Being a mother somewhere develops that sense of survival. It gives the energy, spirit, and focus to take life with all its possibilities.
Undoubtedly my daughter’s happy temperament was the biggest boon. As a baby, she demonstrated very cooperative behaviour. That reinforced my belief that a happy mother can raise a happy child and hence, pursuing my ambition made even more sense.
Can a workplace help a mother
My job in Marketing demanded long work hours and frequent travel. Looking back I could have asked for some concessions, but unfortunately, I did not. I would definitely urge working moms to do so. Every organisation has a framework and they will accommodate what is possible. If we ask we at least stand a chance of getting it. It does not hurt to attempt.
We just need to ensure that demanding these concessions do not come across as a sign of weakness, or lack of commitment, but as a temporary arrangement to tide over a tough phase.
What I could have done differently
I certainly think being more aware of the triggers which brought out the worst in me. I could have easily saved some energy. Today I am more aware of what to avoid or steer clear off.
Looking back I also feel I could have hired additional domestic help. This could have given me some relief from the domestic chores.
My energy boosters
My spouse loves children and hence it made some things easy. While he has always had a very demanding career, but when at home he was most happy to be around the baby. Living with this passionate professional and sportsman inspired me to continue my journey with complete conviction. And even today he continues to inspire me.
My fitness nurtured my mental and physical well-being. Exercise is like bathing and brushing for me. A part of my daily routine for many years now. Just the time of the day I would exercise has been changing, especially post-baby, until last few years. When my daughter was an infant, it was at 9 pm. As she grew older it may have come to 8 pm or so. I optimized the weekends. I tried different things like my own circuits at home, running outdoors, gym until I found yoga becoming my life. Collectively this worked well in my case.
The exercise gave me physical strength, much-needed stamina and boosted immunity. All essential for juggling all my balls in the air. And, being healthy and fit made me feel good about myself.
My friends, my backbone of support
Undisputedly my friends were my biggest strength. I could be myself without any fear, whatsoever, of being judged in their company. Over the years, I was fortunate to develop a network of close buddies perfect for discussing professional matters, chit-chat, picnics with kids, or exercising, etc.. Here I would like to give a special mention to my office friends – we helped each other cope with this phase. Social interaction was, and remains, a very crucial part of my life.
How being a mom made me the woman I am today
This challenging phase was one of the most insightful for me. I discovered myself, who I wanted to be, and what makes me happy. And, I realised the value of freedom and time. The love and support I received in this journey, deepened the sense of gratitude within me.
I am happy to say that the most enjoyable and rewarding assignments happened to me after motherhood. The highs and lows of motherhood, the strength it gave me, prepared me to take more challenges than ever before. I was open to new experiences in life.
My experiences away from home have influenced how I raise my child. It made me flexible at parenting. And I see that my daughter shows signs of being independent and is flexible in adjusting to situations around her.
Before signing off, let me summarise my learnings – People can walk with you, but cannot walk for you!