By Ancie Wilfred
Nagpur, August 14, 2019: It is now almost 13 years since I have been home. I’ve heard it all from ‘What do you do all day? Don’t you get bored?’ to ‘What a waste of your intelligence/education!’
I’ve heard family friends introduce me to new people saying, ‘This is Ancie. She was the most intelligent child of her batch.’ Was??? I’ve been told by my teacher that she expected me to do big things and that she was disappointed that I’m only a mother! Only a mother??? I can only laugh these things off!
As if a mother doesn’t need to be intelligent? As if being a mother isn’t enough!!! Hmph!
So far, nothing and nobody has been able to make me actually feel any doubt in my decision. Every day I see the result of my being there for my children. I can see them growing up as well-rounded human beings who have the roots firmly planted while they are spreading their wings all set to fly out into the world.
My efforts have been directed at exactly that. I believe that children need parents to give them roots and wings: roots to come home to when they need rest, and wings to fly to their highest potential. I believe that children need our presence a lot more than the presents we can buy them with the extra money we earn from a job.
I am not belittling money or its advantages. I accept the fact that money is very necessary to maintain a decent standard of life, but we need to remember the line beyond which it just provides luxuries and feeds vanities without adding any value to the quality of our lives or relationships. I feel families need to evaluate their needs and then decide if the mother needs to work at a paying job. If they realize that without the mother’s earning they cannot make ends meet, especially the child(ren)’s needs, then the mother should surely contribute. It’ll surely add to the mother’s troubles, it will surely have a different – not entirely bad – effect on the child(ren),… but I sincerely respect and admire women who are able to walk the tight-rope stretched between homes and jobs. As I have confessed earlier, I wasn’t able to do it. My maternal instincts snuffed out the career drive from within me.
When I quit my well-paying job as a software developer in a Bangalore MNC, I confess that I felt immense insecurity. After 10 years of being financially independent, the bank balance began dwindling. It was not an easy phase. But every time I saw my child(ren) achieving something sooner than is expected age-wise, every time I saw how assured and happy they were in my presence,… I could gradually put my insecurities behind me.
In retrospect, my husband (who had agreed to my decision to quit but complained very often about my being jobless and not contributing to the running of the household) began to do better career-wise. He reached heights that we had not foreseen – which meant many shares and stocks and better payment too. I haven’t asked him about it… he may still feel my contributing financially would have meant a better life, but I take this as God’s way of letting me know that He is happy with my decision of being a full-time mom!
I did take up a job – under pressure – when my younger son started attending a Montessori playschool. My schedule used to be as follows:
ü Calvin would leave by the school bus at 7:30 a.m.
ü I’d drop Brian to school at 9.
ü Work on my laptop at the school campus till 11.
ü Bring Brian home and hand him over to my mom-in-law.
ü Go to work.
ü I could leave work by 5 and get home by 5:30, but if, for any reason, I left after 5:20, Bangalore traffic could make me spend up to 1.5 hours on the road!
ü I would oversee Calvin’s homework while making dinner.
ü If I had any pending office work, then I’d set an alarm for 10 p.m. while I’d put my babies to bed. I’d fall asleep too. The alarm would wake me up and I’d finish my office work.
ü Up again by 5:30, to prepare breakfast and get both kids and myself ready for the day.
It was good to meet people, utilize my brains in my work, be appreciated for the good work and get paid again! On the down side, my mom-in-law lost weight – literally (can’t be easy to manage a toddler and a 6-year-old when you are 60!), I gained weight – in spite of all the running around and the reduced eating (thanks to the stress of running around, the doctors assure me), my elder son’s teacher complained of uncomplimentary changes in his attitude and my younger son began throwing tantrums! I quit that job too after a 9 month stint.
Soon after I dedicated myself to being only their mom, both my sons got back on track to being good boys, good students. I have heard only good things about my sons from the mothers of their friends, from their teachers, from my friends. Of course there are the occasional complaints that Calvin talks too much (poor guy can’t help it, it’s genetic!) or that Brian reads story books in class. But, by the grace of God, nothing that would worry me has been reported so far.
As far as a paying job goes, I can see that my 13 year old is the most independent child among his peers while my 10 year old is learning fast. I have reason to hope that in the next 2 years all they will need from me would be my presence. Their dependence on me would have reduced to negligible levels and their need for constant attention would have entirely disappeared. So by the time my younger baby finishes the 5th standard, I’ll be able to re-enter the job market. I will surely not be able to pick up the software thread where I left it because technology has progressed in leaps and bounds and nothing is the same as then. But there are so many more options, in fact more interesting than coaxing a machine to do my bidding!
My message to other mothers, especially younger, new mothers is to evaluate your options properly. If your finances are manageable and your self-esteem is not hanging on the career hook, there are only benefits to putting your career on the back-burner. Your child will be a child only once. Invest your time, energies and capabilities in your child. Read to your child. Talk with your child. Laugh with your child. Play with your child. Give society and the country a good future citizen. Give yourself the satisfaction of this 1 job well done, before you move on to paying jobs. Yes, you may need to start from scratch at your career all over again, but it will be worth it. No bank balance or high profile job compares to the joy of watching your little baby blossom into a fine young person knowing you have done all you could for him/her.
If you cannot afford to stay home, then just make sure that you take good care of yourself – it isn’t easy doing the balancing act – and also spend quality time with your child wherein it is just the two of you without any gadgets or other interruptions. Talk to them, listen to them as much as your timetable permits, but with all your attention. Time, attention and appreciation are the three main ingredients to a happy, proactive and productive person, regardless of age. These are precisely what your child needs from you too.
So, best of luck to all the moms out there! The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, is not just a maxim. Let us leave a better earth for our kids, and better kids for the world.