If i had the choice, i would have stayed home for the first year with Zi. Unfortunately, that’s not a state-ensured right – which of course it should be, especially in an oil-rich republic that could afford it. It’s also a luxury I can’t afford.
After my three months of maternity leave, i took two extra months of leave without pay. Then, I had to go back to the sphere of waged work. I think the year for caring is necessary, not only for the baby, but for the mothering woman who may be breastfeeding throughout day and night, who is likely to be exhausted and who probably has to organise – and possibly pay – someone else to take her place when she is not at home.
sometimes, i wish things were different for me. Zi is in great hands with either my mother, my helper or my husband, but I risk missing first steps or words or gestures while i’m busy earning the money to keep everyone paid and to know that i can look after my child almost regardless of what happens. this risk is not so different from what many working women, of all classes, face as mothers.
if i wasn’t working, life would be so much more relaxed, i’d spend more time playing and napping and playing music with Zi, we’d be at the beach every week, i’d exercise, cook more often, go for massages, have the energy to go out in the night and even give some attention to stone. i’d have time to read those baby books on the shelf. i’d definitely do an ‘If I was PM’ video blog, create a picture album for her first birthday or paint some t-shirts; small, enjoyable things that express my creativity. i’d even take my mom out somewhere she wants to go on the weekend, because i’d have the energy to leave the house and be nice. I’d be a mom with time and energy for my family and me, which is so much better for raising a baby.
but, that’s not to be.
it’s tough, really tough to hold together a full-time demanding job and a family, to budget and think about my savings, to drive to work and home in traffic and still take my baby out, to make time for sex and manage time without sleep, to plan and write publications, to see my friends and to make time for myself. those are just the basics, all the extras are not even on the list.
yet, sometimes, i’m also glad that i work. i feel good when my brain is thinking about theorising Indian girlhood or working through the meanings of an ‘Indian modernity’. i feel proud that i’m shaping my first well-funded research project, on women and politics, into something that will have great publications, action-research actually useful to women, and media elements that give something to the public. i feel like a power-house when i teach. not because of any sense of being an ‘authority’ but because i’ve created a course that takes my students on an adventure and its like watching them navigate the rapids of a river, and knowing there are going to be unique twists and turns along the way. and i’m so involved in these and other projects that i am happy not to be home, missing out on being here, at a stage in my career that’s quite cool.
of course, as with other academic women, i risk staying at this stage as it comes just when the phase of family comes in our life cycle. and, really, women with babies should get some time off the tenure track because of an institutional recognition that they can’t act like they are childless or men. there are changes to press for and, as i’ve said, it’s not easy.
i guess i’m reassured to know my brain, which i’ve heavily invested in, is as it should be. work enables me to fulfill parts of me mothering doesn’t involve. it’s also a sphere of my own, unrelated to Zi or Stone or my family. i work because its a necessity, but i am glad for it because it reminds me of my autonomy, enables me to not be overly focused on Zi, keeps me in dialogue with worlds i’m interested in and helps me feel powerful because, through work, i have a wider reach on the world.
so, despite the serious challenges of meeting both mothering and working duties, i’m thankful for the opportunity to keep in touch with the pre-baby workaholic gab. she’s was more driven than i am now and probably would have achieved more, but this gab is figuring out how to get the best of both worlds. and i’m probably going to be a better person because of it.