Walking A Tight Rope

For the first time in my 8 year-long career I had to call in and say that I am unable to go to work because of an illness! Not mine, but my son’s. But that’s because I am only a new mother who has just recently returned to work. If being a full-time employee and a mompreneur was not enough, a sick child really threatened to topple my universe!

Walking A Tight Rope - Working Mother - Challenges And Common Issues

There was a deadline, like always. With too few hands on board, we were racing against time to meet the finale of a critical project. And then I had to pull out because V fell unwell. All my other work has been stumped too. I had to message clients and bosses telling them that I am delayed due to my son’s illness.

How did that make me feel?

While I’ve had a harrowing week so far and spent many sleepless moments watching over my feverish son, I have had little time to think of anything else other than him. But in those snatches of reflective moments between hovering over my son, I found myself asking a very critical question – “How does a sick child affect the professional in me?”

I have no conclusive answers.

Lately there’s been a huge furore over Marissa Mayer’s decision to recall all her employees at Yahoo and disband the popular ‘work from home’ culture that has incidentally made in-roads into Indian companies. MNCs in Indian have for long allowed this and my husband working in one has this obvious advantage over me. The other being, having a 5-day week! So there is enough reason for me to feel envious of him. But given the diminishing roles and involvement of both parents in a child’s upbringing today, there are still a few things that are best left to the mother.

A sick child needs a mother. There are no two ways about it. And a child in his early years is bound to fall ill a few times. In such circumstances, how does a working mother say that she needs to ‘work from home’? How does this dent her professional persona? Is she then not as dependable as she was? How can I convince my boss that I still mean business? And when working from home or ‘at home’ (there is a fine line between the two), how do I handle a sick child and tell him that Mommy still needs to work?

I work in an industry that does not recognize ‘work-from-home’. I am a television producer and in the news industry, work never sleeps and neither we, its foot soldiers! In my previous workplace, I have worked at all hours of the day and night. The friendly office ghost was my close buddy! I have worked all 7 days a week for several months. And really, I pride myself for being the ‘workaholic’ that I was.

While I have settled to motherhood and the changes it has brought to my life, the repercussions that it has on my professional life are still very new. I began as a freelancer and then graduated to be a mompreneur. One of these days I had to give my phone to my son to pacify him when I got a business call. While I wrangled with the phone in his fist, he screamed into it and began howling. I somehow managed to speak to the client and tell him that I’d call back. Being a working mother, at home or elsewhere is tough!

One particular client thanked me for updating her. She later messaged me asking about V and if I need help with pediatrics. I have promised her delivery later this week, and if I fail to deliver on that timeline it will definitely upset me!

V is slowly on the road to recovery and as a mother I wish that this be the last time he falls ill…but I know that it won’t be such…all I know is that I haven’t found an answer to how does my boss or a potential client sees me now?

Does it bother me?

I can’t honestly say that it doesn’t bother me. I think as a working mother I will never ever regret having to give up a deadline to be next to my sick child. But the feeling of letting go of a critical task cannot be mitigated. It’s like letting someone down when they needed you most. And a mother will always justify it by saying that at such times a child needs you the most.

The more I think of it, the more I realise that this is really a grey area. And there aren’t any real answers.

I don’t have any! It’s like walking a tight rope.

The TV junkie is back into the idiot box. Besides pretending to be a superwoman between work and family, Rituparna also dreams of flying free as an entrepreneur! Her son’s student, she is learning the ropes of parenting every day. Rituparna blogs at http://onboardthemommyship.wordpress.com/ and you can spot her on Twitter as @VeesMother.

  • Roshni

    I guess it depends on the family. Somehow, in my family, there is no difference between mother and father in terms of a sick child. My sons are equally comfortable with their dad taking care of them. It remains to be said that *I* would like to take care of them when they are sick!