This week we interviewed a corporate professional, author and a Zumba instructor. Did that sound like three separate individuals? We stand corrected. This week we interviewed a working mother, an author, a Zumba instructor, music and yoga enthusiast – all rolled into one. Meet Yashodhara Lal, mother of Peanut – her 9 y.o. Daughter and Papad and Pickle- her twin boys who are meant to be identical but don’t look it. Right from singing Red Hot Chilli Peppers number as a lullaby, losing weight from 85-58 kg to calling shenanigans on the astrology practice of Nadi Shastra, Yashodhara has done it all.
In this interview she highly recommends becoming a parent (for your own good) and reveals her big secret of being a guilt-free working mom!
Q: A corporate professional, an author and a Zumba instructor. Which of these do your kids identify most with?
They identify with all of these. They see me come back from work every day, my books adorn our shelves and they accompany me as participants and photographers to my weekend Zumba classes! So they know I do all three things and more and they recognise that it’s possible to be multifaceted – in fact, my nine-year old daughter says she’s going to be a Baker-Scientist-Concert Pianist-Who-Writes!
Q: How do you manage each of these roles so effectively?
I recently gave a TedX talk on this exact same topic – exploring your multidimensional self for a fuller life. I think it’s been a series of trials and errors for me. I have tried being a full-time author, and a crazy-obsessed-with-work professional. I have learnt the hard way that some of us are just meant to live more rounded lives. As a result of significant effort over the last seven years in this direction, I’ve managed to strike a balance that works for me. For example, only on weekends am I a Zumba instructor; only for some months in the year when inspiration strikes do I put a pen to paper and write for an hour a day; I’ve chosen a job that energizes me. I work in a company that provides its employees enough flexibility to manage a full life including the time you need with your kids. So a series of conscious decisions have helped, as has a focus on managing my energy, and not just my time!
Q: What is a typical day in the life of Yashodhara Lal, the mother?
Today was a pretty typical day. I woke up at 6.30 ( with great difficulty) and edited a book I’m working on for about forty-five minutes before the kids woke up. I hung out with them till 8 a.m. while they got ready for school and left. After working out till 8.45 a.m (I alternate between Yoga and Zumba workouts), I got ready and went to work. I was in back-to-back discussions and I did try to get some solo time on strategy for a couple of hours in between. It is 7 p.m. and I am back home now. The kids are racing at completing their daily tasks which is a list of 5-things they’re supposed to do – bath, food, homework, music practice, tidy room. We’ll have dinner together and I’ll try to get a little conversation time with my husband, who’s as busy a soul as me. I may squeeze in editing one more chapter before bed. I’ll be feeling a little guilty about not doing my music practice or watching a new Zumba choreography, but some days, everything really isn’t possible and I’m learning to live with that.
Q: Does donning multiple hats compromise your time with your kids? If yes, how do you deal with the guilt?
So the thing is – if you have three kids, a point comes wherein they’re quite absorbed in their own stuff. They play together a lot and generally engage each other like the mini-circus that they are. The second thing is that I really don’t think over-attention is required. We get time together everyday. They know that if they have a problem, they can expect me or my husband to sit down with them and help solve it. I have these bonding rituals with them (I’ve seen more kids movies than adult movies in the last few years) and we also generally sit together and talk for a few minutes each day. My daughter and I go for our music lessons together so that’s my time with her. Yes, time is limited with them but then they are themselves out for 8 hours in the day, so it’s not really because of my work or other interests. As far as guilt is concerned, that’s just another bad habit which wastes time and energy so I don’t indulge in it anymore.
Q: You mentioned music practice. Is there a family history of music or a reason why you (and your kids) pursue it so diligently?
My grandparents were accomplished musicians. My grandfather, Jitendra Pratap was an accomplished Sitar player. I have inherited both music and writing through family genes. I wish I had been pushed earlier into music which did not happen. Hence I am very particular about my kids’ practice. I now learn the piano and the guitar, which I played from age 15. Peanut is learning the piano and vocals, Pickle is learning the guitar and Papad is learning the piano. Peanut is the star 😉
Q: Any experiences you had while growing up or any values instilled in your upbringing that are helpful in raising your children?
Like many parents of that generation, my parents were not the sorts to pay too much attention to the kids. We were a very middle-class family and still consider ourselves middle-class and that helps. My son just came and asked us to buy him a PS4 and we laughed him out of the room. Comparisons with their friends don’t fly in our house. But I would say that I think I pay more attention to the emotions of my kids than my parents did to mine! I want them to know we’re there and listening.
Q: What inspires or drives Yashodhara?
Music. Dance. Work that matters. Writing stories that give people a humorous but insightful look at their own lives. Children. Social good. Other women. A lot of things!
Q: Your writing journey started with a blog that had a great number of followers. How has that helped being an author?
The blog helped in two ways – I was able to express myself through the written word, it opened up my writing. It also told me that other moms were doing it and that was a great inspiration. It helped me figure out that my husband was a good source of material because my blog readers enjoyed stories about him most. So my first book ‘Just Married, Please Excuse‘ was based on him! And my next about how I became a Farmer’s Wife is also based on his year of experimentation in farming! I don’t write on the blog regularly enough anymore, but I hold on to it because it matters to me.
Q: Is a book on your parenting experiences or stories in the offing?
I wouldn’t rule anything out. I have recently wrote ‘Peanut Has a Plan’ which is based on my daughter. I figure in it as the too-strict mum so in a way, writing children’s stories will bring that out. Perhaps a parenting book someday!
Q: Any parenting advice or tips/ tricks for mothers and fathers who juggle between multiple roles everyday over and above being parents.
Yes. The standard one about ‘Put your oxygen mask on first’. If you don’t look out for yourself, beyond a point you’ll burn out and not be able to look out for your kids either.
Q: If you were given one week off from all your responsibilities, how would you spend it?
Honestly – I don’t really believe in time off. In the sense, I would still work out, still hang out with my kids, still want to read, write, practice music. And probably still think about work at least to some extent because I hate when things pile up. But my favourite way to lose myself is to go to Goa! Unimaginative but I’m not a big traveller, and my husband and I both like Goa, as do our kids, so our favourite holidays would be there. We’re beach bums and we pig out there!
Q: How has being a parent influenced your life? What have you learnt about yourself after becoming a parent?
Becoming a mother has influenced my life profoundly. It increased my ability to care about others. It provided meaning and hope for the future. Also it helped me figure out who my friends really are. It makes me want to do more inspiring and good work and that’s why I took up working in corporate social responsibility. Parenting reinforces my desire to be a feminist because I would like my children to be feminists too. I am what I am because I became a parent. I highly recommend it! 😉
Hope you liked reading the interview as much as we loved doing it. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. You can know more about Yashodhara on her website or join her on facebook and twitter. Her latest books are When Love Finds You and Peanut Has A Plan.