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To Be Or Not To Be a SAHM

This post is addressed to all young working mothers. Both my daughters have gone back to work after staying home for 6 months on maternity leave. Of course, the leave was only for 3 months but they both took another 3 months without pay simply because they wanted to nurse their babies exclusively. They were also fortunate enough to have the option of not working for the additional three months, something which all working mothers don’t have.

Technically speaking, the Government of India expects all infants to be exclusively breast fed for at least 6 months but yet only mandates 3 months of maternity leave. (Shockingly, there are also some organizations which don’t sanction any maternity leave and expect the mother to resign from her job when she delivers). However, if the Government expects exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months to ensure a healthier population, doesn’t it make more sense then, to mandate a 6 month maternity leave? After all, most mothers who are working hardly have the luxury of competent help who can thaw out frozen milk packets (assuming they do have the freezers to freeze the milk and uninterrupted electric supply to keep those freezers running!) and ensure that the infant does not have to resort to formula. But that is grist for another mill, so let me concentrate on the dilemma of a working mother.

It is very hard to leave a newborn baby behind, even though at the end of six months you are quite ‘fed up’ with just staying at home and changing nappies and living from feed to feed. Most working mothers are simply dying to get back to work and re-kindle those grey cells that are literally pickling in baby poo. But the maternal instinct is often stronger than the pull of the mind and those mothers who have the luxury of working on their terms (in other words who are not compelled financially to take up a job), are often tempted to chuck it all and continue the life of a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) and enjoy years and years of coochie-cooing and warm, wet baby kisses.

However, I tell these mums, DON’T MAKE THE MISTAKE OF CHUCKING IT ALL.

Yes, these words are strange indeed for a stay-at-home mom who consciously wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. My decision to be a SAHM was driven by the fact that I was the child of a working mother. Seeing my mother juggle home and career made me vow never to be on such a tightrope when I grew up.

So what has changed?

Times have changed. SAHMs are no longer the norm but the exception. And in my opinion a working mother is better than a SAHM especially if she is professionally qualified. Tempting as it is to stay at home when you are an empty nester or even before that, when you see less competent colleagues make waves in your profession, you are bound to feel some amount of regret or even resentment.

This apart, women today are in the workforce not only by choice but also by law. Government jobs have mandated quotas for women to ensure that they are part of the work force. Isn’t it then, mandatory for women who have such jobs to go back to work? Imagine all the men you have displaced simply because you have the right to their job!

I know this argument will not find favour among feminists who have fought hard for women’s right to work alongside men and who will argue that despite working like a man, women still have to come home and work like women but the point is, that if you as a woman, have taken the trouble and effort and perhaps the financial burden too of educating yourself to be on par with a man, isn’t it your bounden duty to go back to the work force? All those female graduates in medicine, law, business and other fields have actually taken away the seat of a male graduate who would otherwise have worked at the job and supported his family.

So, all you young mothers who are in two minds as to resume the job or not, I urge you to ponder deeply about your decision. Of course you may say that you will join up after baby goes to school but will you really? It is equally difficult re-joining after a break so if you want to work at all, just chuck away the diaper, grab your tote and GO.

As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of two, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through babyhood, toddler hood, adolescence and adulthood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share her experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grand-motherhood.