Editorial note: This open letter is in response to certain comments made by Mira Rajput, the wife of actor Shahid Kapoor. Criticising the "new wave" of feminism, the stay-at-home mother said, "I am a homemaker and wear that label with pride... I can raise my daughter, I can be a good wife and I can set my house the way I like. I love being at home and love my child. I wouldn't have it any other way. I wouldn't want to spend one hour with Misha and then rush off to work. Why did I have her? Misha is not a puppy. I want to be there for her."
We are three very busy and pressed-for-time working mothers. Nevertheless, we decided to take some time out and share a different perspective—pro bono since one of us is a lawyer. We have worked pretty much since the day we got our hands on our shiny degrees and we have enjoyed working and success at the workplace.
We don't judge. We help. We are all trying our best.
So to put it in black and white—we choose to work! Cue the offended gasps and muttered asides—you unnatural mother!
So, why do we work?
We like having our own identity in the broader adult world. We like being a consultant, a manager, a lawyer. We are proud of our titles. They are part of our identity. Also, let's not forget financial independence—we haven't asked anyone for money since the day we turned 21 and we aren't about to start now. Plus we don't have any diamond-encrusted nest eggs and platinum spoons in our mouths.
Our brains need food
Our brains hunger for challenges, and we have a need to acquire new skills. We thrive on solving that knotty problem, the one our male bosses couldn't solve. It's our passion, and we have studied and worked hard to get here. The challenge of child rearing while pursuing and excelling at our passion is our everyday struggle, but we do it with pride.
To be better role models
As our daughters grow up, they will see mothers who are engaged and happy and productive. They will see mothers who are dealing with the challenges of everyday life, who come home and cry when their day at office has been bad and still wipe our tears, polish our smile and go off to work the next day. Our daughters will realise that the world is a big and complex place and that they aren't the centre of the universe. They will understand that sometimes you may need to choose between priorities. Children learn a lot through observation. We hope our daughters observe us failing and succeeding—they need to learn that it's ok to fail sometimes, just do better the next time.
To afford a better lifestyle
All three of us are privileged and let's acknowledge that. We have double degrees from top universities and are working with some of the best companies in the country. Can we manage without the money? Probably yes. Will we need to cut corners? Definitely yes. Do we want to cut corners? Maybe not. So in part we do work to give our children a better lifestyle, to afford that vacation in Florence so that we can introduce them to the brilliant work of Bernini, Michelangelo and Caravaggio.
But there is a whole spectrum of women who are not so lucky. They have to work to pay the bills. We speak with them in the train, we empathise because they left their three-month-old at a crèche since maternity leave was only 12 weeks. We help them clean spilled breastmilk off their clothes because their breasts are still producing milk to feed the baby and we offer to lend them our breast pump since they cannot afford one.
Whether we are homemakers or go to an office or freelance, we are all women and mothers. Let's acknowledge that we are all doing the best we can...
We don't judge. We help. We are all trying our best. Whether that translates to staying up all night with a sick child and rushing for a critical meeting in the morning because you have made a commitment that needs to be honoured or catching a nap in the train/car because the baby was cluster feeding all night or going to office when you are ill so that you would have leave available when your child needs you.
We are thankful for the stay-at-home mothers in our playschool groups who keep us abreast of what's happening in school and remind us that we need to dress the kid in blue on Friday because it's Blue day! (We forgot to when it was Red da!y) We have tremendous respect for them—it's not easy dealing with a toddler and managing a household. Some of them may have sacrificed their ambitions and aspirations because they felt that this was the best choice for their child and their family. Some of them may not have been given a choice at all. We are lucky in our supportive husbands who ensure that we have a choice.
So let's come to the fundamental point here: Don't judge.
You have been on the receiving end of a lot of judgment because of your choices. So you know what it feels like....
They say it takes a village to bring up a child—so let's be a tribe with pride in our choices.
Whether we are homemakers or go to an office or freelance, we are all women and mothers. Let's acknowledge that we are all doing the best we can under our circumstances. We all do whatever it takes to make our children happy. We read the same book again and again till we know it by heart, we make the same funny faces to hear them laugh, we all plead with them to eat some vegetables: "Broccoli is yummy, see it looks like a tree, one bite please?"
So let's all pat each other on our backs, and be each other's cheerleaders. Let's stop judging and instead build each other up. They say it takes a village to bring up a child—so let's be a tribe with pride in our choices.
Lots of love and positive vibes,
Amrita, Deepti and Rohini.