Meet Aarti Singh, a real mom. She works from home and also happens to be a research scholar (Yes! she dared to pursue a Ph.D. with a young child). Her husband lives and works in another city though he comes and visits almost every weekend. They have a 9-year-old boy. She and her son and lives with her foster parents.
What would you say is your key to juggling and creating a balance with your work and kids?
There is no such thing! Anything that you want to do and achieve will always throw life off balance. But yes, I do prioritize on a daily basis. For instance, if my son has an exam, and needs my help, I will perhaps postpone that article to working on it in the night – and spend the evening helping him out.
What is the most challenging part of being a mother?
Realizing that you can never be fully in control. Realizing this in itself is a challenge. But once you do, the realization sets you free. Often, mothers are too hard on themselves – constantly worrying if they are good, if they are doing right, if they are doing enough. I need to constantly remind myself every day that things go wrong too.
I feel it lowers expectations from life, people, and circumstances and opens up the senses to Plan B (or C or D). We teach our children to be perfect – but we forget that perfection is a consequence, not a goal. The goal is the honesty of purpose – despite resistance, despite failure. As long as you are convinced deep down in your heart that you have done your best, nothing else matters. And even if you feel you haven’t done it right because things did not go as per plan, you can always do it over. The only thing we can control is our own happiness – a choice to be positive and be ready to make mojitos out of life’s lemons.
How do you spend time with your kids on weekends?
1. It depends – if it’s a long weekend, we always strive to travel together – even if it is just a night-long weekend getaway.
2. If my husband is around on the weekend, I try and ensure father-son get as much time as possible – without any agenda or plan – things are very fluid then.
3. As mother-son, we paint, go out on photography visits to museums, parks, or any such interesting place. Sometimes we cook a meal together or watch a film. If I have a deadline, he sits with me in the study-cum-office and reads or paints or plays with his Lego.
Take a look at tips to remember while traveling with a toddler!
Do you manage to get some personal time for yourself?
It is hard, but I do try to steal moments. I sometimes just soak my feet in the water while reading, or watch a film, or go for a run. I do make it a point to read before I sleep – it is a must and like a drug. I cannot sleep without reading – even if it is just a page (when I am really exhausted).
What tips would you like to give to mothers in general?
1. The relation between a grown-up and a child (at whatever age) is nothing but a power struggle. The parent wants to wrest power, authority, while the child just wants to live. A child is the will to live. We as mothers must remember, that the will to live, to just be, will always win. It will find a way. Just let them be while being good role models and examples.
2. Guide, but don’t order. Advise, but don’t force. There are many high points of being a parent, but one single challenge that all parents face is how to talk so your kids listen. The way we talk to our kids has a huge impact on their learning and ability to listen to us.
3. Don’t ever compete with a yelling child. For there will only be noise, and no communication. When they have calmed down, then talk. Make time for one-on-one conversations.
4. Try to get some time alone with each child so you can really talk at their level and use appropriate vocabulary.
What do you think about our Indian education system?
The least said the better! It is going from bad to worse – with the emphasis on rote learning rather than experiential learning. Teaching is not a noble profession anymore, but a way in which individuals – mostly mothers – find a way to achieve that work-life balance and a cushy job – and also land discounted education for their children, while also being able to keep an eye on them! I am not sorry I come on too strongly, but I have had terrible experiences in the education of my ward. I feel teachers should go through a stringent hiring practice and definitely salaries according to their qualifications and abilities. Self-improvement based promotions are also a good idea.
What is your parenting style?
I would like to believe I am balanced – though my husband always labels me to be the bad cop. He is far more lenient. I do take pride in the fact that I don’t have to resort to drama to ‘discipline’ or ‘admonish’ my child – no screaming matches, let alone hitting..(Touchwood!) It’s just a look that is enough to tell him that something he is doing is not going down well at all with me.
A real mom or a perfect mom and why?
When my son was younger, I would want to do everything perfectly. That took a toll on me physically as well as emotionally. Over time, I grew to realize it is us – my son, my husband, and myself – that needs to be happy. Not the grandparents, not the friends, no one will ever be happy completely because definitions of happiness are subjective. It is not like I stopped making efforts or walking the extra mile – but learned which battles to fight, and which to walk away from.
I guess being real is what makes your perfect – because the happier you are, the happier your child will be.
Any special parenting tips for our readers?
I have experienced ‘free advice’, ‘suggestions’ and ‘tips’ from everybody who came to the house – right from my maid to relatives and neighbors. While some of it will be helpful, some of it is best ignored.
And please, for those who are really stuck up, it is not about ‘hamaare zamaane mein..’ or ‘hamaari maa ne toh yeh kiya..’! Well, what is the point in science and technology making advancements in healthcare if we still follow what was done a century ago? The worst advice some people would give me was to not work at all and devote all my time to my child. I was a wreck without work.