A pang of guilt hit me as I checked my WhatsApp messages. Mommy school group was full of pictures from the nature painting activity at school this morning. My son was probably the only one whose mom was not with him at school. Well, this is not the first time thatI could not make it to school, neither is it the first time that I am feeling guilty about it. Guilt is an emotion that I guess, finds a permanent place in the lives of all working mothers. The birthday parties that are missed, playdates that one cannot go to, the mommy get togethers and so on… the list is endless.

What I wonder is, why are there no WhatsApp groups of school dads? There are no daddy get-togethers, dads are not expected to attend any kiddie birthday parties, neither are they required to organize play dates for the kids. Schools do not specify that only mothers have to participate in activities that require parents to be present. Yet, ninety nine percent of the times, it’s the mothers who end up being at school. Infact, the odd enthusiastic daddy who may join in for these activities is almost looked down upon by men and even more so by women.

The other day, I was enthusiastically telling one of my seniors about all the things that I am doing on the professional front. I was excited about all the new opportunities and how things are falling into place gradually. He heard me for a couple of minutes and then said……. “amidst all this, don’t forget to take care of the family, Aparna”. I immediately went on the defensive and tried a bit too hard to convince him that I make it a point to be back home by 6.00 pm and how well my kid is taken care of till then. The “guilt” surfaced again. Someone has rightly said that, “she never quite leaves her children at home even when she doesn’t take them along”. For years, in subtle ways, I have been told, that don’t try to do too much, don’t travel too much; do this, don’t do that…… your kid is small and you need to take it easy.

Ambition is a quality which is not appreciated in a woman. It is a given, that if you are doing well in your career then you can not possibly be a good mother and vice versa. What people don’t understand is that fulfilling one’s ambition is the best thing that a woman can do for herself and her family. By curtailing ambition, the happiness quotient is also compromised. When you sacrifice, you expect others to do the same in return. When I curtail my ambition, I indirectly curtail that of my child’s as well. I may not be a perfect mother, and may be, I bunk a few activities in school but we do have our lovely moments together.

Can a working mother have it all? Probably not. Unfortunately, career and family are not interchangeable and there is no easy trade off. Life may be chaotic and exhaustion may become its defining feature, but if you love what you do, it kind of helps you to drive forward! At the end of the day life is imperfect and it depends on us about how to make the most of it! I guess, life is too short to be anything but happy! So be ambitious, be crazy, be silly, be whatever, but make sure that you are happy!


Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker

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