What you may not know is that I was home for a long time after the birth of Jellybean. I wanted to give her personalised attention and since everyone at my in-laws worked, there wasn’t anyone else who could look after her full time.
Staying home was a very different experience for me, as I had always been a very independent and working person. I was always engaged in some activity or the other, in school, during university, teaching students, working part-time, you name it.
After I got married, I got pregnant soon after and never got a chance to go back to work. It’s not like I tried, but I felt that it was pointless to try and get a job, because I would have to go on maternity leave in a few months. And no employer would hire someone like that. So I stopped applying to places and got comfortable at home.
Jellybean came and for the next three years, life was a struggle. Learning everything new, coping in a new family, with a little baby in tow – it was tough. My in-laws helped as much as they could, taking turns to care for Jellybean whenever they could, feeding her and helping whenever she was sick. As new parents, The Husband and I were very lucky in this aspect – that at least there was someone to go to in times of need.
Nevertheless, many decisions were made on the spot and based on common sense, because I would be home alone with Jellybean until everyone returned. Thankfully no serious emergency ever came up.
In the three years I was home, I didn’t just sit around and twiddle my thumbs. As mind-numbing as it can be to be home day after day, following the same routine again and again, it is very essential to keep one’s mind and brain active. So when Jellybean was a few months old, I started teaching students at home. It was a welcome relief from the yelling-screaming-poop-cleaning and I quite enjoyed it (albeit secretly, since I claimed to be a very impatient teacher!)
I taught for almost two and a half years and when Jellybean was old enough, The Husband and I enrolled in a master’s program in a local university. The back-to-study routine took some time getting used to, and there were many all-nighters (especially before deadlines and exams). The Husband was very impatient when it came to sitting and absorbing knowledge, so he needed me to be the anchor and make sure he did his assignments. Of course, while I worked hard and slogged away, somehow, he always managed to ace his tests and assignments, and I hardly ever saw him open a book.
Sometimes when my in-laws were not available to watch Jellybean when we had to go to class, we would take her with us. Luckily we had understanding and cooperative teachers who allowed us to take her. She would have snacks and watch cartoons on the phone while we attended the class, and when she got bored, she would walk around and explore other students’ pencil bags. Jellybean, by the age of three, had attended a few weeks worth of master’s classes!
Right after Jellybean turned three years old, I applied for a job and got it as well. I’ve already told you how we managed to handle taking care of Jellybean when I would be at work, so I won’t delve into that.
What I will tell you, is how it felt to go back to work. At first I was nervous, because I felt the gap in my career might affect me somehow. I used to feel slightly inhibited about going back to work because I knew that my friends and juniors had probably surpassed me in rank by now. Even if that were true, no one made me feel small or inadequate. Of course there was always the crowd that would give me the silent questioning looks (Oh my god, you’re still at home? A housewife? Uhh what about your career?); but I learnt to take it with a pinch of salt.
Since I kept active by teaching and studying, I wasn’t too out of touch with things, and easing back into work wasn’t that hard. I enjoyed the zeal and deadlines and the thrill of completing tasks and my pre-marriage independence, if not wholly, came back to me in parts.
Of course at the back of my mind, was that annoying voice that kept tugging at my heartstrings and I would miss my little Jellybean terribly. She was awfully brave, and didn’t make too much of a fuss. She missed me and looked for me the first few days, but she also understood that this was something that Mumma needed to do. I would spend as much as I could with her whenever I went home, and over the weekends, and look forward to any long holiday I got with her.
People say that the grass is greener on the other side, but I believe that the grass will be as green as you make it. There are some things that as a woman, you need to do for yourself, so do it, but don’t deprive anyone else in the process. As a woman, I needed to be independent, because that’s who I am and who I always will be. But I am also a mother, and my child is equally important to me, if not more.
So I try and will keep trying, until I find the right balance between both worlds. Trial and error make the most experienced people, am I right or am I right?
Cheers to all the working moms out there!