The past two years have been unprecedented, causing a paradigm shift in the way mothers live and work. There has been a surge in pandemic babies and many working women have had to split their time caring for their kids.
In India, new mothers are eligible for 26 weeks of maternity leave. While some women choose to get back quickly, others avail their entire maternal leave or take an extended break from their career to nurture their children.
Ghazal Kapoor, a Mumbai-based journalist, delivered during the pandemic and resumed work after eight months. She says, “Work didn’t feel troublesome, as I was working from home. But ever since offices reopened, leaving my son behind has been excruciating.”
Nowadays, women want to retain their individuality and do not want their professional lives to go in vain. While taking a break might be necessary, they are not too keen about prolonging it.
Thirty one-year-old media professional from Mumbai, Priyanka Kandpal tells us that she resumed work three months after she gave birth to her baby girl: “I had taken an early maternity break. But it was a long gap and I wanted to get back. I had set goals for both my personal and professional lives and I did not want to falter on them. I have my own identity and I wanted to strike a balance.”
Esha Tiwari, an academic counsellor, feels the same. After her delivery before the lockdown, she started in-person work in four months. She says, “My career makes me happy. I would never want my kids to be the reason to take away my happiness. A happy mother is a good mother and in order to be the best mother, I have to work.”
Moutushi Dutta, a telecom professional from Navi Mumbai, worked right up till the date of her delivery and resumed work five months later. “Every woman’s situation is different. For me, I prioritise both my career and family. Restarting my career after a break would also be difficult in my field. I have a supportive a family that made taking this decision [of not taking a break] very easy,” she says.
While they are happy with the decision to continue working, all the mums we spoke to had pangs of guilt leaving their children behind. Kapoor says, “Life has changed so much pre- and post-motherhood. Earlier, I wouldn’t think about anything else when I was at work, but now, there’s one part of me that refuses to leave my baby at home. But I’m trying to strike a balance, positively.”
Sharing her experience, Kandpal says it was not easy to leave her child to go to work, but she is grateful to her mother-in-law for taking care of her baby girl. “I still feel sad when I leave my baby, but I am trying to be patient with myself. I am also talking to people who are going through a similar situation,” shares Dutta.
New moms’ feeling of guilt
While they are happy with the decision to continue working, all the mums we spoke to talked about feeling guilty while they left their children, to go to work. Kapoor says, “Life has changed so much pre- and post-motherhood. Earlier, I wouldn’t think about anything else when I was at work, but now, there’s one part of me that refuses to leave my home and baby. But I’m trying to strike a balance, positively.”
While Tiwari adds, “I used to feel quite guilty that I have to leave her and go to work and that I will miss her special moments. I used to miss her all the time but it has become better now. My in-laws take care of her and we keep in touch via video calls. She is used to me working now.”
Sharing her experience, Kandpal says it was not easy to leave her child to go to work and but is grateful to her mother-in-law who stayed at home to care for her daughter. “When you are a new mother, you want to be around to experience everything first of your child – right from his smile, to frown, to crawls, walks, etc. You want to be there when your baby struggles to form his first word. There were times when I doubted if I took the right decision of resuming work, but soon I realised it was a step in the right direction.”
Talking about her struggles as a new mother “I still feel sad and guilty when I leave my baby for work but I am trying to be patient with myself. I am also talking to people who are going through the same thing. I have a great family and my husband also helps out but it is still hard”, shares Dutta