A fellow member of an online professional women’s forum recently posed a question whether it is possible for a working mother to pursue a career she is passionate about while also being there for her kids. The responses from scores of other members from around the world within a few minutes revealed not just the global nature of the beast but also the daily battle that women wage with themselves on this matter. While some said that parenting necessarily meant stifled career choices, others said one should follow one’s passion regardless. For many, earning a living was the bigger question – was there really time to chase an elusive dream or take the kids to salsa lessons when there were so many bills to be paid?
Let’s admit it. Women really can’t have it all. That’s not just a debate raging eloquently on American news channels and news portals these days – it’s a reality we all need to face. Sure, it is possible to pursue a career you are passionate about while also being there for your kids. Possible, yes, but also fantastically difficult. I know because I’m here, and every day is a new day. You win some, you lose some. You may have to cut down on your night-outs with your girl buddies, or the first-day-first-show (or any show!) of that blockbuster you were eagerly waiting for. You may have to give up on some lucrative travel assignment at work because it’s your kid’s birthday, and skip official dinners in favour of exam revision. You will definitely have to trade manicured nails and blow-dried hair for stacks of paperwork and chores. If you’re not careful to get your ‘time out’ to breathe or vent yourself, it can sometimes feel like a hamster’s wheel: Work at work, work at home, work at work… You get the drift.
Our cover diva Anuja Chauhan would know. A mother of three (three!), she was also a senior advertising professional for 17 years, a job she was passionate about, and a wife and daughter-in-law to accomplished individuals (a tricky job in itself, you’d have to admit). She then gave up one professional passion to pursue another – writing witty, romantic novels – which she now juggles alongside writing scripts for movies, columns for newspapers, being there for her brood, keeping fit, and keeping a mean home machine going (it’s exquisite in all its wackiness). Surely there have been times Anuja’s had to give up one thing for another, a luxury for a priority. A superwoman’s choices can be tough.
But then let’s also admit: Men, and women without kids, can’t have it all either. Who can, really? There’s always a trade-off in life, and everyone has their own cross to bear. Would we working moms despite all our battles really, really, really trade our new, constrained lives with our old, childless, carefree ones? Really? Haven’t we gained a whole lot too in the trade?
Columnist Frank Tyger said, “Doing what you like is freedom. Liking what you do is happiness.” Yes, it’s nice to be able to go about changing the world and living it up, footloose and kiddie-free. But when push comes to shove (and often does when you got two of them, as I do, sigh), call me a woman but I’d choose the agony of maternal happiness over the theoretical carrot of freedom, any day.
First published in the March 2013 issue of Atelier Diva