Four 30-something mothers share their thoughts about keeping their professional and family lives on track during the pandemic as they grapple with the disproportionate burden of responsibility placed on them
In early 2020, we relearned a forgotten life skill the hard way. We finally started to slow down and cultivate patience, and were forced to realise joy even in the most mundane of things.
With the world under lockdowns of various severities, common responses have emerged from those in similar socioeconomic situations, all rooted, as always, within an analysis of power.
Going grocery shopping has become an event, and many of us find ourselves teetering between brazenly taking a walk to the convenience store down the road for a non-essential item and caring enough to find the kind of infallible reasoning that would justify our goings-out. Feelings of guilt, the aftermath of some false sense of bravado, have become de rigueur too.
It has been a period of hard learning for everyone. One subsection that I’d confidently wager to be at the end of its tether is the lot we recently organised a Zoom session with.
For a couple of hours one afternoon, we brought together four young women in their thirties. We have 31-year-old Advaeita Mathur, founder of jewellery brand Studio Metallurgy and mother to one-year-old Amartya, currently in Gurugram without her husband or any other family. Thirty-five-year-old legal researcher and new mum Parbati Dasgupta gave birth to Ananya on June 6 this year; she and her lawyer husband Debdut Mukherjee are doing their best as they adapt to their role as new parents in the most absurd of circumstances in Kolkata. Thirty-seven-year-old interior designer and illustrator Khushboo Gupta is also Kolkata-based. She has been navigating a new routine with her four-year-old toddler Kabir and husband Abhijit Chakravarty by her side, 24/7. And Bengaluru-based and HR manager at National Aerospace Lab, Pooja Dipesh Shah, 39, has been finding new ways to connect with her 13-year-old, Vivan. Her IAF pilot husband passed away a few years ago.
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Lockdown diaries : Raising Amartya post#3 // Post Bath Selfie @studio.metallurgy is my work account. An account I have agonised over – to have it reflect my work, my process, the experiments, the dialogue as beautifully as I can. To keep my content raw, to grow organically because that’s the reality behind most small ideas that become enterprising businesses some day. And then came along a human dumpling #baby followed by a #world #pandemic2020 and an unplanned unexpected #singleparent spell. I guess in a nutshell, this rambling post is simply to say – the raw reality is that, raising a human is legit #work and that’s what #studiometallurgy is busy doing at the moment ! 😊 Also don’t believe happy Instagram pictures. This photo was taken before this guy threw a legit tantrum and refused to sit still for a diaper. And 2 mins before taking this picture, I was trying my best to not drop a wriggly slippery wet baby on the floor ! Will this lockdown ever really get over ?!! . . . . . . #goodmorning #bathtime #baby #babiesofinstagram #sendhelp #nannyneeded #singlemoms #instagram #pictureoftheday #today #bath #bathtime #happybaby
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Two things Khushboo said during the conversation left quite a mark. One was declared with a certain defiance, which was albeit overshadowed by a sense of (internalised) guilt, about how her dining table has her art supplies strewn all over it in place of food. That she could say it without feeling judged, receiving empathy instead, speaks of the camaraderie between the mothers, none of who knew each other before the call. In another instance, she talks about how children are either told or know not to disturb the men of the house while they work from home during the lockdown, but the women are fair game.
It’s telling. Raising a kid is not easy. Parenting during a pandemic is a whole lot tougher. And in heteronormative nuclear families, it’s more often the mothers who are pressurised to take on various roles, personas and additional responsibilities while the onus on the man remains relatively negligible.
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Women have historically been expected to cope, perhaps because we are so adept at adapting and responding to difficult situations. A fact re-established by a recent New Yorker cartoon that shows a man proposing to a woman whose hands are laden with groceries. The caption goes, “Would you do me the honour of taking on even more responsibilities while my life remains largely unchanged?”
Advaeita, Parbati, Khushboo and Pooja counsel each other. They vent. They crack up with laughter over their daily realities. They calmly analyse the uncertainty we are living in. They mull over the “joys of motherhood”. And they do it unapologetically, with sarcasm, humour, candour, grace. The overarching quality that shines through is a sense of unaffectedness, an authenticity. They are not striving for perfection or aiming to keep it together at every moment. Maybe because the expectations to do so are largely unrealistic and these four women are nothing if not real.
Click below for a video of the conversation….
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