Mum’s The Word: Tejal Bajla Faced Judgement For Being A Working Mother
Work Without Guilt
Tejal Bajla, 35, Co-Founder, The Mommy Network
According to a 2015 report by McKinsey Global Institute, women contribute just 17 per cent of India’s GDP compared to the global average of 37 per cent. Some reports claim that 25 per cent of Indian women quit work after having children. The low percentage of working women in our country is due to several factors, including lack of institutional support and maternity leave. While some players are entering the space, there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to offering mothers improved choices, equal opportunities and a better approach to life. While the new Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2017 has increased maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks, it faces issues like how to help the sizeable women workforce in the unorganised sector and whether the bill will discourage companies from hiring women. No wonder it’s said, show me a working woman without guilt and I’ll show you a man.
Tejal addressed these issues when she quit a high-flying banking career with Morgan Stanley to raise her first-born Armaan. She ended up experiencing depression and a lack of self-worth. “The decision may have been right for my child, but not for me,” she recounts. But getting back to work was riddled with challenges. “After watching his every move during the early years, I was clouded by the fear of leaving my child even in the hands of a trusted caregiver!”
Someone rightly said that everything we want is on the other side of fear. Tejal worked on her fears and went to work. This decision was not without despair, derision and guilt. “I’ve felt judged for being a working mother. I have a reputation for not accompanying my child to the garden in the evenings or attending birthday parties. But I laugh this off. As mothers we should be practising empathy, not judgement.”
What made her decision tougher was coping with the neglect that is inevitable for a child with a mother who’s not around all the time. “My child has been neglected in some ways, like not getting enough attention at an extracurricular class. The truth is that you cannot have it all. There’s always a price to pay. However, Armaan is learning independence as a result. He knows he has to find his way around through effective communication, as his mother is not there to mollycoddle him all the time. He’s also aware that he has a huge safety net in me to fall back on for anything. Ultimately everything worked out beautifully. Going back to work was the best decision I made for my child, spouse, family and, above all, for myself.”
This also extended to Tejal’s partnerships like The Mommy Network, a Facebook group for mothers to share experiences and tips. “My co-founders Kiran Amlani, Shreya Lamba and I are best friends first and partners later. As mothers we understand each other and pitch in if the other is having a rough time at home.”
There’s a lesson in all of this: “Find that one thing that makes you truly happy as an individual and not as a mother. To some it means going back to work, to some it means learning a new skill, to some it means getting back to their fittest self. Find your true calling.”
In the age of helicopter parenting and ambitious super mothers, women need to let nature take its course and not forego their identity as individuals in order to be mothers. Ultimately, the only way that a child will be happy is when the mother is happy, at work or at home.