Having a working mother taught me lessons I will remember for a lifetime.
It was a cold February morning. My father and I were feverishly coordinating with each other, making sure the gift we thoughtfully picked out for my mother was out on the coffee table ﹘along with a card and a grand bouquet of flowers ﹘ all before she got out of the bedroom, ready to go.
It was the day of her retirement party. Mother got out of the room, wearing her favourite brown sari and a nude-coloured lipstick to match. She left behind her a trail of ittr that filled the air with bitter notes that turned into subtle wafts of jasmine. Just as we were about to leave, she saw the gift on the table and took a moment to savour our choice. It was a thick gold kada with flowers and vines intricately carved within its breadth. She hugged me and kissed my father on the forehead (a forward move, in her dictionary) before wearing it. She was excited. Happy.
There were very few days in the 26 years of my life that I saw her this excited or happy before leaving for work.
For her, work was a responsibility that allowed her to provide for her family. It was a rule of life. And rules don’t warrant excitement.
My family had fled Kashmir in 1990 during the Kashmiri Pandit exodus that marked one of the most violent moments in Indian history. Families were destroyed and torn apart; crowds of people killed and declared missing. My family decided to move further away from the neighbouring cities of Delhi and Jammu to a place with a climate similar to Srinagar’s. Eventually, they found a home in Pune. But the weather was the only thing they found comforting about it.
Everything else felt strange ﹘ there was a culture shock they weren’t prepared to deal with. All of a sudden, it wasn’t just the trauma of fleeing home that they had to endure. But they had to dust themselves off and deal with it quickly. Jobs had to be found and children had to be raised. A home had to be made.
So, for 35 years, my working mother contributed to making Pune home. She had worked at the same company, her body and mind used to a routine that was now about to end. She had done her part.
She had earned a salary, saved, and contributed to the household. She was now allowed to be happy. And she was.
Life lessons I learnt from my working mom
Today, I consider myself a privileged millennial who was encouraged to pursue her dream without a second thought. Unlike my mother, I have the privilege of waking up loving my job on some days and hating it on others. But the lessons I have learnt by just watching and being around my working mom continue to dictate my life. I’m sharing some of them here.
Nothing tastes as good as financial freedom
Growing up with a working mom exposed me to something I’d call a fact of life: women work.
Just as my father worked (away from us most of the time), my mother worked.
Naturally, when I grew up, I knew that working was a non-negotiable part of my life. And what came with it was financial freedom and empowerment.
This financial freedom gave my mother the upper hand on where she wanted to educate my brother and me. While my father was unfazed thinking about enrolling one of us in a good public school, it was my mother who wanted us to be on equal footing. “If one child gets to go to a private school, the other one goes too.”
As I built my career, my parents ﹘ especially my mother ﹘ would ask me if I’ve saved and invested. She was largely unconcerned about what I did with my money, as long as I financed my own trips and shenanigans.
I became my own person by spending my money on the things I considered important. Only financial freedom allows you to do that.
Follow your self-care routine religiously
With a full-time job and domestic responsibilities, my working mom barely had the time to take care of herself balancing work and motherhood. Though she couldn’t afford to take long breaks to pamper herself, she found ways to add a spin to her routine.
She’d scrape leftover malai from the bottom of the milk saucepan and apply it to her arms and neck. The to-be-discarded papaya peels made for a quick face mask. Leftover curd would make it to her hair.
Watching my mother make the most of these simple kitchen ingredients instilled in me a love for organic products, which would give me the best results with minimal effort.
This Detox and glow papaya strawberry face mask by Prakriti Herbals is one such product. Enriched with the goodness of natural ingredients that reduce acne and pigmentation, it leaves my skin with a natural glow. I can use it every day without the fear of chemicals bothering my skin. After all, self-care need not be grand or heavy on your wallet.
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Work-life balance will take you a long way
No matter the situation at work, my mother always found a way to be present during the most important events of our school life, balancing work and motherhood masterfully.
Whether it was a PTA meeting, an annual function, or sports day, she made sure to cheer on as I participated or won.
It’s always the little things that make your loved ones feel closer to you ﹘having work-life balance helps build unforgettable bonds with the ones you love.
Stress shows up in mysterious ways
With my working mom’s jam-packed routine and little time for self-care, stress started to manifest itself physically, in the form of hair fall. And, because I am my mother’s daughter, I knew I’d probably face the same issues. I learnt, quite early, the importance of recognising the signs of stress and how not to let it affect my body ﹘ especially my precious hair.
I ensure that I take enough time out of my schedule to pamper my hair in the best possible way, with the right kind of oils, shampoos, and serums.
Prakriti Herbals’ hairfall control ratanjot curry leaf oil ﹘ with a blend of curry leaves, hibiscus, and ratanjot ﹘ is packed with antioxidants that help tackle hair loss and premature greying. On days where oiling my hair is time-consuming, I rely on Prakriti Herbals’ deep conditioning papaya olive hair mask to soften dry hair. The best part? I can wash it off after just 30 minutes.
On days when my mother can’t lovingly take care of my hair, Prakriti Herbals does the trick.
There’s nothing women cannot do
I’m not trying to romanticise the struggles my family had to overcome to give my siblings and me a comfortable life. But knowing that my working mother had an important contribution in making this happen ﹘ by way of paid and unpaid labour ﹘ re-instills my faith in the fact that women are much stronger than they are given credit for, and their work should be recognised as such.
After 35 years of gainful employment, my mother believes that it is now time for her to reap the benefits of her hard work. As her ethics, values, and beliefs carry on through me, I wholeheartedly concur.
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