I come back home by 5 pm every Wednesday and Friday. Its ‘park day’ for me – my time with my little girl. Come hell or high water, over the years I have made it back for ‘park time’ and I am so grateful for that. The funny part is that with stubborn repetition over time, even my team members in discussions will say without being reminded “Oh, that’s her park day, she wont attend that meeting on Wednesday evening”.
For a working woman in India, that is a luxury I deeply cherish. All working women will relate to the struggles of being burdened with corporate work in addition to domestic responsibilities while simultaneously raising children. Working women of course, constantly receive their share of jibes and criticism for not ‘being around for their kids’ and frequently suffer the guilt that accompanies the ‘status of working’ itself. Many are so overworked they cant do justice to any one area in their life finally.
On one particular Wednesday after rushing home from a hectic day, I sat in the park watching my little girl race around aimlessly with a few other kids. I also watched a group of moms, who like me, had joined their kids in the park. Most of them were stay-at-home moms and I could not help feel a pang of envy as they leisurely sat around. Although they had all come with their kids, the difference was quickly apparent – Many were there to ‘have some time with their child’ and many were there to ‘have some time without their child’.
I wondered if they had an equally tough day, perhaps burdened with domestic responsibilities or elder care or other circumstances unknown to the world. Their ‘park time’ may be a time of renewal for them to deal with their own struggles back home.Their park time may be the only time in the day they actually get a break to sit down and relax.
For all the envy and guilt that working moms go through for being away from their children, the sad reality is that many stay-at-home parents aren’t really with their kids either. Many are with their children all day – physically present and mentally absent. Oftentimes and ironically, many stay-at-home moms suffer from their own deep dissatisfaction of not working and they are in a permanent quest to find something to keep them occupied – in many cases, that something isn’t parenting.
Either ways, the balancing act therefore isn’t between working and staying at home. Many research studies (like the research from LSE and the University of Oxford) have actually shown that children of working moms learn invaluable life skills. I’ve fought my own fears and watched close friends battle their own circumstances and I have realized that what has worked for me is not in the job or at home – its in the ability to manage my time and attention with rigorous discipline.
So the next time you are plagued with guilt about staying at home or working in a job, get out your organizer. Remember the real battle is between your time and your attention. Its whether you are ‘mentally available’ to your child versus just being physically around. So pick up that pen and plan how you can spend more quality time with your child, how you can focus time and attention to nourish their confidence, soothe their fears and build their character. In the long run, it wont matter so much whether we stayed home or worked, but it will matter how we shaped our children to cope with life. #GiftTheLight