This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Akshata Ram. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Is It Easy For Working Women To Become Stay-At-Home Moms?

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Editor’s note: This story is in response to Youth Ki Awaaz’s topic for this week – #WomensDay to start conversations on how we can achieve a gender equal society. If you have faced gender-based violence, sexism or misogyny, would like to propose policy reforms or write about what families, friends, workspaces and partners can do to ensure gender parity around them, write to us here.

She opened the trunk to search for a sari – the beige one with the golden border. It was gifted to her by ‘Ma’am’, the principal of the school where she worked as a coordinator.

They shared a bond deeper than the ‘official one’ of a school principal and a coordinator. She fondly recalled how the three of them – principal ‘Ma’am’, the primary school coordinator Shobha and herself – would have lunch together daily. They would talk about the school, their lives in general and share a laugh. They had bought the same saris to celebrate occasions like Onam at school. ‘Ma’am’ had gifted her this sari for Onam.

As she took out the sari from the suitcase, she looked at some 50-odd saris lying in the trunk – unworn and untouched. They evoked so many memories of the past – saris gifted by teachers out of love and respect, saris bought impulsively and the ‘three saris’ pact with ‘Ma’am’ and Shobha.

Tears welled up in her eyes. She missed those days. The break taken to raise her granddaughter was her personal decision. She had no complaints about this. Though running after her granddaughter, enticing her to eat her meal, singing songs, reading a book for her and being her playmate left her tired at end of the day, the unadulterated love given by little ‘Angel’ was far greater than any other she had ever received.

She did not want her daughter to quit her job when she was doing so well in her career and had further aspirations. Nor did she want to leave the little one in a day care centre or with a nanny, because she believed that the love and care shown by family members cannot be superseded. It is in these initial years that kids cherish the love given by their families. As they grow, this sense of cherishing disappears.

Although she loved her independence, she also realised that her granddaughter needed her attention and care. Because she was confident that she could restart her career, she decided to become a homemaker.

Thus, she took a career break again. However, although she cherished every moment spent with the kid, a part of her still yearned to work, earn her own money or spend a few hours outside home. When she visited malls with her family, she was no longer excited to buy the things she wanted. “What’s the need now?” she started saying, “do I use them at home?

Somehow, not receiving that monthly income any longer made her feel really insecure, Though her daughter tried to coax her into buying things, she was unable to derive the satisfaction derived from spending one’s own money.

However, I am elated that she has finally found her calling by balancing both her desires to work and be a part of her granddaughter’s growing years. She decided to start a day care centre in her complex to leverage her rich experience in this line. At the same time, she realised that it would be good for her little granddaughter to spend time with other kids. Also, she figured that her granddaughter would have it easier once she started going to school.

I am very happy that my friend has found out a way instead of being miserable about her plight. As she is a ‘lady of steel’, I know that she will succeed in this venture.

Yes, I have been talking of my mother all this time!

As working mothers, there are days when we get frustrated with what we are doing and start to doubt our calling in life. I often wonder what it would be like to quit my job and instead focus more on my blog, writing a book, taking up salsa classes and spending more time with my ‘Angel’.

A Skype call is all it takes to stop these idle fantasies. Yes, despite these moments, I know that I chose my own profession and that is what empowers me.

The purpose of writing and sharing this is to reflect upon the phase of ‘transition’ which, I am sure, is seldom easy.

This new year, I had called up one of my closest friends. While both of us took up chartered accountancy (CA), she couldn’t clear her exams and hence took up a different job. She is a dedicated, sincere and level-headed girl who takes pride in working. She was always serious when it came to discussions about career.

Then she got married to a coworker in her office and moved to Cochin. The job required her to work throughout the night. However, things changed when she became pregnant. It was a high-risk pregnancy and the child was born prematurely. As a result, she had to quit her job and has been on a break ever since. Her son is now three years old.

She told me: “While I have no regrets having enjoyed every insane moment of Keshu’s childhood which would not have been possible had I gone back to work – somewhere, I miss working. I miss dressing up, going to office, talking to colleagues, the number game and those accounting breaks which I always loved. At times I have my bad days – a tiff with my husband, an argument with my mother-in-law or my child giving me a hard time. I know these are and will always be a part of life. But during my jobbing days, however sullen my mood used to be, I would forget all about it once I stepped into the office, got engrossed with my work and started chatting with my colleagues. When I stepped out of the office, I always felt lighter. However, now, it’s different. I don’t have a single friend with whom I can talk. Some of them are busy with their jobs and others are busy handling their babies. I wish I had never worked, like my other college friends. In that case, I would not have known the professional world and hence, I wouldn’t miss it now. After all, you cannot miss something you never knew, right?

On hearing her plight, I felt very guilty for not having communicated with her for a long time. Therefore, I resolved to talk with her more often. I now know that she has been looking for a job for quite some time. But getting a job is not easy in a small city like Cochin – especially so for a mother who’s taken a break for three years.

I also spotted a similarity between the plights of my friend and my mother, as regards loneliness. Even if I may not be very social person, or a regular party-goer, conversations and gossiping at my office make me feel good. I could thus relate to her observation regarding the therapeutic effects of office environment on any of the ‘bad moods’ that one may be suffering from.

This post is not intended to urge stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) to get back to work. At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision dictated by circumstances. I have only highlighted the struggles and little victories of some of my near and dear ones who have seen this transition. As is evident, this is not easy, but they do say that every cloud has a silver lining. You just need to find yours!

Do share your story! How was the initial period post the ‘big’ decision? How is it now? Do you plan to resume work or start with an alternate career? I will be happy to hear all your thoughts in the comments section.

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Image Source : Harsha K R/Flickr
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  1. priyanshu babu

    a great and heart-touching post

    1. Akshata Ram

      Thanks a lot

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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