There is more to life after motherhood say women who have taken up an education and made an identity for themselves

“You haven't finished your lessons, and your exams are on next week. I'll tell dad you are slacking.” Nishitha threatens Yamuna. Nothing extraordinary…hmm? Nothing, except that Nishitha happens to be Yamuna's 10-year old daughter.

Recently, Barack Obama made a pledge to help moms in his country to go back to school, with his government paying for it partly. That might be a far cry in India, but many Indian moms do harbour dreams — of pursuing unfinished journeys and to fulfill ambitions left on the wayside. And moms who take up higher studies when their kids are babies or school-goers end up having a challenging, frustrating, and sometimes, a humourous slice of time. By the time their exams are over and they can sit back and relax, you can hear a million sighs encore — from them, and from all those around them.

“But there is nothing remotely humorous about it. Maybe, some dark humour”, Gayathri Sreekanth says wryly. “For one, the mind is not as sharp; you are not able to grasp and retain as well as you did when you were a teenager. It might be nice to pursue education in your twenties, or if you don't have responsibilities. But now in your thirties, with kids, a family and profession to balance alongside, it really squeezes your nerves threadbare”. As mother of twin kids in the fifth grade and a practicing ophthalmologist, Dr. Sreekanth has her hands full, but is still gamely preparing for her FRCS exams, from Glasgow, Scotland. Why study further? “Indian medical degrees are not recognised in countries such as the U.K. and Singapore. The FRCS will help when you are attending an international conference, and is a prerequisite to be a visiting professor at universities abroad”, she explains.

While some moms go back to school to upgrade their professional skills or to create an identity for themselves, some moms do it for financial reasons. “When I saw the expenses that raising a baby threw up, I decided that I had to earn to give my kid a good deal”, says Mallini Sivaraman, who upgraded her computer skills and accounting skills to take up an office job. Others, such as R. Vinitha take up education when their kids are older, when they come to grips with the reality that their kids would not need them so much any longer. These mothers manage best, as they have time on their hands. Otherwise, it is nerve-wracking , and there are many sacrifices to be made. “I did miss out on family and social time, but you can't have everything, can you”, says K. Meenakshi, who took up training to be a special educator. Now, she coaches special kids and earns enough money to run the household.

Many of these women wake up at unearthly hours to study so that family and professional responsibilities do not suffer. “I remember I sacrificed heavily on my sleep, and there seemed nothing as tempting as a long sleep. It was a tough time, but really worth it. It can be done if you are passionate about it”, says K. Lakshmi, who has just completed her teacher's training course.

Sleep you can sacrifice, but not parenting time. “Your kids will be proud of your progress. But don't neglect them. They need your attention during the formative years,” says Amrita Bharat, a mom who took up an interior decorating course.

These mothers not only succeed in establishing their identity but unconsciously set an example to their kids — working hard, lifelong.