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Just for kids…

PLAYING FAIR AND SQUARE Who gets to stay home then? Photo: P. V. SIVAKUMAR

PLAYING FAIR AND SQUARE Who gets to stay home then? Photo: P. V. SIVAKUMAR  

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When a child arrives, most often mums, and sometimes dads, put a break on their career and stay home to raise their children. MetroPlus looks at the 'why' behind the life-changing decision

How does one juggle a 9 a.m. to 9 p.m competitive job, brave the traffic, do laundry on weekends alone, and offer a smile and a convincing explanation each time the child asks “Why do you go to office?”

Not possible, one would think. Which is why a lot of mums and dads today are stepping back, slowing down, quitting or taking a break at a crucial juncture in their careers to be there for their children. And, enjoy the process, or find happy alternate careers.

Dr. Deepa T.R. decided not to work when she was about five months pregnant with her first child. “I thought it was just not happening. I was in the emergency ward of a hospital, had regular night shifts, and worked Sundays. I wanted a calm and collected pregnancy and none of the stress of being on an emergency team. Also, it was simple and straightforward for me — it’s a biological requirement that a baby needs a mother.”

She was also moving cities, and wasn’t comfortable with others taking care of her child. When her son turned five, she went back to work as a medical officer in a polyclinic that allowed her to work when he was at school. “I was lucky. I could choose what I wanted to do.” She says people around her did react dramatically sometimes reminding her of how she wasted a medical seat, and how society needs her. “It’s also hard not to go through anxiety when your batchmates are going ahead and you think ‘I could have been there’. But having said that, I wouldn’t have traded it for being there to see him smile, and all those precious moments as he grew up.”

Deepa took a break again when she had a daughter, and waited till she was five, before she got back to work. “I did a part-online-part-in-hospital course and got back to the field. Now I do house visits at my convenience.”

Siddharth Balachandran is one of Bengaluru’s more popular stay-at-home daddy bloggers. “I don’t agree with the term. We should also be called homemakers, because we are very similar to stay-at-home mums,” he says in disagreement to the term SAHD. His decision was partly choice and partly accident, says Sid. “We had to relocate from London to Bangalore. My wife got a promotional transfer, and we had a one-year-old child. We decided we would both look for jobs here and whoever gets a better one, financially and first, would take it up. So we played fair and square.”

Sid, an engineer, decided to look for a change in career, and is now a freelance writer.

“I write whenever my three-and-a-half-year-old son lets me write. Otherwise I’m running around him. I’ve always cooked from my student days, so that wasn’t dramatic either. It’s just that now we’ve hired help because my writing career took off rather quickly.”

People do make you doubt your decisions sometimes, he admits. He talks of how it’s still rare to find a SAHD and he gets stared at when he enters a doctor's clinic or PTM alone with his child. “There are those few moments of distrust.”

“I’m the sort of person who gives a 100 per cent to whatever I do,” says Revathi Anne Jagan, an air hostess with a decade’s experience. It would have been difficult to manage a child when you have to be away from home and flying for up to 10 days sometimes continuously.

Moreover company policy stipulated that she had to quit if pregnant. “I thought I would be able to get back after six months, after doing some socialising, and some yoga as well. But I've been on a break since 2005, because once my daughter was born, I just didn't have the heart to leave her and go to work.”

And then came her second child. In the meanwhile her husband took a job abroad and now it's just her and the kids at home in Bengaluru. She volunteers now in various organisations, and plans to do a course in nutrition and naturopathy, her newfound interests.

Does she feel guilty about not going back to work like many of her colleagues? “Guilty, no! never! But maybe I miss the fun times, the carefree lifestyle, and all the shopping,” she laughs.

From working as a technical writer in one of the top five companies in the world, to running her own party planning venture with a friend, 40-year-old Durba, mother two kids aged 12 and four, has come a long way. She quit her job when her first pregnancy came with medical complications.

Getting back wasn't difficult, she says, and a job at a startup just fell into her lap. “I didn't want to go back to the corporate world ... I did not want a 9 to 8 job, mind you, it's never 9 to 5! I would miss being there when my kid comes back from school, and I think that's important. I wanted to work my own hours. As an entrepreneur I can choose; there is flexibility. So I decided to strike out on my own.”

She still takes freelance writing assignments on and off to keep her skills alive, she says. “I do miss the pay check, though, once in a while,” she laughs.

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2018 10:04:45 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/just-for-kids/article7908825.ece