Editor’s note: Many of our readers who grew up with mothers who worked outside the home while also fully engaged in parenting and taking care of the family and home will connect with these memories shared by the author. These women make difficult choices on almost a daily basis and many times just by their example leave lasting impressions on their children. When consciously reflected upon these growing up experiences can help us grow individually in several ways including our own approach to parenting.
“I have a working mother, Sir”.
This is the phrase that I clearly remember saying to my mathematics teacher, right after I was made to stand in a group of fellow students for not completing an assignment in time. Roars of laughter in the class; and the teacher’s eyes turning on me as if to say – “look at your condition”!
While the class laughed, I cried.
Back home my silence and sulk were observed by my mother after her return from work.
This was her typical evening routine. After returning from work, while taking her evening cup of tea she would read through my homework diary closely. She would check my notebooks, or supervise my homework or help with packing my school bag for next morning, or be busy with ironing school uniforms for me and my sibling. She would make sure to prepare early dinner, for we needed to be fed for an early to bed early to rise or the school bus might take a hike.
I recall her morning routine also. While dressing up to leave for work, as she draped her sari, put bindi and bangles her mind was occupied in giving instructions to us about the lunch boxes to be carried, meals to be eaten and school work to be completed. As she joined her bubbly female workers in the pickup van, I waved a hungry, worried yet smiling Ma to work.
I would sometimes go to my friends’ houses for some fun time. One time after I returned from a friend’s house my dad stood firmly in the verandah and instructed me, “Go back and clear the mess you have created in their house.”
“But Dad, even their kids played, those were their toys,” I protested.
“Yes, I understand. But go back and clear, please. And remember to say sorry to Auntie for they shall not clear your mess again.” So, I did. And, I still do! Clean up my mess! I clear my bed, clean my car, pay my bills, give my best to fulfil my responsibility at work and home.
I also hold on to some other good habits my mother always insisted upon when I was young. This includes checking myself before I step out of the home to make sure I am dressed soberly and decently. She also ensured that I returned home soon after the street lights would come on. Your safety and security are always your responsibility, she always reminded.
Working Mums: A Letter to All Concerned
And then there were those times when either my sibling or I would fall sick. My parents would be around us the whole night. Next morning, my mother’s request for a leave over the phone would be a long and a draining conversation with she giving so much clarification. As she would keep the phone down in the bed, I would notice her teary and tired eyes – eyes that said that she had pleaded enough.
Parent Teacher Meet (PTM) at school always had me cornered. She would go through my notebooks carefully with the teacher. Throughout the route back to our home from school her lecture was longer than the kilometers.
As I grew up, I would receive stylish watches and shoes as gifts on celebrations or after special achievements in school. For these things, Ma put in additional hours of work giving private tuitions. When times got tough, she would have a way of digging out some extra cash that she had hidden in some kitchen jar to ease things for the family or others in the extended family. Ask her and it shall be given – this is how I thought of her. With her guidance, praying for everyone’s wellbeing became a practice at our home.
In the extended family if there was an accident or a death, times got tough. But ever helpful she extended as much assistance possible. Whether it was preparing meals, or taking care of a sick relative – she did all that standing on one leg, as the saying goes.
I remember one such incident. She got really late after finishing all the house work, and slept on the floor with some aunts and cousins. Next morning, after completing all her morning cooking, packing our lunches and putting her bindi, she left for office. And missed signing my note school diary.
That’s why I had to tell my mathematics teacher in class that day.
“I have a working mother, Sir.”
When does the mother begin to love her child?
At the beginning of his life.
When does the child begin to love his mother?~ The Mother, CWM, Vol. 2, p. 263
Not at the same time. First he must learn to feel, to think and act.
Then he learns to love his mother and his father as well.
~ Design: Beloo Mehra