In a society that inherently perceives a mother to be a married woman, here is Sahithya Jagannathan, model, host, TV presenter, columnist, and former star sports presenter, who has successfully smashed numerous regressive societal norms and built a beautiful life for herself.
After eight years of being together with her partner, Cary Edwards, Sahithya became a mother to adorable twins in 2021. With Mother’s Day around the corner, SheThePeople spoke to Sahithya Jagannathan about motherhood, work-life balance, being an unmarried mother, her decision to choose a live-in relationship, and much more.
Sahithya Jagannathan Interview
Sahithya Jagannathan is the mother of two adorable twins, a girl named Xara Archarya-Edwards and a boy named River Archarya-Edwards. When asked what made her take the road less travelled, given the social and legal challenges in our society, she said, “I was the child who never dreamt of getting married, but I always wanted to become a mother. My mom tells me that I started naming my children when I was barely 3 years old. Witnessing Sushmita Sen win her adoption battle was a major lightbulb moment for me as a teenager. I went through a phase where I wanted to adopt or do IVF, and then I met my partner, and after being together for a long time, we decided to be parents because we wanted to.”
On building a support system
She has been in a live-in relationship with her partner, Cary Edwards, for over a decade now, and the couple are proud parents to twins who will turn two next month. Sahithya was 16 years old when she decided she didn’t want to get married ever, and initially her parents assumed she would outgrow it. So when she began dating her partner, her family thought she would eventually get married.
“I never wanted to get married because I’ve always found marriage as an institution to be very problematic. Also, we are a country that hasn’t criminalised rape yet. To me, the only benefits of marriage were that it made a lot of paperwork, like insurance, taxes, inheritance, etc., easier. So I decided that I’m not giving away my right to take a man to court if he dares to touch me without my consent,” said Sahithya. “It was a long journey for my parents to accept my decision. It took a lot of dinner table conversations, but with time, they understood,” she added.
In fact, Sahithya and her partner moved in with her parents after her kids started walking. Given that both she and her partner are working, her parents and her partner’s mother are her biggest support systems. “The only way a woman can have it all is if she has an army of people supporting her. We all are making a level of sacrifice so that our children have family around to grow up with instead of growing up at daycare. On weekdays, we are with my parents, and on weekends, we are with Cary’s parents, so they have both set of grandparents. That’s literally how I manage to do the amount of work that I do,” said the twin mom.
Elaborating on her children’s surnames, she said,
“My babies have a double surname because parenting is an equal partnership and our babies are half me and half my partner. So Archarya Edwards is the perfect way to symbolise that.”
She added that a little bit of legality went into that because we are not a society that’s used to children having the mother’s surname as well.
How motherhood changed her relationship with her mother
Talking about her relationship with her mother, Sahithya shared, “I see a lot of my mother in me, except a lot of who my mother is was stamped out of her by the way she was raised. One of the earliest things that I remember my mother telling me was “ask questions; don’t take anything for granted.”
“After becoming a mother, I don’t like saying this, but I’ll admit that she was right about a lot of things, but I didn’t understand it back then.” Sahithya also believes that raising her kids has made her and her mother reminisce about several childhood memories that they had forgotten about. “It is also a source of conflict because I want to raise my children differently from how she raised me. So, there’s a lot of conversation that goes into explaining that amicably,” she added.
Journey so far
Sahithya, who started modelling at the age of 18 and has been paying her own bills since, revealed that her family hails from a humble background and that she never had pocket money while growing up. She recalled that she learned the importance of financial independence and budgeting from her mother at a very young age. “Every month when my mom got her salary, I would be given the task of putting the money in all of the envelopes for different household expenses. So that helped me learn the value of money and that money needs to be budgeted.” Seeing her mother save a little money for her personal use every month taught Sahithya the true definition of financial independence for women. Sahithya often says, “Making and saving money is a basic life skill, and women should know that.“
Parenting twins as a working mother was a challenging job for Sahithya, who said that she has come a long way in the past couple of years. “Now parenting is a little easier now that they understand that I have to go to work. We still have meltdowns because obviously they are kids, but I make them understand that Mamma needs to go to work,” she said. “I have a newfound respect for my body, its ability to do things, and how it rises to the occasion. I didn’t think I was capable of these things,” she added.
Sahithya knows mom guilt is real and it often hits like a rock but thinks kindness is the key. “I would say kudos to you; please be kind to yourself. Sometimes it’s easy to let all the noise into your brain and question why you made certain choices, but please find the courage of conviction to know that you are doing what you feel is right for you and your children and keep doing that. Build a solid support system; they need not necessarily be related to you by blood because it really takes a village to raise children,” she added in a concluding message to all the mothers who have taken the unconventional path.
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