Meet Chandana Banerjee, ‘The Work-At-Home Military Wife’
“Do what you can, when you can, where you can” is what Chandana Banerjee swears by as the wife of a fighter pilot, moving from one place to another through the thick and thin of postings. In between being a writer, health coach, creative writing teacher, yoga instructor, green wellness educator and environmentalist, she is not only homeschooling her son, but also challenging notions surrounding stay-at-home mothers. Banerjee is now out with her ebook — The Work-At-Home Military Wife — which is a quick-start guide to creating a pack-and-carry career and work-from-home lifestyle on the move.
In a conversation with SheThePeople.TV, Chandana Banerjee — who belongs to Pune — spoke about her ebook, life as a military wife, passion for learning and how she works on the go.
How did a lawyer by qualification become a professional journalist and a writer?
I have been writing poems and stories since I was a child. When I was 13 years old, I started writing a craft column for a newspaper and published my stories in a children’s paper. I went on to freelance for the teenage section of major newspapers, and then worked as a writer for a dotcom magazine while studying law. Writing has been my first love and after I became a qualified lawyer, I chose to follow a career in words instead of practising law. Also, after I married an Air Force officer and made my home in remote parts of the country, I could create a portable career freelancing for publications and companies across the world.
Why did you decide to write the ebook The Work-At-Home Military Wife?
I wrote this book to make this journey as a work-at-home military wife easier and more doable for all those ambitious, talented military wives out there. I’ve encountered plenty of challenges and roadblocks while crafting my own home-based career, and wanted to create something positive out if it all. Here are my two main reasons: I began working-from-home as a military wife 13 years ago. During that time, the concept of working-from-home was unheard of in the service scenario (at least, at the base where we were posted to at the time), and this brought in a fair amount of challenges for us.
Also, over the years, I’ve met a whole lot of talented and well-qualified ladies, who quit working because they cannot find a job at the places their husbands are posted to. They either give up working or move to a bigger city and live away from their husbands to pursue their careers. Every time I’ve asked these women why they don’t give working-at-home entrepreneurship a shot, they say that they don’t know what to do, where to begin and how to juggle work with their military wife commitments.
I wrote this book so more ladies can launch satisfying work-from-home careers that they can carry along with them as they move from one military base to another, while juggling the unique challenges of a military-wife life
Often, when you want to craft a work-from-home entrepreneurial career from the boondocks while juggling the many responsibilities that come with your role as a military spouse, you may have to tweak your skills and qualifications to come up with something viable. You also have to factor in flexibility and patience because simple logistical amenities, like a fast internet connection, isn’t available to you. It gives me immense happiness that the ebook made it to Amazon’s Bestseller List during its launch week!
Social media is a significant way to connect with an audience. Is that also a reason why you openly asked for suggestions for the book cover?
I asked my friends and readers on social media to vote on the book cover they liked best because it’s fun involving those who will finally be reading the book. I’ve also built up a community of readers, who follow my personal, military wife and milpreneur (#thebrigadethatbuildsbrands) stories on my blog chandanabanerjee, and my green lifestyle and wellness stories on my wellness blog gorgeousgirlsgogreen. And involving my community in decisions like this is so much more enriching than debating over it alone!
As the wife of a fighter pilot, what are the challenges you face?
As a fighter pilot’s wife, I face the same challenges faced by many women married to men in uniform who put their lives on the line every single day to defend their country.
Our husbands have very high-risk jobs and don’t have the luxury of set 9 to 5 (or even 9 to 9) timings. Their work hours are long and erratic, and they can be deployed any time, without a known starting date or a return date. This means that I have to be always ready to undertake long stretches of sole parenting, learn to be on my own and not pass on my own stresses to my husband, and conjure up a potent combination of patience, flexibility, emotional and mental strength.
The other challenge is to also find a way to carve out and pursue my own career through the thick and thin of postings to remote areas, deployments, sole parenting, military commitments and sometimes, even prejudices about the work-at-home life
What led to Gorgeous Girls Go Green?
It’s is a natural wellness resource for women, who want to nurture their own wellness, and the Earth’s, through simple ways. I currently write articles on various topics at www.GorgeousGirlsGoGreen.com, teach workshops and am planning to open one-to-one wellness coaching for women as well as launch a natural skincare product line.
Coming to what led to Gorgeous Girls as a freelance journalist, I enjoyed writing about wellness and wanted to learn more. This led me to train as a Certified Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York, after which I worked with busy women through one-on-one coaching to help them meet their health goals. This organically led me to natural living ideas, especially after my son was born. Slowly, I merged my wellness know-how with my green lifestyle to-do’s and came up with it.
As a closet illustrator, artist and writer, what is your creative process like?
My creative process is a happy jumble of words, art and learning. I do pen-and-ink doodles of a wild-haired little girl called “Jugnoo” (because she has a sparkle to her!), who is forever curious and quirky. I hope to create children’s books through this character. I also enjoy painting with acrylics on canvas, and enjoy painting chubby birds and round-faced children.
As a writer, currently I’m writing about green wellness, self-care, homeschooling and this military spouse journey, and plunging into writing fiction
You’re currently in the middle of your Women’s Wellness Educator’s training at the Well Grounded Life Institute, and studying Ayurveda with an Ayurvedic doctor. Given everything that you’ve achieved in life, what makes you passionate about learning on the go?
I completed my Women’s Wellness Educator Training last year and have been studying Ayurveda with an experienced Ayurvedic doctor in Pune. I am constantly learning, and am always doing a course or reading something new.
Learning gives me a lot of joy. Also, as a work-at-home military wife, I have to keep tweaking my work and career to fit the place we are posted in and the responsibilities that come with a particular portfolio. This means, learning new skills or using what I’ve been learning to create a new offering – this way I can always have a career
Last year, you took the decision to homeschool your son. What led you to make a decision as important as this?
My son is a very active and rambunctious child, who learns through hands-on experiences. Sitting at a desk, writing in workbooks for hours takes away his love of learning. We tried sending him to a nursery, but he hated every minute of the one whole year he spent there. This got me thinking about homeschooling. But right after that we got posted to a bigger city, where we were fortunate enough to find a lovely Montessori school, which my son enjoyed during the short time he spent there.
So, when we got posted out to a small town with only standard schooling options, I decided to teach him at home, using innovative methods. He enjoys learning a lot more now
Do you think our mainstream education system caters to the space of mental health and overall development among children? If you’re given the responsibility, what is it that you would like to change or introduce in school curriculum across India?
I think any curriculum, in India or other countries, can incorporate more hands-on learning methods.
While each child learns differently, most kids will enjoy more play-oriented learning, beautiful books and less emphasis on busy work
Who are the people that inspire you?
My mother inspires me. She is a teacher, journalist, and award-winning social worker and environmentalist. Apart from all the different things she does, what inspires me is her philosophy towards work. She starts small and doesn’t obsess on the “big picture”, focuses on joy and positivity, and does what she can, where she can. I’m also inspired by my husband’s calming wisdom. And well, I’m very inspired by Rani Lakshmi Bai as well as the joy with which “Jugnoo” (my doodle character) lives her life!
What are your tips regarding a healthy work-life balance?
Each person’s work-life situation is different. For me too, this was different before my son was born, when my son was a newborn, when he used to go to school and I had four uninterrupted hours to work. It’s totally different now, when I homeschool my son and juggle several military wife duties.
I also have to say that my work-life situation isn’t a perfect balance. I strive to do what I can every day. Perfection does put too much of pressure on us!
Here are some of my go-to tips: Listen to your body’s innate wisdom, create rhythms to your day if watertight routines are creating stress, do something for yourself regularly, read a book you enjoy, meditate, paint, bake or do whatever floats your boat, prioritise and create a short to-do list about what you need to do in a day, and exercise or incorporate movement into your day, and choose fitness activities that you enjoy.