By Kiran Manral
There’s been an insidious little quiet revolution that has been happening around me for the past few years. In fact, it’s been so quiet and determined, you might just have missed it as it whooshed past you. All around me, women I know, friends, acquaintances, have been single-mindedly picking themselves up after the sabbaticals they’ve taken for childbirth and the early years of childcare and finding themselves a purpose, a passion, a mission.
Of course, I speak about a specific segment of women, urban, educated, professional women, who often have the privilege of choice, something that most women in our country don’t. And that privilege of choice itself, is a luxury that we all too often take for granted.
The path these women I know choose to take up after their sabbaticals, very often, isn’t the career they began with, or even trained for. These are more often than not, completely antipodal to what they were doing before they had their children. A dear friend who trained as a software engineer moved very successfully into food, menu curation and cooking workshops. One has gone into setting up her own cook studio and works with a number of brands in the food space, and has even written a book on cooking. Other dear friends who were in retail and design respectively have become hugely successful in the online parenting social media space. Others have begun initiatives to help women on a career break get back into the workforce.
The one thing that is common is that these women are all on a mission, first to find themselves and to follow their passions. Which is commendable because somehow in the beautiful, tumultuous chaos of parenting, we tend to forget to pay attention to ourselves, and what makes us, the person tucked behind the parent, happy. It is a difficult mindshift to make, to shift focus back on ourselves. We’ve gotten used to being out of the spotlight of our own gaze. Focussing on what makes us happy might seem selfish at first, and often causes us truckloads of guilt we don’t need, but it is needed. It is a gift we give our children, when we demonstrate to them through our actions the value we place on happiness and fulfilment, and how important it is to us to be able to raise them to the best of our abilities as well as do things that give us happiness, purpose and happiness That both are important to us. How else would we empower our children to have dreams and to follow them, if we don’t set the example ourselves, if we don’t give them a bar they need to reach up to?
The most memorable statement that has stuck in my mind, comes from a dear friend and a mom who founded a successful firm after quitting a high pressured job. “Lean in,” she said. “Lean in so much that you fall on your face.”
We all need to fall on our faces sometimes, pick ourselves up and move on, and continue leaning in, because, if we don’t push ourselves to the best of what we can do, how will our children learn that it is inevitable to fall when in the pursuit of one’s dreams but it is more important to have the strength to pick oneself up and move forward.
My son has seen me elated when a book has been well received, in the troughs of depression when I’ve received rejection letters. He has talked me through plots and given me his ideas on what might work and what might not. He asks me about the promotional tours I do, what happens, who attends, what questions they ask. He finds it amusing that people come to listen to his mother talk when she talks too much for his liking at home, and he needs to tell me to pipe down because he’s cracking a level in a game. He knows my writing is important to me. And that he is important too, and that it isn’t an either or situation. I am grateful that he accepts it. He sometimes, during book launch time when I need to travel incessantly, grumbles about why I need to be away so much. And then answers himself. “Because you have to.” He knows that writing makes me happy, and that I am always a nicer person to deal with when I am in a happy place, unless of course, I’m stuck in a difficult spot in the plot which can make me a bit of a grouch. It’s a lesson I hope I’m teaching him, that passion and purpose for something only I can give myself is important to me. And I can only hope that someday he finds his own passion and purpose which is as important to him.