Because I am a mother. I have twin boys who are now 9 and something. They are identical twins which means they look alike but have completely different personalities. They are curious, inquisitive, avid readers, sharp observers, self proclaimed future cricketers, chess enthusiasts and have a knack for telling (and making up) great stories. I sometimes count my blessings to have lucked out with these bright and kind boys that I cannot stop raving about. Journey to motherhood was not easy. It never is for anyone. It was like re-birth. How much of myself I have lost along the way is something I consciously choose not to think about. But yet it’s been rewarding every single day to see a piece of my heart walk outside my body to create a life of their own. Motherhood only fueled my ambitions and aspirations to work full time. Feminist inside me allowed me to keep living for myself first, before I went down the trajectory of self sacrifice. I was blessed to be surrounded by people who unconditionally supported my decisions along the way.
Seeds of feminism were sown by my mother who walked the talk by having a gratifying career of 35+ yrs in academia and then in government service. She worked with bilateral and multilateral organizations like UNICEF and WHO after her academic career and led the movement of girls education from the front. Even after her retirement, she worked for several years at a non-profit that works in the space of promoting Girls Education in rural parts of India. The early years of growing up were formative when I sat back in awe to see my mother’s pursuit of constantly investing in her learning and professional growth. She did her Phd in Feminism when she was in late 30’s or early 40’s (I recall being in my teens), an age when most women I knew back then had written themselves off. My father did not shy away from supporting her in her doctoral pursuit by becoming a hands-on dad for the days she was gone researching under mounds of books in libraries. My dad would get us ready for school, pack our tiffins, make sure that there was lunch at home for when we returned from school, he would make us a warm dinner every single evening and stayed up with us late into the night to help us with our homework. Watching my parents being an equal parent for us, led me to believe mothers were no different than dad’s when it came to raising children or working outside home.
I grew up believing that all women had a choice. A choice to get educated. A choice to work or not. A choice to marry the person one wanted to. A choice to become a mother or not. A choice to travel to faraway lands. All these beliefs shaped me the person I grew up to become only to realize several years into my adulthood that I was nothing but naive. I had lucked out on the ovarian lottery to be born in a family that believed in equal opportunities for all regardless of gender. I had lived a protected life believing that all women were created equal and all women had access to opportunities that they wanted. My land of fantasies was shattered when I first saw the Head Girl of my high school not get the opportunity to pursue education outside of our little town, she had to settle for a graduate course offered in the local degree college. I saw another bright friend quietly resign into getting married when she was just 21. Another friend of mine had to take a break from work when she embraced motherhood. All these decisions would have been fine if they came from a place of having a choice. But they did not. Some of these decisions were forced upon them due to the societal fabric they grew up in and some of these decisions were attributed to having a lack of “role models” to look up to and emulate.
I cannot feel anything but gratitude for having been dealt with another charm of luck when I had the opportunity to choose a life partner who was also raised by a working mother. He was and continues to be the constant force behind my desire to do better in life as a person, a mother and a working professional. He has kept me motivated when I have been in self doubt and on the brink of giving up. He has been my biggest critic and has shown me the mirror when I have needed it the most.
I was also lucky to find bosses, friends and women mentors who have been a role model in every way possible. I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if it weren’t for all of these people (and many more) in my life who shaped my worldview.
I am just an ordinary mom:
I have now been working for over 15 yrs, of which last 9 yrs have been in a position of leadership while balancing the responsibilities of raising a young family. I am often asked questions, primarily from mothers (or young women on the crossroads of deciding whether to become one) that are sometimes kind & validating but at other times send me on a guilt trip and self-doubt.
All these mothers have so many questions that I sometimes don’t even feel qualified to answer them for I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary in life. I haven’t lived their lives, experienced their constraints, been limited by the boundaries they have, or been challenged by the circumstances they have faced. These questions are important, relevant and most importantly universal. Responses to them can have a really deep impact on someone’s course of life.
These are mothers in the neighborhood, in my friends circle, at work & professional network, extended family, relatives…all of whom are craving for the playbook to get “motherhood” right. The secret is, there is none. Choosing to become a mother is a life altering decision and each one has to walk their own journey. The journey becomes a tad bit easier when the fellow travelers in the journey are able to find inspiration.
Nothing gives me more joy than to give another mother a warm hug, give another mother an approving nod about their right to choose, share small tactical ways of finding more time in the day, talk about my own frustrations & disappointments, share struggles to keep up with conflicting priorities on my time and to tell the quiet mother in the room who is hanging by the thread before she breaks, that she is not alone.
While there are many async communities for mothers on social media, especially facebook that allow the mothers to ask questions and get responses to, there is still room for stories to be told and heard. A quick search on the internet shows me that there isn’t a podcast, at least contextualized to the Indian subcontinent that allows mothers to share their lived experiences and talk about the missteps they have taken.
“Just an ordinary mom” is a step in that direction for me to bring stories of mothers to life and help answer some of the questions along the way. It is nothing more than a passion project to inspire, share and create magic for mothers! It is an attempt to give mothers role models that my friend in the small town of Bikaner failed to get. Women always have a lot on their plates, juggling professional goals, societal expectations, and the responsibilities of families and communities. I cannot stress enough how important it is for women to see other women succeed and progress in life. “Just an ordinary mom” podcast is an attempt to do just that.
Mridvika has experience of 16 yrs across India, East Africa and US where she has worked for purpose driven and fast growth global startups. Her work has given her exposure to consulting, non-profits, ed-tech and hr-tech companies and she has held roles across fundraising (both philanthropic and VC), P&L management, Sales, BD and Partnerships. She lives in Mumbai with her family and is deeply passionate about women rights. She does not hesitate in calling herself a staunch “feminist” and is working towards solving the problem of low women workforce participation in India.