Marriage changes your life in a minor way, but motherhood, in a very major way. That is the simple and basic truth of the lives of women, all over the world. You can never go back to knowing what your life was before you became a mother, because a job may change, a marriage may break, but once your children call you mother, know that this is forever.
Which is why so many books have emerged on the trials and tribulations of motherhood, a state that seems to confuse most of us, who have not fully grasped what it is to be a mother, though we may have given birth.
In the book, No Regrets; The Guilt-Free Woman’s Guide To A Good Life, note that the author says, a good life, not good motherhood, though this is essentially a book about being a working mom. The reason would be, that, this book by veteran journalist Kaveree Bamzai, dwells more about being less harsh on yourself, investing in your career, putting the brakes on guilt, living life, enjoying it and still managing to be a good mother.
Again, the author repeatedly emphasises that we do not have to be perfect mothers because such a term is a fallacy. We can only try to be as much as we can and also focus on ourselves because a happy mother is what makes a happy family. If this book was written by a man, I would be convinced that our families are safe and all women are happy. But well, men, still have a long way to go before they get there!
Written in the form of nineteen chapters, each talks about a particular issue, moms and largely working moms face, peppered with robust advice from successful women who have partnered a strong family with an equally strong career. Some of the chapters deal with how working women can tackle the issue of sexual harassment, manage their money and work on their marriage too, along with other issues like managing anger. She says to nurture your anger, look after it, listen to it and articulate it. Perhaps the sanest advice I’ve heard, never being the kind of person to bottle up and repress my emotions.
The first and foremost chapter deals with essentially the core of the book. Never. Ever. Stop. Working. That is not only the most important tenet of this book but it has its genesis in women, managing to rise above the sometimes debacle, sometimes blessing called motherhood because working outside your home can be therapy for your life; one that all women should embrace, for a more wholesome and fulfilling life.
Of course, contentment is also key. So, if a woman is perfectly happy being a homemaker and giving it all up for her children, that is to be appreciated. But for the ones for whom it can breed discontent and a feeling of having sacrificed so much at what cost; the trick is to never stop working on something unrelated to household chores. I belong to the latter, so I hold this precept close to my heart.
Bamzai talks about a particular idea on a chapter and then illustrates it with tips from some famous and also not so famous role model women who bring the point home closer to us by sharing their personally tried and tested formulas. Women like Smriti Irani, Shobhaa De, Twinkle Khanna. Sudha Murthy, Kiran Rao, Moni Mohsin among others.
In a previous interview elsewhere, the author said that this book was the equivalent of therapy for her, as she presided over a household of two growing boys, a husband and a mother in law with all the common issues that a working mom may face.
As for the reason behind this book, Bamzai says the idea was, “to try and make a dent in the culture of perfection that women have to live with. We have to start a conversation where we tell ourselves and each other that it is all right to be flawed. That it is all right to fall and fail and flail. The important thing is to keep trying.” She says her first and biggest challenge in life has been to raise two boys in a culture steeped in misogyny and toxic masculinity. Her second has been to relaunch herself after 31 years of full time work as an independent writer.
In a nutshell, this book tells you that motherhood, while, being an amazing thing, should NOT define you. You must not lose yourself, your identity, your focus, your vision, your talents and become submerged by motherhood. What is important is to play all the multifarious roles you can and also be a mother, since that is one bit of the whole person you are.
Must buy, must read, I would say.
In the end, its all about seeking that light at the end of the tunnel, the one that we see a faint glimpse of sometimes and sometimes that we don’t and yet we continue, yet we go on, that is the message the author has for us, beautifully summed up in the book with these lyrics from famous poet Sahir Ludhianvi, in the film, Phir Subah Hogi:
वो सुबह कभी तो आयेगी, वो सुबह कभी तो आयेगी
इन काली सदियों के सर से, जब रात का आंचल ढलकेगा
जब अम्बर झूम के नाचेगी, जब धरती नग़मे गाएगी
वो सुबह कभी तो आयेगी …