There is a saying that ‘If you educate a woman; you educate a generation’. And for today’s Parent-On-Deck feature, I have found someone who perfectly exemplifies this.
Since I started working in the development sector, I am constantly surprised at how we live in a nation of contradictions. UN states that every year over 1.5 million girls in India are married before they turn 18 and this is only expected to worsen because of the economic impact of Covid. We equate women to goddesses, yet they continue to lag in key socio-economic indicators such as access to health, education, livelihood opportunities.
But sometimes, even from the depths of these harsh realities, there emerges a story of hope.
Meet Madhu Priya
Madhu is an HR professional who recently opened up on social media that her parents are vegetable vendors who could not complete their own education. She grew up under difficult circumstances. However, despite all odds, her parents ensured their daughter got the best possible education. Now, Madhu creates family history every day, by proudly working in an IT firm deftly balancing a white-collar job while raising a toddler.
Madhu and I met through Linkedin a few weeks ago. She had put up a post sharing her excitement on getting a promotion and publicly acknowledging all the hard work that her parents had put in to get her where she is today. Within a matter of days, her story went viral across print media, news channels and she has been busy sharing the story of hope across events, social media live channels and podcasts.
I cannot stop admiring her (and her entire family’s) story of grit and courage. Such a great example of how educating the girl child and providing her with choices and opportunities can create change, one family at a time.
In this next edition of Parent-On-Deck, Madhu shares her story of firsts, perspectives on parenting and the struggles that come with balancing work and kids, in her own words. (If you missed my previous Parent-On-Deck story, you can read that here).
My Story of Firsts
I am Madhu Priya, an HR professional and working mother. I live in Chennai with my husband Vignu Bharath (a friend from college) and our 2.5 years old daughter Diya.
My parents are vegetable vendors and school dropouts themselves, but they made me what I am today. Despite many challenges, they continually supported and pushed me to get me here. Today I am proud to say that I am a first- generation learner in our family. I am the first with a Master’s degree, and the first one with a white-collar corporate job.
I was born and brought up in Egmore, Chennai. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and a Masters in Human Resource Management. I started my career with the HR team at the Murugappa Group where I was part of the HR team supporting services for a 1500 strong staff. I am currently working in the HR team of FPS Innovation, an IT organization in Chennai headquartered in the US.
Different Parenting Strokes
I have limited childhood memories of my own when it comes to spending time with my own parents. I hardly remember my mother being around when I grew up, since my mother was always in the vegetable shop. But even though we had very less time to bond, she always made it a point to stay updated about what was happening in my school. In the little time we spent together, I used to narrate my entire day’s activities to her and that is how I shared my emotions with her freely. We became best friends in this way and this free form of communication is what I want to have with my daughter as well.
If I think about my own parenting style and if Diya could tell you, I would be considered a traditionally strict parent. Even though she is still a toddler, she has a temper of her own. When she gets angry, she takes a pen in her hand and starts yelling. Eventually I observed she was actually imitating me and that’s when I realized perhaps I am too strict. I do let my daughter break rules as well to explore the other side of the boundary sometimes, but I want to ensure that she is disciplined and respects her elders.
My mother ensured she gave me the best education and resources for me to study well. But, since she was always in the shop, I missed spending actual time with her. This is something that I want to ensure that my daughter doesn’t go through. I want to be there for her for every milestone.
Behind the Scenes of being a Working Parent
Multitasking leads to mental exhaustion: Since the pandemic lockdowns started in March 2020, I have been working from home. I must admit that it is extremely difficult to work from home with a toddler. My daughter wants all the attention and hates it when I am working on my laptop the entire day. It wasn’t this difficult when I used to go to office, but the past year has been exhausting as a working parent. It is extremely difficult to manage home, cook, clean, work and take care of a toddler at the same time. In addition, I think she might be getting spoilt being used to seeing me at home all day.
Equal co-parenting is essential: Even my husband has been working from home for the past few months during the pandemic and he has helped me manage my time. Being an HR professional himself, he understands the workload and the pressures of being a working mother. We coordinate our calendars for the day to ensure we do not have calls scheduled at the same time. I think the real challenge will begin once he would need to go back to the office over the next few weeks, as I would still continue to work from home for the rest of this year.
Supportive workplaces make all the difference: I need to work with teams in India as well as US – so my mornings are considerably lighter, yet evenings are packed with meetings. Also my daughter’s sleep pattern is very irregular, making it difficult for me to schedule meetings. So, I need to plan my time proactively, which might mean sometimes waking up a little late, completing all my home chores and then starting work. Depending on my workload, I sometimes need to ask for support for babysitting to take care of my daughter. But I am lucky to be at a supportive workplace which has provided me support through an understanding team and flexibility in work timings.
Parenting Changes The Way You Work
Parenting comes with its own set of compromises and choices. When I had my daughter, I was working in the factory HR team of an organization with around 1500 employees. But after returning to work post maternity break, it was really difficult for me to be away from my baby for long hours. I had to leave home at 7.00 am and reach back by 6.30 pm even though I was still nursing. So, despite a great role in a multinational, I had to look for alternatives where I could have a more flexible working style. But now I am happy with the choice I made to move to an organization which offered me flexibility and puts its employees above all.
Being a parent has also changed my personal perspectives completely. As a HR professional, I always used to put employees first, but now I am putting the family of the employees first too. My thought process has broadened, and I focus on building a work culture that will enable employees to enjoy work and at the same time spend time with family too. Becoming a parent changes a person for the better!
So my two cents to any young parents would be that you might want to give up on your career many times to take care of the kids. Trust me, I did too. But just hang in there. If we can just balance work and personal life for the first few years of our kid’s life, then we will rock the world!