My 3-year-old's reaction to my rejoining work (for him it was just joining and not rejoining) 'Girls log office nahin jaate hain. Boys jaate hain'. When I asked him why he thought so, he had no answer. He only repeated what he had said earlier. I was shocked when he added, 'girls log ghar pe babies ka khayaal rakhte hain'. Especially as we pride ourselves as a family that values gender equality. It helps that we are more women at home than men and that men do all the chores that women do.
So the question in my mind was, where did he get his perception from?
Having thought hard about it, I think it was from me. It was what he has seen of his mother ever since he started understanding his environment. I decided that I need to change his perception right away.
Children learn not from being taught but from observation. Instead of investing my time in explaining that his mommy can go to office as much as his appa (Tamil for father), I decided to step out from the very next day, announcing that I was off to work.
It helped that I had a destination to go to, as just a couple of days prior to our little chat I had agreed to 'hang out' (as the prospective employer put it) for 15 days at a place of work to figure it out for myself.
I had heard but realized only now that children are truly resilient. His reaction was as follows:
Day 1: Surprise, almost disbelief bordering on resistance to change (Isn't that human?)
Day 2: Sadness with acceptance (Isn't that also mostly human?)
Day 3: He rattled off a quick 'bye' and 'hope to see you soon' (Now that's superhuman!)
But that's how kids are. Little super humans with innate adaptive resilient ability.
And now every day I have to answer his standard question 'How was your day mamma?'
I never imagined it could be so easy. I kicked myself for having procrastinated on my desire to return to work using him as pretext. Hey, did I think time and again how will my kids manage? Sure I did. Sure, we all do when we make that decision.
Guess what? They manage. They all do. In better ways that we can even contemplate.
I had heard it time and again from many women friends at work. But I experienced it only when I took the plunge. There is no other way to learn in life. Your experience is your personal teacher.
If you think your challenge in returning to work is your child, then you might want to re-think. And should you want to give yourself a second chance.