#Mumswithoutbabysitters: Ambreen Zaidi Shares Her Story
Having gotten married at the age of 20-and-a-half years, life is now a quick timelapse as I look back. Marrying an army officer, frequent change of stations due to postings or courses, coupled with multiple miscarriages and two toddlers in tow was a rollercoaster ride. It is extremely difficult to have your own professional life with your husband’s frequent postings and its associated problems. Every two years, it would be a new city, new organisation, new environment and the pressure to prove your worth. It’s not an easy task!! And, it still isn’t.
When you join a new organisation, no matter how many years of work experience you have, you would always be treated as a novice by people who joined much before you have, even if they are younger to you.
It was only when my little one was a year-and-a-half that I realised the need to complete my education; being just a B.Sc would take me nowhere. So I applied for M.Sc and started attending my classes as frequently as I could. I had an amazing set of professors who knew my limitations as a young mother, and would let me complete my assignments at my own pace. One can’t thank such wonderful teachers and human beings enough.
But things were not easy, and the fact that I had to finish my PG before my husband got posted to another place added pressure. My son had started school, while my daughter had started to walk, when I got an opportunity to be a columnist with Hindustan Times.
I was an avid writer for various publications, and they wanted me to write a fortnightly column on the armed forces. I loved the idea, but time was a big constraint. However, I realised that with more responsibilities, you become more efficient and also learn to manage your time well.
I did my PG with flying colours; my column in HT got rave reviews and became a weekly one. I was then asked to start a new column celebrating our war veterans in that region, which was a big hit again as people in general were unaware that there were such decorated war heroes living in the same city as they were.
Ever advancing technology--the internet, to be precise--was a big boon to me. I kept writing and enriching my profile and my experience.
By then, the children were growing up. Then, I got a fantastic offer from another big media house to be their news editor, and also help them launch a women-centric supplement. By-lines gave me a high and became an everyday affair. I felt empowered that I was finally able to make a difference in the society with my stories.
Travelling into the interiors for a story became a norm, and since I could do it when kids were at school, it made me feel secure on both the domestic and the professional front. I would be back with my children on time, file my story and then focus on the other errands--as a wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, and of course, an army wife.
I felt that I had perfected the work-life balance, when I was diagnosed with chronic asthma. It was a jolt from the blue. I had to be extra careful when doing field stories or when dealing with pets at home.
Pets, oh! Ours is a family of pet lovers. A german shepherd, five tortoises, hundreds of love birds, a pair of cockatiels, two pairs of turtles, an African grey parrot, fishes of all sorts etc. So whenever we moved, we moved with our huge family. But by then, the kids were old enough to take the dog for a walk or feed the birds and tortoises. This also helped them become more aware and responsible towards the world around them. And I had to take a backseat due to my asthma. Truly speaking, asthma is a curse, and I wish nobody has it in this world.
Eventually, we did cut down on the number of pets we had, because children were now getting closer to high school. They had their own share of peer pressures and anxieties. The fact that they had to change schools every two-to-three years didn’t really help.
Being an army wife comes with its own share of responsibilities, especially when your husband is commanding a regiment. Being the ‘First Lady’ of a regiment, you are responsible for the well-being of each and every soldier, their families and their issues. The regiment becomes your family. By this time, I had learnt the art of time management very well. Then came an irresistible offer, to be the founder editor of the world’s first print blog magazine called Blogger’s Park.
And with it came a big dilemma: How would I manage a full-time job with my husband away on a field posting and the kids still young? I decided to decline the offer. My ex bosses, colleagues, friends all thought I had just committed professional suicide. But then for me, my kids came first. Always!
But the company came back to me with the option of flexible timings and working from home during emergencies. That was Godsend! We launched the magazine, and within a matter of a year-and-a-half, we had a national launch in Delhi. This time, I had a longer stint in one company because I had decided to stay back in the same station when my husband left for a field posting.
Then came another posting to a new metro, and more responsibilities now that the children were entering their teens. Again a new city, new environment, but here, I continued with my blog magazine--thanks to technology--while performing my other roles as well.
I was offered a job to run mentoring programmes for young graduates. This was a new arena to me. It gave me immense contentment. Here, I was interacting with our bright but utterly confused youth. Talking to them, sharing their insecurities, and helping them choose a professional path of their liking was an immensely satisfying task. Even after completing their graduation in engineering or commerce, they were still a vulnerable lot, so unsure of their future. By God’s grace, I could connect with them, guide them and have developed some amazing relationships with many of them. They still keep me informed about their achievements, and that really gives me so much happiness.
It was time for another posting now; and this time, we were sent to an extremely backward state. Neither me nor my kids wanted to leave such a fantastic place with an equally fantastic school, but the fear of my husband’s next posting being a non-family one was looming large. Therefore, our family chose a priority and we moved to this place. As expected, this new place was far below the standards of what we had gotten used to in a metro. Schools, the cultural society, my avenues of work were all below standard.
In a way, nothing was working out. Children had a tough time settling down in a school which emphasised more on cultural activities and sports all the time rather than academics in a senior class. Sending them to school every day became a big challenge!
My son was to take the boards that year, and it was affecting his studies. So on the suggestion of school authorities, I joined the school to make my children a little comfortable. The management of the school was kind enough, but since it was a public school--and a residential one at that--it was much much more gruelling than I had ever expected it to be. But then again, children, their academics, their being comfortable in the school environment took a priority. Due to the extremely tight work schedule, and the stress that came with it, my asthma was back again!
But then, with only a few months left for the boards, I had no option but to continue.
During those two years, it irked me all the time that this job in school will now have a negative impact on the decent media profile I had created for myself. I had built it with all the sweat, blood and sacrifice, without ever compromising on any of my roles as a professional. So, I took up a job as a consulting editor with a leading media house in Delhi. That helped me retain my basic professional profile to an extent. Board exams over, and my son passed with fantastic marks.
My husband is now posted again to some other city, but here I am sitting in the national capital with both my kids who are in crucial years of their education, trying to sending them to topmost schools and undo whatever they suffered academically earlier. As for me, 13 cities and nine organisations later, today, I head a very important vertical in one of the most prestigious organisations of our country.
In the end, I would just say, women actually don’t know how strong they are. We can certainly perform multifarious functions at any given time. All you need is faith in yourself and loads of love and laughter in your home.
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