Happy Mother’s Day to my amazing mum who inspired me to "stay in"
My amazing multi-tasking mother
My mum was a full time working mum, with two children, married to a traditional Indian businessman who entertained constantly. She was also part of an Indian extended family, and (in my biased opinion) the best chef in the family. This meant in her “spare time” she was cooking for the whole family and for every Indian festival (and there are many). There was no time for lengthy conversations about the lessons of life. My incredibly efficient mother taught me that we lead by our actions not our words. Her plan was “watch and learn” from me (the good and the bad) and the amazing people who formed our family. She was efficient and effective and I learnt from all around me but mainly from my mother as I watch her work hard and live her life with grace.
The importance of work
She taught me the “softer” skills in life: how to respect and empathise with others, and not judge others on their looks, backgrounds, religion or race. She would tell me “it is all the same and we are all the same” as she placed a cross she found on the road in her Hindu home temple. That “stubborn” or “bossy” (names I was called frequently), were not bad – they mean being “determined” and “in charge” and are qualities to keep and to be nurtured. She also taught me the importance of paid work. She believed paid work was important – for your family and for youself. It helps you and especially women have a say in their household and to have space for themselves. My mother believed paid work was important for your mental wellbeing.
Action is more important than words
When I was pregnant with my first child, I considered giving up paid work. Law is a hard profession for working families and I could see how management reacted to senior working mothers – it was not pleasant. But I thought about what my mother would do and how she was able to work and raise a family. I also thought if I had a daughter I needed to also lead by example. How can I ask her to strive to work hard and to stay in the game and to “lean in” if I was not able to do so? I needed to show by example as my mother had done.
Keep your options open
When my mother had her first child (my brother), maternity leave or flexible working opportunities did not exist. My mother had to resign from her job and reapply. They of course took her back, but can you imagine having to resign and reapply for your job because you had a child? No matter what, my mother continued to work because she wanted to financially contribute to our family, but also because she wanted to show me that it is possible. She used to tell me that you have to just keep going and you have to keep working on staying in the game. She would tell me if you leave you will have limited or no choices. If you stay you have choices and you can shape your future. Otherwise you are out and will struggle to get back in.
The importance of “staying in”
The words kept on coming back to me after my son was born. Just keep going and stay in the game. Work/childcare balance is hard. It was hard for my mum and her generation and it is still hard – but we have more choices. We can decide to go back to work full time or part time, we can also work remotely and flexibly. However, we limit ourselves if we decide to stop. My mother showed me that it is not just about “leaning in”, but “staying in” the game so that you continue to have opportunities.
I stayed in, determined to shape the way I work and I have in turn had the opportunity via Halebury to change working lives for many senior lawyers for decades to come.
Thank you for being my inspiration
So when I look at my mother and my daughter, I hope I have made my mother proud and I hope my daughter will be inspired by what I have achieved as a person, not by my work or even my words. I “stayed in” and have tried to “lean in”. However, I know if I do not “hit the mark” for my daughter, she has an amazing relationship with my mother and my mother will continue to be an inspiration to the next generation.
Happy mother’s day mum. You inspire me every day. With all my love.