Ayana Chatterjee is a former full-time working mom, with banks like Standard Chartered and Citibank on her resume. Since 2014, she has been voluntarily working with Bharti Manila - a charitable organization. Ayana ventured into theatre by co-directing a short play (Raghead) for Short and Sweet, an International theatre festival. The play was also voted as the viewer's choice of the day. Ayana is trained in Kathak, Odissi and Indian Classical music. She also enjoys painting.
She is currently based in Manila with her husband and son.
The Times of Amma was lucky enough to get this extremely talented mother to chat with us on her passions and life as an expat mom.
1. You are a talented woman with multiple passions. Which one would you consider your favourite or priority?
Shweta..Do you ever get that feeling when your brain is gushing with so many ideas & possibilities.. You want to do so many things at a time that you feel your head will explode!?
Well I feel like that most of the time. But if I have to pick any one of them, it has to be my dance.
I just LOVE dancing.
2. Has Motherhood affected the way you indulge in your passions?
Definitely yes! Motherhood changes everything. Your lifestyle, career, appearance, even your choice of holiday destination! The initial 3years, my hobbies & passions took a backseat. But it was also due to the fact that I was juggling between my job & parenthood at that time.
3. How do you balance your passions with your parenting?
I ensure that I wrap up all my activities/classes before I pick my son (6yrs) up from school. Once we are home, I try to spend as much time with him as possible.
4. How has being an expat influenced your parenting?
Being expat parents, we tend to focus more on making our child independent as fast as possible.
As we lack the kind of support system (grand parents, uncles, aunts) our parents had when we were growing up back in India.
5. Do you think it is harder being an expat mother than an expat dad?
I think the responsibility of parenting falls equally on both the mother & father. But yes, as mothers, we tend to juggle between work, home & kids more often than the fathers. And it is more challenging for an expat mom. We may have great supporting staffs (maids, drivers, etc), here in Manila, but the absence of family members (in laws, parents) makes bringing up a child more challenging.
6. Do you think you would have been a different kind of mother if you were back in India, living close to family and friends? Would you have worked full time or converted your passion into a career?
I am not really sure.. But I guess yes, my approach to parenting would have been different.
Yes, I would have definitely continued working.
I continued working full time when we moved to Singapore (from India), even after I gave birth to my son. But once we decided to move to Philippines, it was important at that time that I stay at home with our son. Hence I decided to resign. It was a tough decision, but I am glad I took it. Manila, provided me with more opportunities to pursue my passions & I finally found the time to do so!
7. What are the three things you love about being an expat mother?
It's great to see our kids getting the kind of exposure to different cultures. They are getting the opportunity to go to the international schools, where they focus more on the practical applications than just following the textbook, which was the way we were taught in school. The kids are definitely more independent.
8. Do you find raising a third culture child challenging?
I grew up in a joint family in Kolkata, protected by uncle and aunts, surrounded by grandparents, learning about our tradition, culture through our day to day life.
But with my son, I have to put in extra effort to ensure that he understands & learns about his roots, his family, his mother tongue, his country and his culture.
9. Do you celebrate cultural occasions with your son?
Yes. Celebrating cultural occasions by getting involved in various activities provides my son with the opportunity to understand & be proud of his roots. It helps him to have an identity.
10. Most expat mothers have to multitask beyond most everyday multitaskers. What is the one time that you remember doing the most tasks at once?
Whether you are working or at home, multitasking is a part & parcel of an expat mom's life. In 2014-2015, I was working (voluntarily) with Bharati Manila, a charitable organization, which organizes various events to raise funds. It was a very active phase. There was no fixed working hour. I was juggling between emails, ad hoc meetings and calls, designing posters for Facebook invitations, fixing rehearsals for upcoming events, rehearsing for my own performance between dropping and picking up my son from school, organizing play dates for him, plus the daily household chores! I was also the official photographer for some of the events. But I thoroughly enjoyed it!! I had a fabulous team to work with. And lucky for me, I had my mom-in-law & my mom, who took turns to visit us in Manila that year. So yes, I had the support I needed.
11. What is next for you?
Currently I am learning Tanjore painting & busy with a dance rehearsal for a show.
I am about to complete a history course on Philippine's Past & Present by Museum Volunteers of the Philippines. Plus, I am trying to read & understand the philosophy behind Buddhism. What next? I am planning to get myself certified in scuba diving!! Perhaps direct another play?
12. What is one piece of advice that you wish you had received as an expat mother?
People management & Time management are two very important tools. If you can master these two, then you can balance your motherhood & work/passion very well. Of course with a little support from your spouse & family :)
Ayana, we wish we had half the energy that you had! Thank you so much for this energy-filled chat. Sending lots of good vibes your way!
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We'll see you there!