Star Mom : Neha Chawla
An HR professional, a former airline crew and an educationist, Neha Chawla has chased all her dreams with her prowess and dedication. Multitasking work and children, she says that there are no excuses for achieving your dreams. Her first book of short poems "Thoughts have Wings To Touch the Sky' is now available worldwide via online sellers. Thank you, Neha for taking the time out to talk to the Times Of Amma.
Apart from your family, what would you define as your passion?
Writing has always been a passion since I was a little child. My nurturing at the Carmel school laid the foundation for loving English as a language. I remember seeing poetry in everything. I am happy to keep this passion alive even after being hands full with my kids. I feel power and solace in writing. The varied subjects for my poetry evolves from the daily experiences of life and my interpretations of it with a touch of positivity. I am an optimistic individual and like ending each note with motivation and smiles.
Has Motherhood affected your career decisions?
Yes, like most Women I felt the responsibility of parenthood outweigh on my side as compared to my partner. I was working for an IT company after having my first child and was juggling in balancing work and family in the initial years. After my husband’s transfer to US, I left my job and moved with him to explore a new country. Soon after the first year of moving there, I conceived and delivered my daughter there. Being a mother to two kids was even more tedious and most of my time was spent struggling with the challenges of handling a little one without any support. My parents and in laws had their own set of reasons of not moving with us/providing any temporary support. I was dejected and felt powerless. It was during this phase that I got an offer from two established companies but I could not resume work or balance things either. My sadness got aggravated with each passing day until I realized that I have to take myself out. Motherhood is a challenging phase, with little help and choosing my passion, I started gaining my self again.
How do you balance your passion with your parenting?
The key to balance your passion and parenting is not to stress to be a master of both trades. Spend quality time with your kids but don’t forget to make yourself happy. You might not be able to take your kid out to the fun park every now and then but your little gestures like surprise gifts and seeing a movie together at home doesn’t make them less happy. Don’t feel guilty ever time you take up your assignment and miss on an important family date. Remember that the only way to keep everyone happy in the family is to make yourself happy first. A dejected individual is only virtually present with everyone. Make your kids understand on time priorities and compensate through beautiful gestures.
How has being an expat influenced your parenting?
Our association with varied people and diversified culture enhances our experience. During my tenure of residing in the United States, I gained experience of a different culture which influenced the approach to my kids to considerable extent. I gradually started believing that self dependency is a vital part of your child’s growth. I changed my approach towards my older one from a pampered toddler to a growing up child. I used to counsel him to be a helping hand not just to parents at home but also to try and finish his work all by himself. This gave my son a sense of autonomy and has played a positive role in taking up the responsibility of an older brother with zeal.
Do you think it is harder being an expat mother than an expat dad?
Yes, I do believe that being an expat mother is harder. In my case, I was the one spending more time with my child and this had to be balanced with the household chores as well. My life in India was totally different from that in United States. I took a while to settle up myself and the responsibility of settling up my child too seemed another difficult task. I remember taking my son for play dates every now and then. I used to plan an engaging schedule for him everyday. My evenings were mostly spent in either taking him to the park or for story telling classes. Interaction with the peer group is the key and providing that platform was more of my responsibility.
Do you think moving back to India has made a difference in the way you parent?
Not Really. I have assimilated the positives of both the cultures and now my approach is more or less the same as in US. In fact I am nurturing my younger one in a similar independent orient and hope that gradually both my kids be ready for embracing all positives and negatives in life with courage.
What are the three things you loved about being an expat mother and three things you love about being a parent back in India?
In the US, there are varied options to engage your child in wonderful activities. I loved taking my son to the Science museum and the Crayon factory where they have numerous creative activities for the kids.
I left my job in India when my husband got an intra company transfer to US. It was a difficult time for me as I was doing well in my career but I think that moving there has helped me get more closer to my child. And I loved spending time with him
Being a parent back in India, I would be honest that only one thing I appreciate and that is having a full time help to work around chores and I am able to give quality time to my work and my children.
How did you find your calling in poetry?
Poetry is not a new find for me. There was always poetry around everything I saw or felt. I remember noting my thoughts in a diary since I was a little child.
My first book of English poems “Thoughts have Wings to Touch the Sky” is a collection of my poems over a period of almost ten years. I secretly had this desire to get my poems amalgamated into a beautiful book but with the circle of life priorities kept changing. I wanted my thoughts to touch hearts and am extremely happy with the response my book has received. Poetry is where I belong and with this dream deep inside I have travelled through the journey of being an Airline crew to an IT professional, a full time mother and an Author today.
What were the challenges you faced in getting published?
After moving back to India, my kids faced a lot of health issues and the immunity system took a while to settle up. My husband’s work schedule too started getting erratic. His role had more additions and inversely the time. I remember being sad all day. I hardly interacted with people around as most of my time was spent in taking care of my younger one (9 moths old). My older child had his own set of battles in picking up the language and the culture once again. And his challenges were mine. I remember spending time with both my kids all day without knowing how many hours passed by.
My dreams, thoughts and desires were taking a backseat every time and it was then that I started writing again and decided to gain myself.
Who has been the biggest support in your journey so far?
God helps those who help themselves. This proverb has been true in my life. It was during my emotionally low days that I started visiting an NGO nearby. I volunteered for classes alternate Saturdays while my husband took care of the kids. It was then that my dreams got a motive and it was to raise funds and help the unfortunate children. I took charge of myself and decided to live my dreams. I researched all day on the internet about ways to publish a book and contacted many publishers. I took inputs from a friend who is a novelist and got further understanding of things. It took me almost five months to amalgamate the poems and get my book published. There were times when I wanted to give up, multitasking things around my family, but there was something which kept me going. My husband was there for moral support throughout. But I had just myself to materialize things and today when my book is touching hearts it gives me more power and a sense of completeness. I want to sponsor the education of a child in the NGO. Hope my wings get more strong with time and my book does well with each passing day.
What is one piece of advice that you wish you had as an expat mother facing loneliness?
Be on your own and don’t forget to make yourself happy. I believe I undermined the value of making myself happy. To combat loneliness, you need to love yourself too and do things which make you happy. ~
Thank you for your refreshing insights, Neha. We are sure that our community is inspired by your life and work. For more conversations with inspiring moms like Neha, follow the Times of Amma on Facebook.
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