If you are a carefree, working parent with young children, you probably have a strong support system—family or trustworthy help. You have faith in their ability to take care of your child while you’re at boardroom conferences, on work-related trips or just working long hours at the desk. A good child-minder, be it a grandparent, a nanny or a day-care professional, is truly a secret weapon. We spoke to three working parents to find out who has, over the years, helped them concentrate on jobs by taking care of their children in a way these parents would have done themselves.
Aditi Sayed, 45
General manager, business development, Wizcraft Television, Mumbai
Aditi Sayed always knew she wanted to work full time. Her husband Khalid, a media professional currently on a sabbatical for a project in Canada, used to work long hours as vice-president, creative services, at Reliance Digital TV. With both sets of grandparents well-settled and busy with their lives in Delhi and Daman, Sayed knew she had to set up her own support system. “I had a succession of nannies after my daughter Raisa was born 12 years ago,” she says. It was only when her second baby Sohail was born, five years later, that Sayed struck lucky.
“I had heard of this domestic help agency through a friend and called them for a nanny. When this no-nonsense Bengali lady (Sandhya) arrived I was quite hopeful.”
Sandhya, who has been with the family for seven years now, knew how to read and write and picked up Sayed’s systems quickly. She’s been with the Sayeds since Sohail was six months old, and is like part of the family now. Sayed says: “You have to treat maids or domestic help as you would treat people in your team. You pay them well, sometimes more than the market price, you trust and respect them always and teach your children to do the same.”
Sayed says she is careful to give Sandhya independence and not monitor her all the time. “I have come to trust her with the household. I don’t know if she is pilfering, I don’t think so. And even if she does, I refuse to chase that Rs 10 or that extra spoon of sugar. In fact, even if she is skimming 5-10% of the monthly household rations, that is okay,” says Sayed, who prefers to appreciate the fact that Sandhya manages the house perfectly. “Whether it is household supplies, packing dabbas, getting Raisa to her music class or Sohail to his tennis lesson, Sandhya ensures everything works smoothly. There have been times when one of the kids is sick, and she’s even taken their temperature and given them fever medication.”
Of course, there are the occasional issues: “I am very particular about nutrition and home-made stuff and there have been the times I have found that Sandhya has brought some sugared cookies from the breadwallah and given those to the kids for their tiffin. Or that she has been buying Kurkure and chips and eating them with the kids. I do pull her up occasionally.”
Nanny diaries: (from top) Sandhya, who takes care of Aditi Sayed’s (in a blue top) children Raisa and Sohail, has been with the family for seven years; Rahul Dev with his mother, Anup Kaushal, who moved from Delhi to Mumbai to take care of her grandson Siddhant; and Dhruti Vaidya (in a blue top) leaves the children, Jahnavi (in pink) and Jai, with her mother-in-law Sudha. Photographs by Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
But on the whole Sandhya’s presence has made it possible for Sayed to continue with her job. “Things do fall out of gear when Sandhya goes for her annual leave to the village. She is like the steel framework of the household, the backbone. We do manage when she is away but it is a constant juggling act—my mother-in-law comes from Daman and stays with us for a while but it is still chaotic. So now we try and time her vacation with our holidays,” says Sayed.
Rahul Dev, 42
Actor and entrepreneur, Mumbai
At parent-teacher meetings, Rahul Dev may be seen leading the conversation about his 13-year-old son Siddhant with his teachers, but it is the lady who accompanies him who listens keenly to all the inputs. That’s because Anup Kaushal, Siddhant’s grandmother, is the one who holds the fort when Siddhant’s father is at work.
The actor and entrepreneur lost his wife Rina two years ago to cancer. Siddhant, then 11, had missed six months of school due to his mother’s illness. It was then that Dev’s mother decided to move from Delhi to Mumbai to restore normalcy and stability to the household. She never went back.
For the actor whose work takes him to locations all over the country and sometimes overseas for as long as two weeks at a stretch, his mother’s move has meant that he can pursue his acting career and be assured that his son is well looked after. It has also meant that he has been able to pour heart, soul and time into his entrepreneurial venture, a chain of wellness centres called Breathe in different locations across the country.
It is Siddhant’s grandmother who manages his study schedule and his homework and oversees his extra-curricular activities. “She’s the day-to-day boss,” says Dev.
The 74-year-old grandmother has been an educationist all her life. She was vice-principal of a girls high school in Delhi, a contributor to academic textbooks, and has brought up two sons and a daughter. Kaushal and Dev disagree sometimes, but Dev says it’s only on minor matters. For one, he feels she is too lenient with Siddhant when it comes to studies. “She is more traditional and tends to be kinder. Since Siddhant missed six months of school, he is struggling, and I feel he needs to put in extra work, but mum tends to pamper him.” However, Dev is grateful that his mother has been so supportive, takes care of Siddhant and even feeds him traditional Punjabi food, “something I may not have done. She has also helped him to cope with our tremendous loss.”
The geographical juggling hasn’t been easy for Kaushal since Dev’s father still lives in Delhi, and she has to run that household too. Plus, dealing with a teenage grandson isn’t the easiest thing, points out the actor, who feels he might eventually have to shift base to Delhi. “This is not something that Siddhant wants right now,” says Dev. “We did try living in Delhi with Siddhant going to Modern School for a few weeks, but he has grown up in Bombay and wanted to be in his old school, Narsee Monjee. My mother relocating to Mumbai has made it possible for him to do that, as well as for me to pursue my career here.”
Dhruti Vaidya, 47
Proprietor, Dhruti Vaidya Design Studios, Mumbai
Dhruti Vaidya quit her job with an architectural firm almost as soon as her daughter Jahnavi was born, but not to stay home. Her studio was born 18 years ago, around the same time as her daughter. “I decided to start my own architectural firm,” says Vaidya, “because I knew I could rely on my mother-in-law to be home and take care of my kids (son Jai was born two years after Jahnavi).”
Though Vaidya works flexible hours, both she and her paediatric surgeon husband Amrish keep long hours; it has been her mother-in-law Sudha who, over the last 18 years, has overseen the day-to-day activities of the two children. “She makes sure she is home 85% of the time the kids are back from school. And I’m sure there must have been many times when she’s given up on watching her favourite television serials to cook up something for the kids,” says Vaidya.
“We rarely disagree on parenting styles. She brought up my husband well and I trust her completely,” she says with a laugh. The comfort of knowing that Sudha would take care of everything has allowed Vaidya to expand her architectural practice over the years. “When my children were young, and not well with some minor stuff, I could still leave for work knowing my mother-in-law was home to take care. My kids would just move into her bed for the whole day, till I came back.”
Sudha, true to the stereotype of the grandmother, pampers the children, but Vaidya says that is her prerogative. “Sometimes I have said no to my daughter going to a party, and it is my mother-in-law who takes her side and persuades me to change my mind,” she adds.
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