Neha Dhupia on suffering from mother’s guilt: ‘If they miss me, I miss them ten folds more…’

When it comes to working mothers, either taking a maternity break or getting back to work after delivering a baby can become challenging. Today, we talk to one of the coolest mums of Bollywood, Neha Dhupiawho has been shattering stereotypes with every move, who shot for a film when she was eight months pregnant and got back to sets soon after delivering her son.

On Mother’s Dayindianexpress.com spoke to Dhupia who threw light on some of the challenges she faced and tackled when she got back on set and what, according to her, can make it easier for other mums to bounce back in the work scenario.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q) Were you worried how work would pan out when you came to know that you’re expecting a baby?

The minute that you get to know that you’re pregnant, you honestly, especially the first time around, the second time around you’re so clued in, so you know exactly what to expect, the first time around, you don’t know what to expect, so you reach out to your closest friends and share the news. Then you’re also concerned about everything in your life changing. And everything in your life means that your time is not yours, personally things are changing, you’re bringing in a beautiful life who is wholly going to be responsible on you and his/her father.

Then, there were concerns about how life would change, and work is a part of my life. So, I was concerned about every thing, but mostly overjoyed for what was about to come.

Q) What were the challenges you faced when you got back to work soon after delivering?

Challenges that you face are a lot. Lots has changed personally and professionally. But the biggest hurdle you need to surpass or get past is you need to convince people that you are back to work. I got back, and I never stopped working. But when you are dependent on other people for the jobs that they offer you, you first need to convince them that you’ll be able to do the job, plus so much has changed for you, as far as your time is concerned it is not yours, body wise so much has changed. So, you need to get back physically and mentally. More importantly, convince everybody else, and that’s the big challenge. But I still felt it was far lesser the second time around than it was the first time, also because the industry has changed in the last three and a half years.

Q) You were expecting your second child when you did A Thursday. How challenging did that get on set?

I was shooting for A Thursday when I was pregnant with Guriq, and it was tough. More importantly, here was a situation, where Behzad (Khambata) who had signed me as an actor when I wasn’t pregnant, and continued to work with me without even batting an eyelid, (when I got pregnant). He just said that he’s changed a few things and cast me as a pregnant cop, that added an interesting layer, but that’s a huge risk that my director took and it paid off. Also my producer, Ronnie Screwvala, hats off to them for being so accepting of how things changed in the film, how characters changed. I think, this is probably the first time someone who’s eight months pregnant is cast as eight months pregnant. Of course, the early morning call times…and I was playing a cop, so it was an extremely physical role. Just standing in the rain, in twenty days of non stop rain, it was just so hard.

I was not getting smaller when I started off, I was about six and a half months pregnant, and I was almost in my thirty-sixth week when I finished shooting, so it was a lot for me, and I still remember that when I was dubbing for the film I was getting severe pains and I was almost in labor, that’s how close we were to deliver. But all of it was so challenging and exciting, but we practiced all the safety norms, at all times I was within fifteen minutes of a drive to the hospital. I respect people who decide to stay at home because of mental, physical or emotional reasons through their pregnancy, but at no point did I want to really sit back or sit down and take a break because that would have thrown me off completely, I just wanted to be active and work through it.

Q) As a working mother, when you got back to work soon after embracing motherhood, did you fear being judged or did you have mom guilt of any sorts?

I never had the fear of being judged as long as I am not hurting anyone and not doing anything wrong. I feel like I should be able to define my life in what I think is best suited for me.

My mom guilt is something that sometimes I externalise, sometimes I internalise. Do I suffer from it, hell yeah I do! It is absolutely normal. It is hard — as much as my daughter or son miss me during bed time, I could be on a set at quarter to eight in the night and I know that at eight I have put my children to bed. And there are days when I don’t get a chance to do so, and I am itching to do so. So, both ways, I feel like, if they miss me, I miss them ten folds more. Other things I miss is that when I see pictures of small things like drop off to school or pick up duty, which is more of a safely norm but there are times when I just want to wait outside school. More often than not, on every off day it is Angad or me, there for her and the other one is for our son. We try and do as much as we can, not because we suffer from guilt but because we want to. For the days we can’t, to say that I don’t suffer from mom guilt is a lie. I do, I really do.

Q) How do you think working moms can make it easier on themselves when they get back to work after having a baby?

I feel like one thing that you should always do is to think about ”everyone hugs the baby, who is there to hug the mother”, it is a very famous saying. If you think you’re balanced and that you have mental stability and that you think you can get back to work, you should bounce back. Does that make you a less of a mum or not as great a mum, not at all! So, my advice is that you should do whatever it takes to make you happy, sane and mother feel a woman and as, both at the same time. Don’t beat yourself up. If you are a working person and you decide to take a long break then do that, if you had a baby and you decide that you want to bounce back to work immediately, still don’t beat yourself up about it. The amount you love your children is never going to change, and every mum knows what’s best for their children. A little bit of self-love never hurt anyone.

Q) How do you challenge traditional expectations that the society sets for mothers?

I think somewhere as a woman or somewhere as a mother who has a slightly more amplified voice, I think it is my job to break stereotypes, it becomes my duty to put myself out there because I feel like that. Traditional expectations for mothers can be broken if we don’t make a big deal, firstly and most importantly, of men doing something. Let’s not blow it out of proportion that ‘today daddy did this’ or ‘daddy did that’, it is okay, he is a parent as well. He should be totally okay doing it. And I feel that these expectations can also be broken with a more amplified voice from the father with equal parenting, by having conversations around it, which of course is happening, but not everywhere. Also, not just assuming that being a parent or being around your child is only a mother’s job and be the good one and don’t judge a mum because she is already going through so much, that even if she decides to bounce back to work or do something for herself, you should pat her on her back, as opposed to judging her for it.

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