Working as a journalist for over 25 years now, Rajkumari Sharma Tankha has performed all the writing and editing jobs quite well. So, this Mother’s Day we thought who better than the Senior Assistant Editor at The New Indian Express, to talk about different roles of life, how she balances them, what challenges she faces, and much more.
Striking an equilibrium between work and motherhood is not an easy task, especially on top position in the field of journalism. So how do you manage your personal and professional life?
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha: I must say it is the support of the entire family that helps a woman sail through. Not just husband, but even the in-laws have to understand the pressures of the job, to begin with. My husband is a journalist so he understands what my work entails. He is a great help. So is my mom-in-law, who is forever ready to pitch in the kitchen. Children understand if they are explained things. Maybe I am just plain lucky because my daughters, even when they were small, understood that ‘mummy goes to the office’. In fact, they take pride in the fact that their mom is working. I remember, when they were very small, I used to hold them in my lap while filing copies. Some years back when my elder one was in class 10, I quit because I felt I was not able to give her enough time, my daughter wasn’t very happy with my decision. I joined back after she entered college. I did miss three years of work, maybe if I hadn’t, I would be somewhere else today. But it’s ok. She was the priority then. My kids will always be my priority. This is not to say that I have never felt guilty of not giving them enough time. I do many times. I guess one cannot have both worlds.
Today, a constant dilemma of ‘career vs family’ is being faced by a large proportion of working mothers. How do you view this conundrum?
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha: It is difficult to choose one of the two. I feel it is never career vs family, rather career and family. We, women, want to have both. At least, I want to have the best of both worlds. I wouldn’t leave my family for a career. If ever I have to make a choice, I would pick an alternate career. I feel a woman must be financially independent. This is one way of correcting so many wrongs that are done to them. Many women I have seen, continue to see, who suffer in their homes for the sole reason that they are not financially independent. There is no confusion that we want to work, problems seep in when kids start getting neglected. That is something a mother cannot take, and she should not. So a woman’s kids are taken care of, there is no reason why she wouldn’t continue with her work. If I have been working for the last 25 years, that is because I had no worries regarding my kids. I knew their dada-dadi were taking a good care of them. If I wasn’t living in a joint family, perhaps I wouldn’t be here. I would have been a teacher in some school, and not following my passion in journalism! Also, I feel this is where the government, the corporates, the media managements must pitch – women not only have to be given jobs, but flexible hours, and work from home opportunities. This way, they are able to take care of their homes and offices far better. Now that the lockdown has proven that work from home is an option, it must be practiced, even after the lockdown is over.
What’s the hardest thing about being a working mom; and what’s the best thing?
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha: The best thing is a working mom has her own bank balance — having your own money is a big high. It gives a lot of confidence. The hardest thing is you have less time to spend with kids, especially when they are growing up. I don’t believe in ‘quality time’ but quantity time. My mom is a housewife and it was a huge relief to see her at home when I returned from school/ college/ office. The first thing I used to do after entering the home, is to fill her with the story of my day. I miss that with my kids. Since time is comparatively less. So, not having enough time with them hits the hardest.
Women journalists face several challenges, including unfair representation, negative societal attitudes, and the gender pay gap. Do you think media organizations should ensure gender equality?
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha: True, challenges are many, which include long hours spent in collecting stories. But my work is still easier as compared to those in print who do night shifts. Journalists in digital and electronic media that operate round-the-clock have more tight schedules. I guess each job has its own positives and negatives. Yes, media organisations must ensure gender equality — it’s all the more important considering media is the torchbearer of the society.