By Anjum Choudhry Nayyar
She’s an avid blogger with three, countem’, THREE! blogs she maintains. While South Asian mombloggers aren’t on the radar in the mainstream, they are certainly a force. Living in D.C. and originally from Madras, India, Radhika Kowtha is a mom of three, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a good friend, a safe confidant, and a kid at heart. She calls a herself a “nut occasionally, a sleuth, a chatterbox, a busybee, an artist, a designer, a fighter, an occasional nerd, a curious cat, and a ranter. But she says she’s just your average woman. She was an optometrist and a data analyst in previous years, and is now playing mom, chauffeur, chef, and dabbles in being a photographer, dancer and blogger in the free time she manages. She Has been blogging at kowthas.wordpress.com for 5 years and uses it mainly as a sounding board journal, a site that knows her better than any human. Kowtha whose other blogs are called Tunneling Thru, Click and Cesmots is our feature in this month’s profile on South Asian mombloggers.
What inspires you to blog?
It originally started to quell boredom. Ive always written more than I spoke.I preferred the written mode of communication as opposed to speaking directly as a child. Even to my parents. Painfully shy I used to be. Not so much anymore, but ultimately it was a mode of letting my thoughts out. As days went by and I gathered readers and formed friendships online, as much as it preserved its original thought, I also wrote to engage. To bounce ideas, to motivate, to question and the feedback and answers one gets out of the community is what makes one continue to blog. I now write about things that sound and read valid and worthy when I blog. I believe I’ve grown over the years and in that regard also have evolved to value the time and intelligence of the average reader. My kids, my own experiences, thoughts and questions, the social media, and the entertainment industry. Plenty to get inspired to write about.
Do you feel connected to the larger momblogger community?
Blogging is so personal that you can make it work how you want it. If I wanted to be part of a community, I go seek it. If I wanted to just spendmy time with my words, I would not go seek the rest. It really depends on what you want to gain from the act of blogging. I have always considered myself to be a person, human being and a woman first. Mother, wife, student, daughter, friend were all roles one plays while being a person, human being or a woman/man. I did not intially crave to meet other moms, I was quite content just writing about everything I chose than just focusing it on my kids and their activities.
Mommy bloggers are a huge very connected networked community and I’ve always been on the fringe,not necessarily by design but it’s just the way I am. There are a few women bloggers I have struck a healthy wonderful relationship and only a couple of them are moms. It wasn’t the criteria. So in that regard, yes and no, but that’s just me.
How do you juggle being a working mom and parenting?
I don’t, not anymore! I’ve worked as a Data analyst for a period after I had the kids and as they got older, their expectations and demands of me changed considerably. It also bothered me immensely that my older two teenagers were fast approaching the age when they will leave home for college and this time was precious. This does not mean it’s easy, in fact it’s harder on the time and effort being a stay-at-home mom than one who works outside and has a schedule and clockwork to live by. The jury I believe is out on which is “harder” but for me, that seemed harder. Each were at different schools, with different schedules and despite my husband helping as much as he could, but it seemed increasingly harder on pleasing two bosses. So I quit. It has made things slightly better in I am not answerable to anyone but myself, and that is something I can live with, and will settle for. for now.
Why was working in some capacity important to you as a mother?
It was. It made me more than being a mom. All along, I had never wavered on my role in the world and the smaller microcosm of our families. Sure, there are occasional pangs of “Gosh, am I anything else apart from a baby-making-feeding machine” but nothing that has shook any foundations or made me run out and seek acceptance. I worked because I wanted to. I quit because I wanted to. My very understanding husband just lets me do what I want and hopes that am happy with the choices that I make. I write, I volunteer heavily at my kids’ schools, I teach (volunatrily) Indian classical dance at a thriving Northern Virginia school, among other things. I am not just a mom, but also a mom. It helps when you look at the maternal role as an addendum than just what defines oneself.
What different challenges are there for South Asian moms today than the days of our own moms?
The lack of a well organized support system within the family. My mother worked for a long time as an elementary school teacher. She and I would walk in roughly around the same time. Sometimes I’d come in earlier, but would always have a grandma, aunt or neighbor who would keep an eye on me until mom came home. Life was simpler/ All I did was learn dance and I took the public transport to the class and occasionally my dad came to pick me up. No extra curricular activities at school that required me to stay beyond and no heavy social activities that we were bound by. Life was simpler. Now it’s carpools, activities, games and commitments. I drive close to 40 miles at least thrice a week just to cover everything between them and the house chores. That’s a stress that we added it on ourselves. The society has grown to allow us to complicate and make us want more, to do better
than our forefathers and to make use of opportunities in a country that we have adopted, since these were not available back home. It’s all our own doing.
Was your own mom an inspiration growing up when it comes to your work ethic?
In a way, yes. She and dad worked hard, and as children we yearn for acceptance and want to emulate our immediate adults in the family. To be like them, to do better than them. South-asians afre genetically programmed to one-up the inspiration ahead and be socially and culturally accepted according to the norms that have been dictated.
How do you retain some of the south asian culture in your family’s day to to day lives?
By practice. We were for a short while part of a religious affiliation with Sunday school. We don’t anymore as our priorities changed with respect to time, but we do temple visits when we can and there are various small events that happen around. Fortunately for us, we live in an area where South-Asians are not sparse. The schools have enough of us, and so do the neighborhoods. I can step out in a sari decked to the tee, and nobody would blink or stare. Not that I do, but we have assimilated into mainstream fairly well. My children probably know more of our culture than I do, and am not saying that flippantly. They learn by watching, attending and participating in the various events in the area, Diwali, Republic Day, Independance day and
such. My kids have learned Indian classical dance formally and that helps with the sense of belonging. Cuisines, and sticking to some good old dishes done the authentic way helps. Anecdotes from grand parents and answering questions patiently helps. They may not understand, but just keeping at it works, at least for
What has changed you most since you’ve become a mom?
I’ve become less self-centered! Jokes aside, it’s a responsibility that comes naturally to most women. It’s hard and sometimes you are not so sure about what you are doing, but I think that is essentially the strong spirit inherent within each of us. To me, that was a big change. To think of the children before I can get some coffee down me. It was a conscious effort in the beginning and now it’s sub-conscious. On a flippant note, am always bringing in a bunch of paper napkins while we settle down to eat anywhere. Even for colleagues. It was embarrassing at first when they called me “mommy” but that’s become my thing now. I always pick up more napkins to the table, one for me, rest for all.
How do you juggle cultural or family obligations in your life?
Stressfully, like everyone else. There was a time, I was accepting every little event/do/dinners/parties that came into our inbox. Then the kids started getting busier and one find day we snapped. It was just impossible to have a full fledged social
life AND let the kids follow their passions with respect to sports, dance and or school obligations. We started saying no. Not on a set schedule of any kind, but we have started checking with the kids before answering any invites. Priorities change and once you identify them clearly, it’s easier to just say “no” and stick with it. Kids come first, family next, Immediate friends and then the rest of the world.
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