We should be aware of our children's digital lives: Rajeshwari

Actress Rajeshwari Sachdeva, who is also a doting mother, talks about her parenting approach and feels that the best thing about being a parent is the unconditional love you share with your little one

By Gitikka Ganju Dhar

We should be aware of our children's digital lives: Rajeshwari

Her versality in various mediums – television, theatre and films – shows her immense prowess as a performing artist. Actress Rajeshwari Sachdev wowed us with her nuanced performance in Shyam Benegal’s Sardari Begum, which also won her the National award. She has essayed the role of a mother onscreen many times with élan but what about being a mother in real life? Married to actor Varun Badola and mother to seven-year-old Devagya, Rajeshwari says that parenting is not an easy job and every day can be a challenge. For Rajeshwari and Varun, good parenting means a lot of unconditional love, and striking a balance between fun and discipline. ParentCircle spoke to the talented actress about balancing work and home, and her journey as a parent.

In conversation with Gitikka Ganju Dhar:  

Q. You have a busy career in film and television, and now you are touring for your new play Gauhar. How do you maintain a work-life balance being a parent?

A. I try to work out my schedule in such a way that between Varun and me, we see to it that one of us is in the city and at home, especially in the evenings. In fact, my schedule depends on my son and his activities. Before I see my diary, I see my son’s diary, and I even carry a copy of his schedules and dates! The idea is to spend maximum time with him. That is why, if I am travelling or must give some dates for shooting, I check if there’s anything more important happening in Devagya’s life. So, somehow, we manage to work it out.

Q. You are passionate about theatre...do you think it can be a good learning tool for children to imbibe various skills?

A. I would like to believe that it can. For me, that has been quite a way of life because my father was associated with the Indian People’s Theatre Association. So many of our evenings would be spent there. We were exposed to a whole lot of literature and theatre. There is a certain discipline that sets in when you are doing something in a group, and theatre is one place where you must be mentally and physically fit; you need to concentrate. There is so much to learn from the medium and when children take part in a play or even if they are just encouraged to go and watch, there are a lot of messages that reaches them, which can be invaluable. They get more awareness about a subject when they see it portrayed on stage, rather than just hearing about it. Theatre should be a part of the curriculum, it will help kids in many ways.

Q. What is your personal parenting style/approach?

A. My parenting style is all about experimenting now, because I’m a first-time parent. Every day is a new experience. My son tries my patience, at times I'm amazed at the ideas he comes up with and sometimes, I look at him with amazement and say, ‘Wow! What a beautiful thing I have created.’ Then, there are times when it is frustrating. I take each day as it comes and just hope and pray he doesn't give me too many challenges. Right now, it is all about having a lot of fun.

Q. What do you think is the best thing about being a parent?

A. I think the best thing about being a parent is all the love that you are enveloped with. Once you have a baby, the kind of love and affection that comes your way from the little one, and the way you love him back is so different – it’s so unconditional and beautiful.

Q. Being in showbiz yourself, do you monitor what your child watches on TV? What is it that you encourage him to watch and what do you keep him away from?

A. It is quite a task keeping kids away from the television. I have tried everything from having guidelines to disconnecting the television, but I haven't been very successful. I realised that my son would figure out a way to bypass my instructions; so, it’s not going be that simple. These days, you have child locks on television and other controls, but the best thing is to sensitise the child on what content is appropriate for them to watch and what is not allowed. It is difficult, and like all parents, I try. Sometimes I am successful, while at times not so much. When children are growing up, they are exposed to a lot of things and sometimes we must sit them down and tell them right from wrong.

Q. Who is stricter, you or Varun? Are you both hands-on as parents?

A. Well, both of us react to situations in different ways, so we really can't end up role-playing. There are times when Varun can make our son understand certain things in a better way, while at other times, when I handle things with more ease. Between the two of us, we are well-coordinated, so we handle our child whichever way is the best at that point of time.

Q. As parents in the digital era, technology can be scary sometimes. Children are exposed to a lot of things on social media and the Internet than ever before. What is your parenting policy on mobile and tablet usage, browsing on the net and so on?

A. The exposure that children these days have to the digital world, is my biggest worry. Like most children, my son too has access to the tablet and when I see all the news and stories about cyberbullying and stalking on the Internet, it scares me. Children nowadays know a lot about social media and how much ever you restrict them, they will still be vulnerable. But instead of not talking about it, parents should encourage children to talk about social media and what they do online. Parents must keep a check on who are children are befriending on Facebook. My son is still small and his access to devices is monitored but as he grows I think I will also be more informed about social media, even though right now I’m so technologically challenged. I do know of friends who have grown up kids, and they are monitoring their children on Instagram accounts. One might argue that this is invading their privacy but if the whole world can see what they are doing online. you might as well see it and keep a check.

Q. As a family, what do you all do together for fun? How do you spend quality time together?

A. We try and do things that we can all do together. My son is a keen sportsperson and he goes with Varun to the ground to play. Apart from that, we take that one yearly holiday to our family home in Uttarakhand. It’s a village, so Devagya gets his understanding of village life too.

Q. What values do you want to inculcate in your child?

A. We just hope and pray that our child always remains healthy in mind, body and soul and we try our best to teach him the right values. “Dil acha hona chahiye, zubaan achi honi chahiye (he should have a good heart and speak good words).” He should be able to discern the good from the bad, and he should be a good human being; that is what most parents want to teach their children.