Written by Deepthi Balasunder and published on 15 June 2021.
In an exclusive interview with the seasoned actor Gautami, her intellect was on full display, as she shares her insights on parenting and her journey as a mother. Curious to know more? Read on!
The chiku buku raile’s iconic heartthrob Gautami needs no introduction. She charmed us all with her talent, charm and excellence in the cine field. Apart from a string of blockbusters to her name, Gautami is an exceptional costume designer, a television actor and also the founder of 'Life Again Foundation', a non-profit organization.
However, what do we know about Gautami as a mother? ParentCircle decided to find out.
Q. According to you what are the important facets of parenting?
A. When it comes to parenting there are some things close to my heart. And I think communication is the most important thing in life. That is a skill that we need to establish with our children and learn it too. It is never too early or late to learn it.
A common thing that I observe many parents doing and which makes me upset and angry is that we do not respect our children enough. It’s not about saying: “Oh I give my children the best; I do this, I do that, I give my children everything”. It’s not about that. For example, when you are talking in a group, and your child tugs at your dress, wanting to tell you something excitedly, we tend to brush them off easily saying “one minute”. We tend to disconnect the child and even get irritated at some point with the constant nagging. But what kind of a message are we giving the child, imagine? Instead of retorting to the child: “can’t you keep quiet”, “can’t you see I’m busy” – can’t we stop for 30 seconds, take time away from the adult conversation we are having, bend down to the child’s level and ask “what is it? Is it important? Is it urgent or can you wait till I’m done?” It takes just 30 seconds to do this. And what you end up doing is that you protect and nurture your child’s sense of self-worth. If the parents are going to dismiss the child and give the notion that what they are doing is more important than their child’s need, then how is that child ever going to build his self-worth? So, respect your child. Discipline is important, but discipline should be applied with respect.
Also, it is important that the communication is open and alive because this can help you protect your child some time down the line. If your child is going through a difficult phase in school, being bullied by someone, facing situations of abuse (physical, mental, emotional) – and if they don’t have the confidence to approach their parents and share their problems knowing that it won’t be given importance, then who does the child turn to? Then how can you blame the child for seeking out other places for support? As a parent, you must be the safe zone for your child – you should be the ultimate sanctuary for your child.
Another important thing – don’t be judgmental. Don’t compare your child with anybody else. Every child is unique. Celebrate your child’s uniqueness. Don’t bring up so-called achievements of every other child within your radius and claim that this one did this and that one did that. That is the most horrible thing you can do, because you are breaking down your child’s self-confidence and destroying their positivity. Find out something interesting about your child. It might not be some great talent, but it can be anything. Maybe your child has a heart of gold and thoughtfully makes others feel better. Point that out and celebrate it. So, like that there will always be something special about every child.
Listen to your child not only with your ears but also with your hearts. You have to teach your child that failure is not the end of the road. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Every time you don’t win, it is a lesson to learn that is going to take you closer to victory the next time around. It is perfectly alright to lose or fail. What matters is how you pick yourself up and approach the situation, and how it makes you more capable and stronger as a person.
Q. How were you raised as a child?
A. We were brought up in a home where the sky was literally the limit, in terms of what we could think and learn, and the questions we could ask. There was never ever any restriction imposed on us, nor were we compelled to do anything. For example, one day, out of the blue, I would go up to my dad and say that 'I would like to learn about a new religion'. On another day, I would ask him about DNA. And all this, I remember, was when I was 8 or 9 years old! I never felt I was treated differently because of my gender, nor was I refrained from doing anything because of my young age. There were never any restrictions. If we wanted to try to do, know, experience something, the only thing our parents told us was that we had to go out, work towards it and find a way to make it happen. And that if we ever needed any support and guidance, they would always be there for us. It was seemingly unstructured but in actuality, it was a deliberate, extremely interactive and supportive kind of upbringing that we had. We were never compelled to do anything.
Further, my parents never ever gave up on us. I have never heard anything like “Oh, my God! I can’t stand this anymore!” or “What’s wrong with you? How can you behave like this?” I have never heard that from my parents. There was just so much of love and kindness. As a child, I never felt that they didn’t respect me. I felt they respected me for my intellect, my accomplishments – and just for who I am. They were proud of me. And that is the same kind of parenting I have extended to my daughter. I realize that I am largely what I am because of my upbringing – all of us are. Upbringing and environment play a very big part in terms of who we are as adults. This has without a doubt helped me in bringing up my own daughter.
Q. What has been your parenting style?
A. There were some things that I was conscious about when it came to my daughter. I wanted to tell her or give her information about the world, herself, her place in it and all that. But more importantly, I have believed in empowering her to ask and to find her own way. My focus has been more on her management skills, personal drive to take on initiatives and interpersonal skills.
Also, if a child can realize both her strengths and weaknesses and regard them with poise and equanimity, then that child is going to be grounded and confident. So, I think rather than sermonizing and moralizing to your child, you need to speak to her in such a way that it will teach her to analyze, understand, interact and transact with the world around her. Because there is only an X number of situations you can warn her or teach her about. Life is going to keep on throwing God knows how many situations, challenges and complications.
Q. How do the two of you spend quality time together?
A. It’s not about quality or quantity of time. We are basically present in each other’s life. Whether it is something about my work or some thought I have had – my daughter may not even need to be a part of it or she may not even be with me physically – but I share it with her. She also shares everything with me, such as what she and her friends talk about or what she found out about something somewhere in the world. We just talk and listen to each other because we respect each other. I have given her that kind of space from the time she was a little girl. I feel she should seek me out because she wants to. I seek her out because I want her to be a part of what I am doing.
When you keep your communication open with your child, it automatically or instinctively becomes a part of her thoughts, like ‘What will Amma think?’ or something like that. There were times, when I had doubts about certain things and I wanted her opinion about something connected to my work or life, I would talk to her and get really good suggestions from her. I think that when you share small things regularly, you become a part of each other’s lives. That is when you are really with each other all the time.
Q. When your daughter hit adolescence how did you ease that phase for her?
A. I feel it is not a drastic or dramatic change. It is a continuous process of growth and I never saw adolescence as a different phase of life. I believe every child has her own growth and learning pattern. And we just have to make sure that that it is happening according to the comfort level of the child. So for me, as far as her adolescence was concerned, I discussed this openly with her and got her access to books that would teach her about it.
For a parent, there are two ways they can go about this subject. One is to give her all the access to information that is conveyed in a respectful and nurturing way, and the other way is to let her find out for herself, letting her know that you are there for her, no matter what. If she has some doubts or is scared about something or doesn’t understand something, she should know that she can approach you. She should feel, “No, it’s okay. I can always ask my mom or dad.” I believe we shouldn’t take away our child’s openness to clarify any confusions in her life with us or instill fear in them such that they don’t come to you in times of need.
Q. What do you feel your biggest achievement in life is?
A. I think overall, it has been about realizing my potential. Every time I think I have touched a milestone; I push for the next. It has been a constant process of growth.
A. Any interesting parenting moments you would like to share with us?
A. I don’t know…I think I am blessed to have this child! I have never spent a sleepless night – she has never got up in the middle of the night, crying or suffering from colic. Her teething went smoothly; she loved going to school, so I don’t really have any stories to share!
Q. What is your biggest wish for your daughter?
A. My biggest wish for her is that she continues to find her own path in life in a way that is right for her; that she explores all that she wants to explore, and that she lives a rich and full life!