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Dr. Chitra Shankaran – July 1st, 2005

In the days of yore, women were confined to home and their duty was only to take care of the house hold chores. But today it is a different situation. Women are well educated, and are equally capable. So today’s women have the privilege to do the dual role of both a house wife and a career women. Here comes a question, as how do those pool of women balance their family and career?

Dr. Chitra Shankaran, Associate Professor, National University of Singapore shares her experience as to how she balances her family and career.

Her parents (Dr.Kameshwaran and Dr.Lalitha Kameshwaran), brother and her husband are doctors. Her grandfather is the late Somasundara Barathiyar. Dr. Chitra Shankaran’s husband Dr.Sivashankaran is a pediatrician. They have two children, a daughter Lavanya and a son Divyan. She hails from a highly educated family. Hence the aspirations to learn more and to secure the highest degree in her was very apparent even when her children were very young.

Here she recalls the past that has lead her to what she is today. “Our wedding took place when my husband and me were studying. My daughter was born once I completed my Masters degree. My husband left for U.K to pursue his higher education and I opted for my M.phil back in India. Once my husband had settled in U.K, my two years old daughter and myself joined him there. Soon my son was born. I wanted to do my Doctarate. Luckily I got a seat in the University of London. It was a chance of a lifetime.

We were all set to do our work. It was then my husband had got an irresistible offer in Saudi Arabia. There came a big dilemma. At that time my children were relatively much younger. My daughter was five years and my son was two years. The offer that my husband received was very rare too.

I had to make a very difficult decision, if to continue my Doctorate in London or to quit the offer and go along with my husband to Saudi Arabia. So we sought our parent’s help in this regard. My mum advised both of us to accept our offers. She reminded us the fact that she herself continued her education in London during those days. Of course, both our offers were very precious and to forego those offers can cause both of us a great set back in our future careers. So my husband took my daughter and went to Saudi Arabia. Me and my son stayed back in London.

In Saudi Arabia, My husband wakes my daughter, gets her ready, makes her breakfast and sends her in the school bus. Even today my daughter tells that she looked like a boy and it is indeed true that when a father dresses up there is not much room to do make ups.

In London, I found it difficult to concentrate on my studies while taking care of my son. So, I had to leave him in my mum’s place in India.

At that time, my family was in three different places. Further my friends panicked me by telling it will take five years to complete my doctorate. So I was very determined to finish it at the earliest. I completely dedicated every second and minute of the day to my studies. I would go to the library early even before they could open it. I just take a break for half an hour. I will come back home only when they close the library for that day. The whole day I will be there studying.

We as a family use to meet only once a year. Though my son was very young and still when I go for my holidays, he just used to hold me very tightly and refused to let go of me when it will be time for me to return to London after my holidays.

I used to feel so guilty. This mad me all the more determined to finish my PHD in the shortest possible time. So I managed to complete my doctorate in two and a half years time.

After that, I was contemplating to join my husband in Saudi Arabia with my children. It was during 1990 and that was the time Iraq war broke. So we decided to stay back in India. My children were also enrolled in school. My husband joined a hospital in India. Subsequently he got an offer in Singapore.

Since 1992, we are living in Singapore. My daughter was 12 years. My son was 9 years then.

With the support from my husband and maid I have no problem taking care of my family.

I do my weekly shopping, teach my children, help them write essays, go out for dinner. We make it a point to go out on a holiday as a family at least once a year.

So I have no problem balancing my family and career!”.

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