How a mother, who grew up in an abusive household, is teaching her son about gender equality

"At an age when children should play and have fun, we as a family were dealing with abuse at home. My father, who was very dominating and abusive, wanted everything to be done as per his wish. He abused my mother and us."

A 29-year-old woman from Mumbai, Archita Soni Dayma realised at a very early age that life is anything but a fairy tale. Growing up in a family struggling with financial crisis and an abusive and dominating father, Dayma and her siblings did not exactly experience the ‘bliss’ of childhood. Life had thrown several obstacles but that could not deter her from fighting for her rights to finally become an independent woman.

Mother to a seven-year-old son, Dayma, who is also working at an IT company, is now competing for the title of Mrs India, a beauty pageant that celebrates married women and works towards empowering them. Express Parenting spoke to Dayma to know more about her journey:

On growing up in an abusive environment

“Those days were not at all easy. Every single moment was terrifying and challenging for me and my siblings. However, it made us stronger day by day and showed us how we have to fight for ourselves and our rights. Despite having a lot of trouble during my childhood, I tried to do the best for my family.

At an age when children should play and have fun, we as a family were dealing with abuse at home. My father wanted everything to be done as per his wish. He abused my mother and us. For him, a girl child was different from a boy child. He always wanted a son. I have two sisters and a brother, who is the youngest. Our father would restrict us girls from being in the company of boys. I wanted to be an air hostess but for him, girls were only meant to stay at home and do household chores. He used to follow us to school, check our attendance, and doubt us all the time. It was quite difficult to deal with it.”

On starting to work in Class 9

“It wasn’t by choice but necessity. At a very early age, I had to find a way to contribute to the family, especially when I saw my mother struggling each day to provide good food to her four children. So, I started working since Class 9. There was no other choice.”

On raising a son in today’s world

“What I have learnt from my experience as a girl and later on as a mother is that a child is like an unwritten book, which you need to keep filling with positive values. Children try to replicate what they see and hear from their parents. My husband and I try to take steps to ensure our seven-year-old son feels secure, which was lacking in my childhood. We try to inculcate the right behaviour and attitude in him. We are raising him in a way that he understands that girls and boys are equal. My husband and I share household duties, something he is learning from watching us. My son understands that when his mother is going out for work, his father would be there to take care of him. My husband has always been very supportive. Besides, my son is being raised among his female cousins and knows he won’t be treated any differently.”

On dealing with the ‘guilt’ of being a working mom

“This is a part and parcel of life. Yes, I have felt guilty on occasions about not being able to fulfill my son’s needs. On other occasions, I feel guilty about neglecting work. Balancing motherhood and professional life is an everyday challenge. Nothing can ever prepare a mother for that. Motherhood is constantly demanding and exhausting too. I really don’t know what to say when people ask me how I do it, or may be the best answer is that I don’t really know. I basically tend to push myself to the edge and don’t give up at any time. It’s an everyday learning with lots of permutations and combinations involved. I would say that a lot of credit goes to my family, especially my husband who plays a very active role in parenting.

I wasn’t keeping well during my pregnancy and had to go for caesarian section. I went to work six months after delivery. While I was struggling to balance things, my manager at office supported me. My husband, on the other hand, started freelancing from home to take care of my baby.”

Why Mrs India

“It was my dream to participate in a beauty pageant. Besides, this pageant was a gateway to providing community service. And I really wanted to do something for underprivileged women and children in our country. Through the pageant, I hope to become a voice to motivate other women.”

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