Think girl child and former Miss Universe and actress Sushmita Sen instantly comes to mind. Mother of two daughters, her first child came into her life when she was 24 years of age and then 10 years later she again became a mom. From holidaying to working out together, Sushmita and her daughters Renee and Alisah have a great bonding that is truly adorable.
Sushmita has always supported initiatives supporting the girl child including #StandWithAGirl. We caught up with her at a jewellery store launch in Pune. She radiated a lot of warmth and charmed everyone with her infectious smile. But at the same time she also spoke about the joys and responsibilities of single parenting and how she is both mother and father to her daughters. She added that while her elder daughter Renee has a mobile phone, it doesn’t have data connection. “She doesn’t need data because she has ample friends, a mom and her computer,” Sushmita said with a smile.
Here, she shares more about her experience of raising two daughters.
What has been the most positive change since you became mother to two beautiful girls?
I became a mother at the age of 24 and then, at 34 my second daughter Alisah was born to me. The greatest change — the most positive one has been that my life found purpose and I no longer was a fancy-free, detached person, who could be derailed by anything in life. It made me more responsible, gave me a tremendous sense of balance, but mostly, the word is ‘purpose’ to nurture these two beautiful lives.
What are the similarities and differences between the relationship you have with your daughters and the one you shared with your mom?
It’s difficult to compare, because we lived in different times. I grew up in a household which was simple, lower middle class, with a mom who was a homemaker at that time and a father who was serving the Indian Air Force and was on the move all the time. So the upbringing me and my brother had, belongs to those times. Whereas, my children are living in the times of social media, internet and knowing the world at the tip of their fingertips — it’s a very different, evolved and aware generation. So the way to deal with kids now is extremely different than it used to be. But there are similarities in the upbringing. My mother instilled a very deep sense of values in both, me and my brother. She also taught us how to appreciate and be grateful for what we have and to always look after it. In today’s times, that’s something children take for granted. However, I try to instill the same values and principles in my children. There is similarity in the fact that all mothers come across as ‘the villains of the piece’, because they’re usually the ones who are disciplinarians of the children. But as you become a mother yourself, you realise, that this similarity seeps in yourself, because finally what is of surmount importance, is the well-being of the child, the child having no sense of lack in their lives and them being completely adept at dealing with all situations. So yes, we’re very different, but we’re also very alike in the fact that we’re mothers.
Since Renee has turned 18, have you become more concerned about her career, goals in life, safety and settling down?
Well, the safety of your child at all ages is of primary concern, especially when you have daughters. The world we live in, has all sorts of negative people and actions taking place, which are extremely worrisome. So it is a matter of concern, of course. As for her settling down — that’s not even a thought that’s crossed my mind! She’s very young, and takes it from a mother who is now 41 and still single. She has a lot to stand for, believe in and become, before she can choose to spend her life with somebody, because I truly believe, ‘You attract what you become’. So therefore, the attention at this age has to be about ‘becoming that person’, so that you may attract the right person in due course to settle down with. However, as far as her career or goals go, yes, her academics and her way forward has been something that we have discussed extensively and remains a matter at hand. At this age, however, I am encouraging Renee to start becoming responsible for her own choices. I no longer spoon feed her with options. Now it is her choices, and she knows right from wrong. So, the decisions and the consequences of these decisions are both hers. I am always here to guide of course, but now, she’s more independent on her way to becoming an adult.
As your daughters are growing up, have you become more conscious about your life choices like the brands you get associated with, etc?
Well, firstly the brands I associate with are a very small part of my life’s choices (smiles). But on a more serious note, knowing the person I am, whether it’s a brand, or the men I date, the life I lead, or the choices I make, are based on my own conscience and whether I can live with them. So, the only thing that I want my children to always know, live and learn by example, is that their mother lives a very honest and straightforward life, no matter what her choices. So, as my daughters are growing up, I hope that they are imbibing the quality of living true to themselves. I know my little one Alisah, watches me very closely, I can tell her all the time, ‘it is bad to lie’, but she only learns when she watches me tell the truth. No matter how hard or difficult the situation, she understands that concept only by example. So, if there’s something I want to teach my children, it is to be conscious of all of life’s decisions as honestly as possible.
What is the one piece of advice you always share with your daughters?
Oh I’m sure there is plenty actually, because sometimes I even sound like my mother. Say for example, ‘So many people in the world don’t get to eat food — don’t waste yours!’ (smiles). But seriously, I think the most important piece of advice my mom gave me, which I have in many different ways explained to my children and shared it, is that your middle name should always be ‘Dignity’! You must be dignified not just as a woman, but as a human being, and live with grace! And as long as my children have that, well, then we have a legacy that has passed down beautifully!