Neha Dhupia in control: The actress talks about motherhood, new work and domestic life
Neha Dhupia on embracing motherhood again, drawing a work-life balance and dealing with the ever-present mom guilt
They say motherhood is a full-time job and we couldn’t agree more. Last month, we met Neha Dhupia who had come to the Hamleys Play Store in BKC, Mumbai for a promotional event, a day after she was spotted in Rajasthan attending the prewedding rituals of her friends, Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal. Within minutes of her arrival, the photo session begins and Neha can be seen expressing excitement at each toy from the new collection. Just as she is about to take her seat for media interactions, she notices a Mothercare store and her mind races back home to the caps her two-month-old needs considering the sudden nip in Mumbai air. She quickly asks her team if someone can get her the caps and gets back to the interactions, requesting video interactions to be done in person and promising to do print interviews virtually so that she can be home in time. “Work-life balance is always a hard one, mom guilt is real,” admits Neha later that week. A mother of two, Neha has had an eventful 2021. Her short film Step Out and feature film Sanak, which sees her playing a cop, released online. She shot for another season of Roadies and wrapped a new film, A Thursday. But the highlight of last year was perhaps giving birth to her second child, Guriq. As a new year unfolds, we speak to Neha about being a power mommy and an artiste in control of her life. Excerpts:
Q. You returned to work just 10 days after giving birth to Mehr, and it has been the same after your son. What fuels you, and from where do you get this energy?
It’s a constant hustle. I am always in a space where I believe that I am capable of doing more than I am already doing. Raising two children is hard, the business we work in is hard enough but what’s life if you aren’t going to be ready to face all the challenges thrown at you. Was it easy to get back to work, less than 10 days after each of my children was born? No, not at all. But then, I just didn’t want to sit back and be in bed. It’s baby steps — you manage and do whatever you can. Work from Home has also helped ease the stress, so technically I was home but back at work.
Q. How do you navigate life as a new mum, and draw a healthy work-life balance?
Work-life balance is always a hard one, mom guilt is real! It’s about time management which isn’t always easy to navigate. So, if I know I’m going to be away at work, I always try to make that quality time for my kids before and after, in fact, twice the amount that I would otherwise.
Q. Do you feel mom guilt? Have you been made to feel guilty for leaving your kids at home?
Of course, I do! As we speak just now, I had to rush for a 12-hour work commitment to Lucknow and I feel like my heart has been left behind with my kids, but you got to do what you got to do. I always say that behind every working woman there are many working women who are sacrificing their time away from their families as well (nannies, cooks, my mom and everyone I delegate to). I feel blessed to have the privilege to do this… not everyone does. Even in other work environments when women go back after maternity leave, there are some who give you a pat on the back, while others don’t. I too, have people who make me feel bad, not Neha Dhupia my family of course… (but) at the end of the day, you are doing this for your children. Strong, independent parents raise strong, independent children, and that’s one of the values we want to instill in our kids.
Q. Do you remember single Neha? How different was she from the person you are today?
Single Neha was a different era in my life. As a mother I should probably delegate more, I get told this often. I tire myself out more often than not, and at times, I am unable to close the loop on some matters as there is just so much going on. And that’s the change that has come in my personality over the years. When I was single, I was more in control (of things), and I didn’t have a curfew. Now, I want to be home on time for my kids. In fact, I think the kids have more control over my life now. The other thing that has changed is my fitness routine. I am very disciplined. Two back-to-back pregnancies have taken a toll on me but I want to get back to my fitness routine.
Q. How has motherhood impacted your professional life? Have the roles changed?
I can no longer commit to longer work schedules out of town without taking into consideration my husband’s schedules and my kids’ requirements. But, I am a lot more conscious of my choices — I don’t jump into anything and everything because I don’t have the liberty to do that. Yes, motherhood also changes the work you are offered as an actress, and I question that a lot. I wish the industry would look at new moms the same way new dads are perceived. All in all, I’m glad I get to work on a varied set of brands and opportunities.
Q. What led to the Freedom to Feed campaign?
It started when Mehr was eight months old. I felt that breastfeeding doesn’t need to be sexualised and frowned upon. It’s the most natural process in the world. At the same time, not all moms can breastfeed, sometimes they don’t have the luxury of time/space to do so and that doesn’t mean they are bad mothers. All women are amazing and are doing the best they can, and that’s what Freedom to Feed talks about — it’s about building a community and support system around breastfeeding, parenting, PCOD and other postpartum issues.
Q. Do you and Angad (Bedi) get time to just be with each other? How important is it to take out time just to be a couple?
Not as much as we would like to, but we are very conscious about the fact that we have to make time for one another. We have been married less than four years and we have two kids… a lot has changed in our lives. Everything seems new to us, even now... but we try to take out moments and time for ourselves. It’s magical with the kids, and it’s just as magical without them. It’s all so consuming, (but) people must remember that you can’t forget your partner in the midst of everything. Like Angad was right there by my side — holding my hand through the fourth trimester which is so hard on a mother, even more so the second time! There are times after the kids go to bed that I have to remember that he needs attention too. So, be it a late-night drive, or a meal or meeting our friends, you have to let your partner know that they are loved, just as they do for you.
Q. What’s next on the work front?
There is A Thursday, which is produced by RSVP. I shot it while I was eight months pregnant. Getting back on a film set seems three to four months away (for now) but there are some brand endorsements lined up.
A day in the life of Neha Dhupia
What does my day look like? Sometimes, I don’t even get a moment to look outside the window or check my watch. I am awake every three hours or so to feed my baby so I am very sleepdeprived these days. After early morning feeds and a few hours of sleep, I am up by 8 am to get Mehr ready for school. Once she is back home, I like giving her lunch and hearing about her day. Afternoons and evening — while Mehr is away for playtime — are peak work-time for me. Of course, our son also takes a lot of my time. Once the kids go to bed is when Angad and I get our quality time together. On crazy work days, everything is delegated and managed time wise to the T.