Reva Seth is a success story many modern women aspire to be. Married and the mother of two young kids, Seth, instead of let-ting marriage and mother-hood come in the way of her career, turned these two milestones of her life into advantages. Acclaimed for her debut non-fiction book, First Comes Marriage, Seth is now in the process of writing more books while also fulfilling other professional commitments. She spoke to Generation Next about this and more. Professionally speaking, Reva Seth has donned diverse hats—as a lawyer, communications professional, author and community consultant. In all of these, the constant, she feels, has been looking for the right fit for herself. “ Like many people I grew up with the advice that I should get a profession, which I did but then realized that practicing law was not actually what I wanted to do,” she says. As she worked her way through different roles and projects, she realized that she wanted her career to comprise of a model of various projects, entrepreneurial ventures. Seth’s book, First Comes Marriage, published by Simon and Schuster received appreciation for its refreshing approach on the institution of marriage. The book dispels myths about arranged marriages, common across many South Asian societies. The inspiration to write the book came to her from looking at her parents’ relationship, Seth informs. “My parents had an arranged marriage, they met twice be-fore they got married and my mom came to Canada to join my dad who was a graduate student at UofT. Their marriage was something I was always really curious about – were they happy? Actually in love? Since I didn’t want to ask them these questions, I started interviewing other women about their arranged marriage experiences. Eventually I spoke with over 300 women about their arranged marriage and it became the basis for my book,” she says.
While she doesn’t directly advocate arranged marriages, Seth feels there are lessons in such alliances that women, especially in the Western world can learn from. “From a personal and political level – I see a lot of flaws with arranged marriages,” she says, adding, “I disagree with the focus on marrying someone from the same culture and religion and I can’t imagine any South Asian parents pushing their son to let them introduce him to a nice boy they know! I strongly support same sex marriages so this is a huge flaw in the arranged marriage model for me.” While interviewing her subjects for the book, did Seth hear stories of love happening after marriage, as is perceived to be the case with arranged marriages? “Well, based on my inter-views it certainly seems like it happens, she says. “It might not be the way many of us think of love, but the couples I spoke with were certainly in love in their own way – which I respect. I think it comes from two people being open to building a life and family together and the result of sharing those experiences.” Seth also feels the need to deglamorize some of the ideas projected by films—Bollywood or Hollywood—regarding relationships. The idea of finding a soul mate puts enormous pressure on partners to live up to the image of being the “right one”. “Similarly, there’s the idea that if your partner really loves you, they should just know what you want or how you’re feeling…these ideas are examples of how popular culture often sets us up to be disappointed by our real life relationships by giving us in-credibly unrealistic expectations,” she says. Motherhood came to Seth in the most unexpected of ways. “I got pregnant unexpectedly – three days after our wedding, I realized I was three months pregnant and so was really worried about how this would impact the new career that I’d just launched,” she recalls.
That was when she started scouring stories of post baby success, which led to her current project, The Mom-Shift. It’s an online media campaign, based on “show-casing and profiling women who achieved greater career success after having their kids and so counter to usual negative story we hear about kids being a hurdle to career success.” The first set of profiles and advice based on their experiences will launch on International Women’s Day (March 8) this year and, and the stories will be part of Seth’s second book, due in 2013. She is still collecting stories and anyone interested in sharing their experience can contact her at: www.themom-shift.com or on Twitter: @Reva-Seth.
What advice does she have for new mothers who might find it difficult to resume their careers? She says, “From my own experience, I can say that one of the biggest lessons is to think long term – the immediate few weeks and months after having a baby can be so overwhelming that the idea of picking up your career can seem like too much – but things do settle down!” Her findings from the MomShift project revealed that there is no right way to resume one’s post-baby career and family. “…it’s about finding and following what works for your goals and your family,” she feels. As the mother of two, Seth has clear ideas about how she wants her sons to grow up. While she was growing up, she saw mothers around her perpetuating a double standard by “expecting one level or type of behavior from their daughters and then being far more lax when it came to their sons.” Seth doesn’t want to raise her sons with that kind of sexual double standard with regard to women. “There’s no way my boys are going to be adding to the problem!” she says.
Seth is the founder-director of the Center for Career Innovation (CCI), “an initiative focused on shifting how individuals, business, government and other organizations understand and inter-act with the changing nature of career paths and models.” The MomShift is its current project, while this spring; CCI will launch another project for aiding freelance writers succeed. Reva Seth certainly has her hands full and can be expected to change some more commonly prevailing perceptions with her next book and future projects.