Elene Khoshtaria, 37, Tbilisi

„I long as I can remember myself, I’ve always been energetic both at school and in the university. My top priority in life has been work; however, my busy life-style never interfered with my private life. In 2004, when I started work as a public official, I had the same hectic pace of life as today. Perhaps it’s more obvious now, but my attitude to work and my responsibility was the same before. I had one child then, in 2012 I gave birth to another, and in 2014, I had two more children.

I’ve never faced the dilemma that if I have a baby, I cannot work or if I work too much, I cannot have a baby. For example, when I had my second child, I was interviewed in only half an hour after childbirth. I went into labor on Friday and went to work on Monday. Of course, the time is never enough, and your time with children is limited, but what matters is the quality not the amount of time you spend with the family. If you devote your child just one hour per day but fully dedicate this limited time to him/her, it can compensate the most of the missed time. Having a busy and self-fulfilled mother is much healthier for a child. There are certain cases, such as a celebration at preschool or school that you may be unable to attend, miss the moment so significant to your child. I usually get upset on such days, but everything can be explained and it is important to tell your child that you are sorry, you wanted to be there and you just couldn’t make it. But of course you have to be honest about it; you shouldn’t say so unless you really feel that way.

It seems to me that practically nothing is impossible. At some point your health may suffer, you may burn out, but this can be helped. If an individual has an aspiration to do something, he/she can balance it with his/her family life. There are of course some barriers and stereotypes that are very difficult to overcome. You may face more obstacles, if your immediate circle of people thinks that a woman must not work. Then it becomes far more difficult to achieve anything because you have to overstep many hindrances. The only thing I had to give up because of my marriage and children, was my plans of studying abroad, pursuing a PhD. Now I know for sure that I cannot leave my four children.

I’ve had a first-hand experience of the misconception that if you are socially active, you can’t have a private life. Many people find it shocking that I have four children. Then there is the saying “she has a man’s brain”. If you don’t fit the stereotype, you are labeled as “male” and then they think that if you don’t always wear high heels and wear tons of makeup you don’t have a private life. But this is a very stereotypical approach because there hasn’t been a single day in my life when my private life was not intense and passionate. That is why they are shocked at me having four children, even though they wouldn’t be so shocked if they heard it from a stay-at-home mom. They also find it peculiar that I love cooking. That is another stereotype: you either cook or lead a socially active lifestyle.

Gender issues are generally very important for me. The most I can do as a politician to this end is to serve as a role model. If I can encourage women to be more involved in social activities, I will be more than happy to do so.”