I woke up to outrage on social media yesterday over the remarks of a minor celeb in India following Women’s Day. My first thought was why amplify one voice over millions of saner ones. I let it be and moved on to other flaming issues. Then again this morning was a slightly smaller, more intimate conversation with a few friends on motherhood and its attendant woes.
Coming up on what will be seven years of being a parent and three years of being a biological parent I have many views on the whole shindig. As a working woman who made the choice to quit, I have thoughts on what it is like to be a working woman and one who stays home to care for her brood full time. I bold full time because working moms take care of their families just as well as moms who stay home do. Staying home full time is a different beast with its implicit biases and guilt.
Two and half years ago when I finally caved into a building crescendo of voices inside me and quit my full time job as a developer at a bank, I heaved a sigh of relief. I transitioned to a full time caregiver of children and keeper of my home without much angst. I expected the regrets would follow and I will one day be raring to go back to a career. The years passed and I am yet to feel anything strong. If any, I have settled into this new routine with aplomb.
The overwhelming physical demands of being a new mother has now given way to one that is needed mainly as a source of food and clean clothes, as an enforcer of mandated homework time and overseer of baths. My children need me intensely in the few hours in the morning and few hours in the afternoon. Other than that they mostly engage themselves. The grunt work in the house which I previously accumulated and dealt with over the weekend, I now spread over the week. I run three rounds of laundry every two days. I fold and stack away clothes while they are still warm. I make dosa batter on demand and make yogurt every other day. My tasks are mundane, repetitive and have become so much a part of me that I do not give it second thought.
Some days when the question of money and being financially involved comes up, I have this fleeting thought about returning to work. I suspect if I tried hard enough, I might find something. I will go back to relegating housekeeping to weekends and slave over the stove at unearthly hours to make sure fresh food is packed each day. I will survive and so will the home.
The biggest difference however will be in how I feel. The stress free lifestyle we now enjoy as a family will be a memory. We will scramble to meet deadlines. Work will bleed into our home lives. We will scour for summer camps in late winter and plan our lives around the school calendar. What I suspect will be missing is the ability to rejuvenate and recoup my energy each afternoon. The tight bands of stress will make a return to the back of my head. I will feel weighed by the weight of responsibility for both home and work.
I go back in time to when I was younger. My mom stayed home. My aunt (almost a surrogate mom) worked. She worked because there was a support system in place to raise her children. All of us children lead similar lives today. I respect my aunt for doing what she had to do. I hold my amma on a pedestal now that I know what her daily life must have been like.
End of day each of us make a choice that is best suited for us. And some times there is no choice at all. We do the things we have to do to survive. To place food on the table. To make sure our children are safe and provided for. Once we decide, we find ways to advocate for our choice. Our choices are self fulfilling prophecies. We pat ourselves on our collective backs for having the foresight to choose the right path when the truth is no matter what, our children and homes will be OK. The decision to work or stay home impacts us the most. Us mothers (and the infrequent SAHD) as people. It defines our interactions with other people and the amount of guilt we carry with us. It defines the quality of our lives as families.
A happy mother makes a happy family. Now, if we all could remember that, that will be a win for women world over.