We’ve been taught to believe that we must, mostly, live by the choices we make. By and large, I try and follow this belief. But when you’ve made a choice between two paths in life (mommies, you know what I am talking about), both of which you wanted, then it is quite impossible not to feel regret, even if in passing or once in a while.
Yes, I made the choice to be at home with the kids, yes I did want more than one kid and had them fully knowing that getting back to work would only become more difficult. But I still did it. Why? Because I wanted to. I wanted this more than a life in the corporate world, no matter how fulfilling. True. Does that then disqualify me from any thoughts about the world I abandoned? I don’t think so. Many men, however, disagree. Their reasoning is, you chose it , so now live with it and be happy. How easy it is to say this when you have never had to make that difficult decision.
Before I go on, I must add that not all men think this way, that this thinking is not restricted to men only and there are men who have decided to be at home and let their wives keep the home fires burning. But all of these are exceptions. I am talking general here.
So where was I? Yes, the choice. I made the choice, and would do the same again if I could turn back time. But, does that mean that I don’t think about the time my boss called me and offered me a position I would have given my left arm for if I didn’t have children? Of course I do! And here’s the thing; thinking is not without its repercussions. It gets reflected in your mood, in your attitude, your talks. It does for me. But, it passes and soon one gets submerged into domestic life that gives immense joy, which is what you made the trade off for.
Till, you meet someone who asks you what you do. This, for me, is the most uncomfortable part, and I cannot understand why because I am not ashamed to be at home with my kids; but it is. I say housewife (homemaker, if you want to be politically correct, the same thing really, what’s in a name? beats me). The conversation stalls for a minute, then you start talking school, maids, parks, how-smart-today’s’-kids-are, parenting problems, and finally, the weather. Conversation ends, you go home. On the way out you overhear bits and pieces of other conversations in the room that give you a little peep into how different some women’s lives are; some babe talking about her new, glitzy project, or another go-getter recounting tales of her recent business trip to New York (it’s always New York, sigh, the city I love, the city where I spent many carefree years..), or, for good measure, you also overhear someone talking about her fulfilling work with an NGO in rural India, where, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of her great team, many girls now live a happier life and the village in question has clean drinking water.
It makes me think. What if? I know my capabilities and am no different really from these women (don’t mean to brag) so what if I’d taken the other path. Where would I be today? Hard to tell I know, but yet, I cannot help but wonder. Then I look at my kids and I these thoughts recede into some deep crevice in my mind, only to surface later, and to be suppressed yet again. It does not, I must add here, lead to discontent, if that’s what it sounds like. It does, however, lead to some restlessness.
I know why I made the trade off, and, like I said, I’d do it again. But I do wish it didn’t have to be that way. I wish there was a way to do both, some lucky women have managed it. I did my bit to try when I had my first child to do this “flexi-timing” thing. Didn’t work. I spoke to my boss, told him that I would deliver my bit, do more than my share, if he’d let me work, partly, from home. He said he loved my work, but could not allow me this, it would, he was afraid, “set a bad precedent”.
So here I am four years and a two more kids (twins) later, still thinking about the trade off. But when I talk to my sister, who spends her day at the office, she regrets not being there for her daughter, now almost a teenager, who now does not need her as much and has her own life, that’s when I feel good about the choice I made. My evenings are not spent stuck in traffic wondering and pining for my kids, they are spent in the park running around with them. That’s therapeutic.
And not that I’ve given up hope about working again. I may not get a great job after such a long break, that I am quite aware of. But I’ll do something, I keep telling myself (and my mom) that. Someday I’ll strike that wonderful balance between work and home. My education, someday, will be put to good use.
Till then, diapers it is..