Monthly Archives: May 2013

He thinks Mergers, I think Plumbers..

One evening, a few nights ago, I was lying in bed next to my husband. We were both tired after a long day and were similarly engrossed in our thoughts, of the day gone by, the one that lay ahead, all that needed to be done, stuff like that. We were having one of those, silently-reading-in-bed and thinking about battles ahead moments (am reading David Mitchell, by the way, and for those who haven’t read him, I highly recommend him) I had a hectic day planned – visit to the pediatric ophthalmologist, then to a birthday party, then rush home in time for the maid to leave, take the kids for their swimming lessons, call the electrician for the AC that’d started to make disturbing noises etc etc, you know working out the logistics in my head. My husband was lost deep in thought too, but his were, well, different, to say the least – crunching numbers, selling companies, handling employees and their emotions and the like. Not to put myself down, but compared to his, my list was full of mundane if vexing chores; his, probably both worrisome as well as mentally fatiguing. So we lay in bed reading, interrupted only with to-the-point conversations about this and that, such as “did my credit card arrive today, it’s about to expire”, or “how was the kids’ swimming lesson?”

There are times in everyone’s life, I am certain, when you have moments of extreme clarity, like you’d just spotted the obvious, which had been under your nose all the time. These crop up suddenly, almost without warning, seemingly out of nowhere, much like the Eureka moments that make everything lucid at once. Well, I had one of those that night. I realized why the distance that’d crept in between us had the dangerous potential of turning into an abyss.

This distance, I realized, had a perfectly logical and quite frankly a very valid explanation. We had sunk into such different worlds that on a day to day basis we had very little in common with each others’ lives. People at his work, understandably, knew much more about him and the issues that face him than I did. At my end, the mommy friends I’ve made in recent years around swings in parks knew more about the angst I feel as a mother or the issues that face me. True we try and involve each other in our lives, but that can only happen that much. I cannot begin to understand all the pressures he faces and he cannot relate fully to the life I lead. Our days could not be more different. And that’s where the danger lay. No matter how hard we try, at the end of the day we have such dissimilar events to deal with that we seem to be living on completely diverse planes.

Not that I didn’t know this earlier, but that night, somehow it became clear to me that something had to be done. We absolutely had to find a common ground and that could not be the children and the home alone. Something else needed to bind us. Yes there was love and friendship, but that’s something that needs to be worked on constantly. You cannot just lie there and say – ok so we have different lives but that’s quite alright because there is this marriage and love and all that jazz. No, that’s not enough, not near enough. You have to connect mentally – that’s what was was so clear to me that night. I can’t talk markets and numbers like he can and he can’t put in his bit about running the house, but surely there’s stuff we could find to talk about that was removed from or not connected to the life we lead together.

Mental stimulation. Yes, that’s what we needed.  That is what would keep us on a somewhat level field.

I am not sure if I make sense, but this is something I’ve only just fully understood. I mean I knew it, but somehow lost the thread in all the domesticity and the gap just crept in on us.

I suggested (not letting him in on my new-found epiphany, of course) that we watch a film – The Great Gatsby. We’ve both read the book and loved it. So we did and it was a wonderful idea. We came home talking about the film, the book, the let down (if you’ve read the book, you cannot like the film, Leonardo notwithstanding) and a whole lot of things that we’d forgotten about.

Not once did we talk about the kids or the house.

Leave a comment

Filed under mommyrage

What career advice will you give to your daughters?

When I was growing up all I heard my mother say was that we had to make something of ourselves; that we must “stand on your own feet” – a term that Indian parents love to repeat, ad nauseum, or at least they did when my parents were in the stage of child-rearing that I am today.  Hindi films extolled the virtues of the phrase with lachrymose on-screen mothers telling their kids to “become something in life”.

So, it was ingrained in me very early – parents, cinema, et all – that I had to make something of myself. Stories of didactic brilliance, against all odds, were fed to us on a regular basis. The boy who sat under a street lamp and topped the national level civil services exam was the role model who we had to get inspired from, if not emulate.

So, my question is this. And, just to clarify, this is not to assign blame or say that my life would’ve been different had my mother prepared me for what lay ahead. But what I want to know is why no one told me one day I’ll have to make a choice – work or home? I spent years thinking, studying, working towards a career and then, whoosh. Before I knew it, I became that Stay At Home Mom, wondering if someone out there wants to hire a freelancer who is willing to work harder than “regular employees”, whose only limitation is that she cannot leave home for hours on end.

Why was I told that I must “stand on my feet” when that is exactly what I am not being able to do, whatever the term means?

The question that could be thrown back to me is – who told you to have kids? Or, did you not think about who would raise them? Well, not really. I mean, you reach a point when you want kids and you feel you’ll be able to figure to out as you go along. After all, the world has kids and juggles. My mom did. Couldn’t be that hard, right?

It’s not hard. It’s just life-changing. For those who can strike that magical (but it so eluded me) work-life-balance, I sound like a whiner (don’t like that term, my blog name notwithstanding). But I am not. I am asking a real question; more because I want to say the right things to my daughters. I do not want to lead them down a merry path only to have them reach a dead end later, or worse, to reach that wretched fork in the road where they’ll stand and dither and fall into the deepest quandary, the answer to which they will seek for the rest of their lives.

Should I tell them that they must work hard and dream big, but that one day they may have to let go of that dream, or a family? Or, should I tell them to be realistic and choose a path that will allow them to strike a balance between work and domestic life? So it’s better, say, to become a writer, academician (but wait, not dean, that’s time consuming), entrepreneur, teacher, consultant (so many women I know now “consult on a freelance basis) as opposed to any other profession, enriching as it might be, but which threatens to take them away from their homes for long passages of time?

What’s the answer? Is there one?

I want to, just because it’s sort of relevant, tell you this story. Make what you want of it.

I have a friend who was brilliant in college – the sort we thought would lead the way and we’d just follow. At 21 she got married. No one could understand it. One fine day, she just married this guy her parents had chosen for her. Just like that.

It turned out that her mother was this control freak who had figured life out and had laid out a plan for her daughter. She got this rich guy to marry her. By the time she was 23 she’d had her first and only child. She then, needled by her mother, did an MBA (while changing nappies – no diapers then). She lived with her parents-in-law (she, husband, kid on the top level; they on the lower, pretty common in India) So, the child was magically brought up while she worked. Long story short, today, she’s only 42 and her son is safely pursuing his undergraduate degree somewhere in the US. She’s on her way to the top management of her company with which she consulted (surprise surprise) for a few years while her son was young.

So, she’s set, as they say in Indian-English parlance. No stopping her till she reaches the top, which is less than an arm’s length away anyway. Her mother always wears this smug expression on her face – she’s something out of a Jane Austen book, where her only aim in life was to settle her daughter, first into a wealthy household by way of marriage and then into successful employment. Both were achieved.

Well, needless to say, I am not that mother. Don’t want to be. Besides, I’ve never asked this friend what she thought about being married so early. She never questioned it, at least not publicly, but I am not sure she loved being coaxed into domesticity while her friends went abroad for further studies, or ones like me who enjoyed single hood till my twenties ended.

I have no doubt about the reaction my kids would have, if I was to, in some wild imagination, turn into that controlling mother with the all-good intention of planning their lives. There’d be a mutiny, to put it mildly.

So back to the original question. What do I say to my daughters?

I ask, but I think I know the answer.

I am going to let them figure it out for themselves. Limiting their imagination right now for some future dilemma seems unnecessary and frankly foolish. They’ll cross the bridge when they come to it.  Hopefully, I’ll be living on the ground floor, looking after their babies..

5 Comments

Filed under mommyrage