Tag Archives: mommyhood

Why I Will Never Call Myself Fat Again

mother_daughter_2

Ok, this is an unusual admission from me – I am not fat. Not saying I am not thin, but am not fat either, whatever the definition of thin or fat is.

Which brings me to this question: what is the definition of fat, or thin? And who defines it? And why do we accept it?

The truth, unsurprisingly, is based on our perception about the issue. What I may think of as thin, may not be so for someone else (my children’s friend’s bordering-on-anorexic mothers probably think I am fat. I differ. Conversely, my mom thinks I am thin. Again, I differ). It’s all relative.

Today, somehow, being thin means being skinny, or somewhere near it. The whole definition of beauty has changed completely. And women, more than men, are trying to live by some warped standards of beauty, and are putting themselves through torture to conform to it. Innumerable studies and life experiences of people have repeatedly shown that physical qualities in people do only so much to make them happy and contended – one because they are fleeting and two, because they don’t add meaning to people’s lives. That may be a philosophical outlook that you may or may not agree with, but it does not take away from one simple fact – that our obsession with looking good and the methods of achieving it are unhealthy. And this must stop – because what we’re doing, and by we I mean women like myself who have unknowingly fallen into the trap and perpetuated the idea, is passing it on to the next generation. Most of us (like yours truly) may not mean to, but we are. Every time I look in the mirror and exclaim that I have gained weight, I am (albeit inadvertently), passing on my idea of beauty to my children. I may tell them otherwise, but children look at actions and take away from that. They are watching us at all times and learning from our behaviour. What we do or say seeps into their sub-conscience and feeds their ideas about life and society – in this case about defines being thin; it tells them what they must be like to be accepted as attractive.

Children are sponges – so if you, even in jest, say that you are fat, they will process this very differently than you may have intended.

Let me now confess that I have been guilty of this. I have often made a correlation between my weight with feeling good and not, as I should have, being fit and feeling good – because that’s what it should be about. I want to be healthy, and not being fat, in the medical sense, is part of it. But that’s not what I conveyed in my actions and words. I am a runner and I do believe that it makes me fitter. Yet, I have somehow done a bad marketing job of making those feelings known and amplified the ones that I don’t really believe in – which is about wanting to be thinner than I am.

For instance, when my sister and I joke about “going on a crash diet”, we lead our children to believe that depriving yourself of food is justified and even required if one needs to be acceptably thin (and thus physically attractive). The fact that neither of us never act on our words may not be enough to quell the ideas we had engraved in our children’s impressionable minds.

Why this sudden awakening you may ask? Because my older daughter (now ten) said to me the other day that she feared being fat when she grew up. It was one of those passing things that kids say, which they forget about the next moment and move on. But, her words stopped me in my tracks. I realized what I had done. I knew she didn’t fear it, like she fears the dark, or earthquakes. Yet, just the fact that she, at ten-years-old, had thought about gaining weight when she grew older, was enough to set me on a path of correcting the wrong I had done.

Parenting, I have learned, is not about the ability to always do the right thing, or about berating yourself for doing the wrong. It’s about realizing and admitting when you’ve made mistakes, and setting them right. That’s exactly what I plan to do now. And it can’t be done by siting my daughter down and giving her philosophical monologues on the idea of beauty. That’s taking the easy way out and frankly, it never works. She’s growing up in a world surrounded by image-obsessed people, who, along with some ill-timed remarks by her mother about her own weight, have influenced her little mind. What she needs is to see the right ideas in action. She needs to see her mother run and then talk about being fit, she needs to see her mother dress for a party and not ask if she’s looking fat, she needs to see her mother feel good about herself about the way she looks and not rue about her lost youth when she was thin.

My new-found resolve, however, does not mean that I shall now proceed to wander around with unkempt hair and live in sweatpants, because that would really prove I don’t care about how I look and thus send the right message to my kids. It won’t, they’ll just think I am sloppy. No, it means that I stop saying things I don’t mean and, through my actions, I prove that being healthy is what matters.

And the effects of this will be two fold – one, of course, I will teach my daughters the right thing about their body-image and two, I will feel good about myself, which I have not been doing lately. I run to be healthy and because I enjoy it, not to be thin – whatever that means today.

Leave a comment

Filed under home, mommyrage

From a Stay-At-Home-Mom to a Working One

manos 2

I can tell you this – that I never thought it would happen. I never thought I would get back to real work. Yes, I was pretty sure that after ten years of being at home and looking after kids, I was good for nothing else. That no one in their right minds would hire me, which was quite alright, because, in my opinion, I was quite un-hireable. That’s what being at home does to you – you start to believe in the stereotype.

Well, I could not have been more wrong. Neither was I un-hireable nor had my being at home taken away from the person I was. Yes, I had been sucked into the demands of my home (and that was a choice I made, for whatever reason) and for a while I was that mother in the park who befriended others like her and thought that she would never be able to escape from the unending cycles of birthday parties, piano classes and fixing the mixie. But that was a period in time when I could not think beyond that. And while it may have temporarily lulled my grey cells into talking about maids, mothers-in-law and electricians, it really did not really make me into the person I thought I had become.  When I went back to work, the real me (ya, I know, it’s a cliché, but it’s true) just wriggled out of that home-mommy skin and rose to the occasion – something I never thought I could do.

And this is not about me being some super star who could rise from the ashes and go back to work because I was some genius who’s been rescued from the interminable demands of domesticity.  No, I am like every other mother who makes a choice to be at home, but that so-called choice is not really one. Because a choice gives you options and let’s you pick what you like. When someone like me chooses to be home, she’s doing to because she has nowhere to leave her child – really not a matter of choice. I’ve heard so many people say to stay-at-home moms that they made a choice, and I always find it interesting – the use of that word. Given a real choice, where the woman can get back to work and be allowed to be flexible as long as she delivers the work, many women I know would have opted to be back at work.

But what I do want to say to women is this – stay mentally active, that’s key. You will find something to do once things at home settle a bit. No, it’ll never be fully settled, but that’s ok, you’ll learn to deal with it. This last week my daughter had been ill, so I left work early and came home. Then I worked at night and on Saturday from home and completed some tasks. And yes, I still have to do the birthday stuff, the homework, the classes and all that comes with being a mum – work has to be managed with all that. But you know what, you learn to do it. Sure there are days when you feel overwhelmed, but nothing in life is easy. I’ve wanted to get back to work for so long and now that I have done it, the other things will have to be fitted in. The people around you learn too – your husband, your kids, your help – they all start to do their bit to help you. That’s what I learnt – they see that you are happy and they want it to stay that way.

I underestimated the people around me. I always thought that things would fall apart if I plugged out. But they don’t – somehow it all happens. And yes, I’ve learnt to let-go of a few things – the dust behind the cabinet for one. I don’t care if it gets swept once in a few days. It’s just not important anymore. Working on a presentation for a client beats that any day.

5 Comments

Filed under about

When You Short Sell Yourself And You Know It

mug

So now I’ve been working for about three months, which might explain my absence from this blog (you can only do so much.)

It’s been great so far. I am enjoying getting out of the house, wearing work clothes and talking to adults. I do miss the lazy mornings, though, when I could read the papers with leisurely cups of tea and whine to my husband as he got ready for work. But, not complaining – you get some, you lose some. This is what I’ve wanted all this time, this is what my angst was all about – that I was not being able to get out of the house and take on the world. So here I am, happy that I finally got on the bus I’d been waiting for.

But (yes, there is a but, and you’ll soon see why) there is something that irks me – the fact that I get paid pittance. I know, I know – I’ve got my foot in the door and that’s key. But the thing that irritates me is the fact that my hiatus from work is being used as a negotiation tool and my abilities and skills are secondary. I am being paid based on my so-called absence from full-time work and not on what I actually bring to the table. Because the fact of the matter is (and here’s where I am going to be a bit, well, not so humble, so pardon me) that I am as good as the person who has been physically present in the workforce all these years. I may not be able to write the corporate jargon like the rest (give me another month and I will) but the clarity of thought and seriousness I bring can’t count for nothing (or just a wee bit more than nothing).

I didn’t expect to feel this way and frankly I did not even think about the money when I took the job. And that was because all I wanted was to get back in. But after being here for a few months I realized something – that the people who work around me are, pretty much, like me. When we are in a meeting, for instance, I have as many ideas (which usually get incorporated) as the Joe sitting next to me (who is, by the way, almost young enough to be my kid – had I married at 20 that is – and earning the same). But because I am this rebooting-her-career mom, my fear is that I am seen as someone who needs this more than she is needed at the job. It may or may not be true, but the fact that I am adding a lot of value but not being paid for it, bothers me.

Now to make this even more complicated I’ll add here that it bothers me that it bothers me (yup, am quite the stereotypical woman). And that’s because I don’t want to think about the money, but about working, about the foot-in-the-door, about the fact that I have managed to flee my domesticity and all that stuff I’d told myself about when I joined. It makes me uncomfortable to think this way.

Yet, the truth is that I do. And, after doing some analyzing, here’s probably why.

It’s because the compensation I’ve been offered factors in the assumption that I will need frequent flexibility, that because I am a back-to-work-mom, I’ll leave the office even if a bee were to enter my house, because mothers are control freaks who will drop everything to tend to their sacred hearths (never mind that I sit there till way past the time I “negotiated” I would).

Sure there would be days when I would have to run back to the house, but that could happen to anyone. What strikes me as unfair is that this what-if scenario holds true of any mother who works, irrespective of her career track. But returning-to-work mothers like me pay a price for a flexibility that we may or may not use, while working moms (the ones who somehow stayed on the road) don’t, even though they would be as prone to tending to a sick child as someone like me. And the truth is that I’ve been at work even when my daughter has been ill. You know why? Because I am trying to prove myself. I am trying to say – see I have a sick child at home, but I am here, doing my thing because I am like the rest, in every possible way.

So I am not sure what I am going to do about this feeling, apart from rant and rave about it on my blog. If it gets too much, I’ll bring it up with my boss when it’s time for a review (soon). The one great learning I’ve had in the past three months is that people who work well are always in demand and there is a short supply of such people. My husband always told me this, but who listens to husbands when you are at home, neck deep into mom-in-law, kids, birthday parties and homework. All you want to say then is “ya right, that’s easy for you to say when you are on the inside”.

Well, now I am on the inside and I could not agree with him more. So yes, I am happy to be out of the house but  wish I had not been so much on the back foot when I negotiated terms for my job. I know now (easy to say in hindsight) that I was going to get it anyway, but I didn’t know how to play the game.

One learns, I guess. The next time I’ll play it too.

5 Comments

Filed under about

Life Changing Moment

Untitled

This April my twins started full-day school. It was, as they say, a life changing moment. Or, that’s what I thought. That moment, actually, lay just a little ahead. Full day school was great, but what came after is what’s really changed my life. It arrived, without warning or signal, out of the blue, like my mother always told me it would (ya ya she was right). Let me just go ahead and say it – I’ve started working. Yes, it’s true. Just like that.

If you read my previous post, then you’ll put two and two together. I started this Monday, and I now await Saturday like I have never before, or so it feels. It’s a start-up. Which means many things. The first being the pay, but I am not thinking about that right now. It also means that you have your finger in many pies and, as I am discovering now, leaving at 4 is not going to be easy. Sure those where the terms of joining, but if a project is not done, what are you going to say? Time up? I don’t think so. Because then you’ll be looked upon as the one thing that will make you squirm – as an unprofessional mommy who could not commit because of her “limitations” (see previous post). No, I’d rather get biffed on the head with a brick!

I came to a realization a long time ago – that a woman trying to make her way back into the workforce is hardly in a position to negotiate terms. It’s sad but true. She’s just so glad that someone opened the freaking door, that she’ll take it. She knows she’s capable, and she knows she’s worth a lot more, but the gaping black hole in her resume is such that it has acquired a life of its own, as it crawls into her bed at night and haunts her in her dreams. It reminds her, constantly, that it’s growing and, like the mythical Hydra, sprouting more heads with each passing day. I know this, because this is exactly what’s happened with me. And now when someone has shown confidence in me and the only thing I can say to myself is “don’t let this go!”, and that this will never happen again. It’s a panic-stricken moment when this happens, because you wind yourself into a frenzy thinking that this bus will never come down the road again (hell, you’ve been waiting many years), so whatever it takes, you have to get on it. Otherwise you’ll wander aimlessly for the rest of your life, lost in the labyrinths of domesticity that will lead you to a long, lonely road, where you will find yourself once the kids fly the nest and your husband is neck-deep in his venture. Yes, I was all too aware of that road and when I saw even the glint of that bus coming down the road, I told myself that no matter what, this one I had to catch. And so I did.

So, long story short, I have a job and I love it. The honeymoon is not going to last I know, but I am, for once, not thinking too far down the road. I like where I am and I plan to take each day as it comes. The summer vacations begin tomorrow and they stretch long ahead of me. Let’s see how that goes. The guilt is yet to rear its ugly head. It will one day soon. It’s only a matter of time. Till then I’ll enjoy this golden period. And the weekend, it’s almost here.

Leave a comment

Filed under home

A Woman’s Little Limitations

bigstock-Silhouette-Of-Happy-Mother-Pla-71906929

An HR executive called me the other day and told me about this job where the employer had liked my profile, but (isn’t there always a but) he was wondering if I still had the “limitations” I did six months ago. Well, I thought of saying, that if you mean my kids, sure I still have them. They’ve grown a bit – my kids, I mean, not my limitations (paradoxically as kids grow, the “limitations”, sort-of, go down). So yes, I told him I am still a mother of three, but if it helps to know, the limitations now have full day school, so I am, you know, limitation-lesser, if you will.

He didn’t seem fully convinced or frankly satisfied with my answer. I wasn’t sure what he had wanted me to say. Did he expect me to tell him I’d packed off the kids to boarding school, or that my husband had decided to become a stay-at-home-dad, or that they’d taken a sip from the “Drink Me” bottle and grown up in an instant and were, thus, not limitations anymore, or, in a more believable scenario I’d managed to convince my mother to give up her life and come run mine? (sore, sore point)

I wasn’t sure. I did tell him that things were a lot better than six months ago. I could now be at work from 9 to 4, which was not bad. Then I could carry work home, if needed, and stay longer when needed too. Sounded alright to me. He, however, did not receive my suggestions with the alacrity I had expected, and told me he’d call me back, which, I was quite certain, he would not ( I suspect he did expect me to come up with one of those wonder stories above). Many an HR agent/employer have been scared off before, so I am now quite used to it. I have even come to love the look in a prospective employer’s eyes when I say I have three kids. They have this uh-oh, holy-crap look. And I love to sit back and watch him/her get out of that one. It’s ace really, as David Mitchell would call it.

Anyway, to my surprise, he called back. The employer, apparently, was alright with my flexi-timings (who said anything about flexi?) because he was running a start-up and he didn’t mind people working remotely (were you not listening, I didn’t say remotely!). The man had apparently expressed a wish to meet me.

Great I said, I was willing and ready to meet. He responded with similar contrived positivity and got off the phone in a bit of a hurry.

And so it was arranged. I wore my Sunday best and went to meet him on a Saturday (it’s a start-up, they don’t believe in weekends, but they are a “fun-place”. Right). It was a pleasant meeting and we spoke about this and that and the work, the profile and blah blah. I made all the right noises about my interest and abilities; he responded amicably, telling me all about entrepreneurship, finding talent, attrition and doing meaningful work. We parted well and I came home feeling quite satisfied.

Then the HR fellow called me again. He too made the right noises about the guy liking my work and all the rest of it, but (there it is again) he was wondering about my issues. I didn’t say anything about my issues, I said. “Yes, but you had some limitations..”. I cut him off and told him that I had sorted those out – how and what was my problem. I suddenly realized the game that was being played – Flexi was euphemism for low-pay (it’s a start-up, duh). The penny dropped and I told the bugger that I was willing to go into the office everyday and stay late too (a part of me was going WHAT??? STOP NOW!) but I stifled any voice of reason in my head and caught the bull by its horns (lean in girl I told myself). Sheryl Sandberg’s face was now staring at me, right into mine.

The truth is that while I was talking to him, the whole limitations crap finally got to me – when I realized that it was just a ploy to put me on the back foot while making me feel good about being able to work remotely! It turns out he does not even have enough space for me to come in to the office right now! He was trying to get me to say it first. But I didn’t.  I just called the bluff and said I would do full-time, worry not.

There was silence at the other end. This was not something he had been prepared for. He’d expected me to expand on my limitations, not make them disappear! But I had decided that even if it meant not getting on this bus (which I really wanted), I would stand my ground. Limitations my foot.

Anyway, long story short, I he arranged another meet with the boss. I am supposed to meet the employer again in a few days. He wants to hire me, it seems, but also would like to “iron-out” some minor details.

I am guessing these details would be about minors.

6 Comments

Filed under home

Ran the Marathon again. Only this time it felt even better

Untitled

I ran the 21 kms (about 13.2 miles) marathon recently. Yes. I did it. And I can tell you, it was the most incredible feeling I’ve had in many, many years. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to portray myself as this obscure mommy plodding away at home with little to feel accomplished about, and the marathon as having given me that oh-I-can-do-it too feeling that I so lacked in my life.

I am a regular mother who pretty much centers her life around her three children – you know the type – stay-at-home, life is mostly about the house – the usual – dropping the kids, picking them up, only to drop them again, then pick them up, again; getting them to eat right, read right, talk right, play the piano right; clear up their room, do their homework before the owls come out, learn to appreciate what they have, not argue, etc etc – like I said, you know the type..(and you can probably relate to some, if not all of it!)

I am not going to get into why this is how it is (yes, I know taking breaks is healthy and that ‘Leaning In’ is hard but vital). This is the reality and that’s that. I don’t work (if you discount freelance work) and I like to be involved with my kids. There are both upsides and downsides to that.

Anyhow, I was telling you about my running. When I started, I suddenly felt like I had a purpose (for lack of a better word) and pushing myself physically felt very, very good. I trained pretty much by myself. I became extremely focused and loved the high it gave me. This is not what I had expected, because I am not the sporty-sort really. I thought I’d do it to see if I could really run, or how far I could go before I ran out of steam. It was a process, of course, and I am not going bore you about it. What I will say is that I did not give up, and before I knew it, I was running ten kms (a little over six miles) a day. The first time I ran a ten km marathon (without stopping), I felt on top of the world, like I had done something that deserved mention. It meant a lot to me, and I didn’t care what anyone else thought of it. That is when I decided to give the 21K a shot. I started to run every morning and it felt good (the weight I lost and the thighs I toned were a extremely happy byproduct!).

Physical exhilaration apart, one of the main reasons why I loved running so much was because, surprisingly, it didn’t mean that I was out there, unfettered, alone with my thoughts, free to take them to any direction that I wanted. The truth was that I didn’t want to think, period. It was really about reaching a no-thought point. Not sure how I can describe that better, but the fact that I wasn’t thinking while running was refreshing in many ways. I didn’t want my time alone to be contemplative where I started to over think and over analyze everything, because that can happen easily. I wanted to be free, mentally free, with nothing clouding my mind, nothing at all- if you can ever reach that point, it’s extremely liberating, especially when you are the sort who turns things over in your head till they acquire a life of their own. I didn’t expect this to happen, but it did.

I would put on my music and just run. It was me and the music in my head (made a mish-mash playlist of songs, everything from Taylor Swift and One Direction to Micheal Jackson and A-ha!). I cannot begin to describe the feeling. Kids safely in school, me on the track and Shuffle playing my songs. It was simply magical.

At the marathon, when I reached the finish line, I wanted to cry. Not because I ever doubted that I would reach it, but because it simply felt great and overwhelming. So yes, maybe what I said earlier about that whole feeling of accomplishment, maybe that’s true. Maybe that’s why I loved this so much, because I haven’t felt like this in a while. I don’t go to work where someone pats me on the back and tells me that I did a good job. Sure people always say the right things when you tell them you are a SAHM, stuff like “kudos to you, I could never do it”, or, “it’s so much easier to go out and work than to be at home with the kids constantly”. Ya sure, it’s nice to hear but honestly, it does not do much for my self-esteem. For one, (and this could be me) I always detect this, oh-you-don’t-work-so-let-me-make-you-feel-better-about-yourself tone when people say this. I know, what could someone say when they ask you what you do and you say “er, I am at home with the kids”? There’s always this uncomfortable silence which then gets hastily filled with somewhat forced laudatory remarks about the trails of motherhood and all the rest of it. I don’t care for it much. And two, even if it is genuinely said, it somehow does not have any uplifting effect on me. I would rather be applauded for something I did that did not involve being a mother, a wife, a daughter, or someone who has great taste, who keeps a good house, who has a green thumb, whose garden is never without seasonal plants etc etc. No, if I must be applauded, I want it to be for something that had nothing to do with the house and the life I lead around it. I know I keep a good house and am raising three wonderful girls, and I get told that all the time. But maybe right now I am in a place where what I am doing is already a given, and anything that I do over it is the one that brings me that feeling of accomplishment. (Oh Lord, this post has turned out to be exactly what I did not intend it to be about – analyzing my running!!)

The truth is (and I know this is true of many women around me) that mothers don’t do anything much for their own selves, really. I mean something that is exclusively for them – that involves no other family member. I can’t think of anything else that I have done in the past many years where I have pretty much been on my own while doing it. No I haven’t. And it’s not because I could not (well, that too, but that’s for another post) but because I simply did not. When you are in a zone, you tend to stay in that zone, till something pulls you out of it, or something changes – like when your kids start full-day school. That’s when you get the time to notice the world around you a little more. So I could say that I’ve been in this mommy zone, one in which there is little time (or mind space) for anything else (except, of course, if you are my mother who has some magic wand hidden away and refuses to give it to me, or admit to its existence).

Now, with my running, I seem to have opened a small window and looked out into the world, from my little domestic preoccupations. And it’s a refreshing feeling. I don’t want to open a door yet, because I am not ready to let too much come in between me and my home, but I do want to step out once in a while and see what life beyond the house is like. When I first went running (to a nearby stadium) I realized that there were all sorts of people, from fat middle-aged men (and women) to taut, muscular boys and super-fit and equally taut women who were out, having taken out that one hour from their chores and devoting to themselves. I fit right in, because there was no real “type” there. A runner, I realized does not fit into a mould – a runner could be a man who (just like a women) needs a new purpose in his life, or a girl who wants to tone her legs, or a seventy-year old man who has been running since he was thirty and has never stopped. A runner could be the person I meet in a bank, who I would never picture on a track. Runners, I now know, are not always recognizable from their appearances, but that has nothing to do with their abilities. I would meet women who would have woken up at five in the morning and cooked a whole meal just so they could spend those forty-five minutes for themselves. That was inspiring. I find such women – who work at home (I don’t because I am fortunate enough to have a lot of help) and still manage to get away from it all – very inspiring. A man works and he works only, but a woman, she does it all. No, it’s not a statement fraught with feminist tones, it is the truth. A man can focus on his work to the exclusion of everything else, a woman (mostly) does not have that choice. Even is she works, the home is still her domain.

Anyway, back to the marathon, I ran in 2 hours and 31 minutes. It was not great and not bad (for a first timer, they say it’s pretty decent – blush, blush). I loved every moment of being out there. I felt like an athlete (which I am not) and it was extremely uplifting to be there among other runners. The atmosphere was electric and it rubbed off on me instantly.

My husband and kids were waiting 400 meters from the finish line. The last few kms were a bit hard and all I wanted was to see their happy faces. I kept thinking of what my five year old had told me a night before “Mama”, she’d said looking at me with her large, innocent eyes and heartfelt words “if you tell yourself you can, then you can. So just don’t give up”. Her words and their faces where in my mind as I kept going (non-stop). My husband (who is the real athlete in the house) was so proud that he was beaming at me with his charming smile (the one that I fell for when we met) and giving me a high-five in his mind (he’d never do it in public). That night he told me that I had done something incredible. I cannot begin to tell you how great that felt. He’s given me compliments before, but this one, don’t ask me why, felt so good that every ache that I was feeling in my body seemed completely worth it. It was like I had done something remarkable (which it really wasn’t – there were thousands out there). But he had that “my-wife-ran-21kms” look in his eyes, and my daughters shared it in reflection time in school the next day.

Nothing, no other encomium can ever match that. I am runner for life.

2 Comments

Filed under mommyrage

Have It All. Why The Fuss?

I’ve been doing a bit of reading about women and their issues (not a fan of that word) – the whole work-life balance that’s quite suddenly become the thing to talk about in living rooms, when one is done venting about the government and the weather that is.  Not that I went looking for these articles in particular, but I guess it started with one article I read about women and related issues and surprise surprise suggested articles and blogs started popping up seemingly out of nowhere, but we all know how that works. Not that I care about being tracked, no really, I got bigger things to worry about.

Anyway, I digress (oh so easily). Point is, I’ve been reading stuff about how women can have it all if they do this or or if they do that (not relevant to the point I am making). It irritates me, this whole have-it-all discussion.

Who can have it all? Do men? Sure, in many homes they work and the wife looks after the family, but does that mean they have it all? I think not. Ask my husband. He’ll tell you about the grueling hours he puts in at work and only comes home to see the kids asleep – asleep when he arrives and out to school before he can say Johnny Cash, after a tornadoesque morning (three kids, two of whom are yet to be four, to get ready, feed and then drop to the bus stop by 7:20 – yeah, it’s a fun morning). He gets little time with them and does not have the moments I do with them (moments, I admit, I would now, after years of being home, trade quite happily for a teller’s job that requires standing on one leg – you can see I’ve had an eventful, tantrumy morning) But the point is, he has not had it all either. He’s missing their childhood in the aim to secure their future. He’s working his ass off, going through mid-life angst, well aware of the long road that stretches ahead of him. Not defending the men folk here before anyone accuses me of that (ironical that would be, really) but just making a point about this whole fuss about having it all.

What, by the way, is having it all? I don’t get it. Ask anyone if they have it all and you’ll get a answer in the negative. Any road to success (pecuniary success I mean) is paved with sacrifices and regrets, be it for a man or woman. Also, who says that having it all is the key to happiness? So much is in the mind. You could have it all (whatever that is) and still not be happy, or you could have some regrets in life and yet be content with the way things are. I made the choice to be at home and am living with it, angst et all. I got to do what I wanted with the kids – to bathe and dress them, to be there for the school drop and pick-up, to read to them in the afternoons, to take them to their tennis lessons – so I did. Now, I still want those things, but, my need to get out and work is higher, maybe because I’ve had enough of the domesticity and also because they’re settled in school.

I am also aware that for many women, it’s not a choice – they have to work and leave the leg-tugging baby behind. In my mind I was indispensable at home (with three girls I still think I am) and since the house did not depend on my income (though that would’ve led to less stress on the husband and thus on everyone else) I decided to stay at home with the kids. Sure they got looked after and the husband could work tirelessly without home issues clouding his analytical brain. But I too got to do what I wanted, at least initially. For many women, it’s hard because the house needs dual incomes.

What I want to say is merely this, as we were taught very early on in school – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. This little adage, for me, says a lot about the whole discussion around having it all. No one can have it all. No one.  It may appear so, but it’s not true. So why the fuss?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I don’t understand the issue at hand here. No one knows that better than me – since I’ve tried to strike that work-life balance and have, in vain, tried to get jobs that are satisfying enough and yet don’t threaten to consume you, leaving you to attend to your other full-time job of mommyhood in peace. It cannot happen. You either do some mindless work where you shut shop at five-o-clock  sharp and go home, or you find something meaningful, in which case leaving at will, or at a family-conducive hour,  is probably not that easy. Or you stay at home, and write (like I’ve been trying to do – yes, yes, a book is in the head). So I do get the point about how hard it is for women who want/have to work and have kids to go home to.

I guess what irritates me is a lot of hyperbole around having it all. I have a problem with the whole concept of having your cake and wanting to eat it too. Maybe it was how I was brought up, to believe that to get something you have to give up another. True, in an ideal world a woman (or a man) should be able to work and be there for the kids all at once. But, is that possible? Ask anyone who’s made it to the top. Or rather, ask the kids. If you are going to slave to get to the top of any organization, something will have to give. And that something will be your home.

Ask Enid Brighton’s daughter (or husband who she had a tumultuous marriage with) what they thought of their life with her. She wrote more than 600 books for children, but did she have time for her own? Did she have it all?

1 Comment

Filed under mommyrage