Without much ado I present this recollection with a gloomy heart but a hopeful mind. When I shifted to this upscale villa community, it was all everything I could have desired: well-maintained surroundings and educated neighbours. But little did I consider whether education brings with it true enlightenment.
For the first few days I was busy with unpacking. It was one such day, while I was emptying my trash can, that I happened to meet my neighbour's mom-in-law, a woman with a gentle demeanour. As we chatted for the first time, she asked me, "Are you a working mom?" Quite nonchalantly, I responded that I am not working right now as taking care of the little monster (my son) 24x7 is my latest preoccupation. With a smile of affirmation she complimented me: "You absolutely did the right thing by saying no to work." She beamed as if in doing so I had averted the wrath of god.
And though I had been "praised" by her I could not smile back. A mother should not be assessed in terms of whether she is working or not, I thought. This exchange had distressed me. It has always distressed me whenever I have faced or sensed a situation which smells of inequality or trails towards biased barometers against women.
"It doesn't matter whether the mother stays at home or goes out to work. She never ceases to be a mother."
Mothers are the strongest influence in our life and the responsibilities of mothering make it a daunting task. It takes real selflessness, devotion and great amount of endurance to raise a child. It doesn't matter whether the mother stays at home or goes out to work. She never ceases to be a mother.
The other day while I was having a conversation with JB (my husband) over a much-needed weekend cuppa, I was privy to a delicate scenario. One of his female colleagues revealed a surprising anxiety to him: her boss, who reported to JB, had resigned unexpectedly, making her his obvious replacement. JB was confused. Shouldn't she be happy that she'd be getting a promotion? It turns out she wasn't.
"I am not ready for the extra responsibility," she said. "I have a child at home and with more work I won't be able to give the attention she needs." She went on to say that she was actually thinking of quitting her job.
How many men would let go of an opportunity like this? It is a sad fact that a working woman faces more dilemmas and internal conflicts that a man does. It doesn't help that our social structures and archaic attitudes are geared towards perpetuating this disparity. Guess what? Men aren't hunters any longer, so we don't need to be cave keepers either. Through the ages, this model had its value but now it seems redundant.
I have experienced being a working woman as well as a stay-at-home mother. Before my boy was born, I used to work for a leading publishing group for almost four years doing concept sales, event management, writing and editing, relationship marketing and even stamping innumerable pages. God knows why. I did what I wanted to do. But then life changed when I held my baby boy for the first time. I wanted to spend each moment with him.
"And while we women do have harder choices to make, please save us the spiel about our saintly, goddess-like qualities."
Even if it's rewarding, staying home was not and is never easy. It's ceaseless, never-ending toil to raise a child and cater to his constant calls for attention. It wears me out occasionally, but it was my choice and I'm glad I'm doing it.
Working mothers have their own challenges, not least of all the guilt that so many suffer. All I want to say that we are all in the same boat, balancing and working it out. From my side of the fence, I think that to work has many long-term benefits:
- More economic independence.
- Self-actualisation - just because you're a woman it doesn't mean that you should ignore your talent, skills or spirit. If you are happier working then you must do it. If you're miserable and staying home then you cannot make your child happy.
- Years down the lane, you don't have to struggle that much with the 'Empty-Nest Syndrome'. You'll have your own pursuits to keep you busy.
- You'll be teaching your kids a valuable lesson. You will be a great role model for your daughter and your son will learn to accept working women as the norm.
I am not into the "working vs. stay-home mom" game. That's a question we need to ask ourselves and then act according to our own needs and that of our family. We all have to work out our own solutions and then try to make our choices work despite what circumstances might throw at us.
And while we women do have harder choices to make, please save us the spiel about our saintly, goddess-like qualities. We are human beings, despite our capacity to provide love and care.
As I mentioned at the beginning, I am hopeful. I am hopeful that we will see a time when terms like "working mom" and "stay-home mom" will become obsolete.
And all that will prevail is just a short, simple three-lettered word called MOM, which carries a world in it.
Can we keep it that simple?