Do you remember this post on working women that I did a while ago? You know, the one where my head caught fire over the whole – ‘don’t discuss feminine problems at work and don’t use your child’s photo as your screensaver’? Well, Dipta (yeah, whoulda thunk it?!) sent me this piece by Rashmi Bansal. I know a lot of you love to hate her, but I do like her work.
I much prefer her thinking to the Jessie Paul way of thinking because it fits what I’d want for my life. I don’t want to neuter myself at the work place. I want to have it all and I want it my own way because I am worth it. A nice example she gives is of film stars taking their kids and nannies on location. In the Indian context, as she points out, it is affordable because househelp is cheap.
And I’ve done it without househelp too. I’ve taken a 2 month old Brat, strapped to my chest, on location to interview filmstars. I’ve taken him along while interviewing for a flexitime position, again, hanging on my chest. I am a mother before I am an employee – always. My family is important. I am ready to do all the work you want me to – just – on my own terms. And perhaps I will come back to a regular rigid corporate day when I am ready. Or maybe, just maybe, I will be a small part of a huge social change waiting to happen.
Before anyone objects, no, I am not suggesting we all take our babies to work and lay them out on the desk. Merely saying that we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do and let our work speak for itself. Whatever that flexibility might be, we’ve got to demand it and then deliver on what we promise.
I read something at Prema’s place some time ago. She calls it selective feminism. Why, she asks very rightly, is it that only women choose to adjust for the family’s sake? I don’t know. I gave it some thought. Are we more nurturing? Less ambitious? Is it conditioning? Yes, to a large extent it is. I guess when I say I am doing something for the sake of the family it is for every member. It is for me because I need the rest – juggling too many balls was getting to me and too many slipped and fell down. It is for my kids who benefit from having me around. And for my husband who wants to take a break but would be committing suicide professionally and also a social outcast. It is for us as a family. And if I didn’t want to work as a family, as a team, I shouldn’t have signed up for marriage. It does not always have to mean compromise (that ugly word) – it merely means pulling together, even if it doesn’t mean personal and individual success and glory. You could have it all (what exactly is all?), but at times the price you pay is too high.
By the same token, the OA cannot put up his feet the way I did and say he quits. Well, he can, if he wants to, but it would not face the same acceptance that my quitting did and he is conditioned to be a work horse till he dies. To provide for wife and child and ensure they never know want. Society would look down on him and while that might not count, I am sure plenty of his contemporaries, colleagues and perhaps even family, will be disappointed in him. We can go all idealistic here and say screw them, but I’m looking for a solution that doesn’t take away from anyone. A man isn’t allowed to take a break unless he gives it a creative name and claims that he is backpacking across Europe and taking pictures. No company will hire a man who took three years off to raise his kids. He’d not come across as the aggressive alpha male most people are looking to hire. Yes, women and men are seeking equality, but neither is getting it. And we won’t get it as long as we try to be like the other gender, or hell, even like another person. To me, a job is like a saree blouse. It has to be something that fits me perfectly. And I could borrow yours, but it would never be a perfect fit.
What say you, wise internets? And err.. prospective employers?! Times they are a-changing. Are you ready to keep up with them?