On working women and feminism

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?


80 thoughts on “On working women and feminism

  1. Simply loved this “Whatever that flexibility might be, we’ve got to demand it and then deliver what we promise.”

    You know MM, a lot of folks at workplace chose to just see the flexibility being offered to you …. most in fact consider that to be a huge favor and work delivered goes unnoticed or less appreciated. When its appraisal time, its almost as if “We have given you so much flexibility … what more could you ask for?” … “But I also delivered and exceeded expectations” are pretty much ignored or labelled “too demanding / unreasonable”.

  2. I agree that flexibility is important. But even the relatively ‘broad-minded’ parents these days make life such a paradox that no matter what flexibility a company is ready to give you, it is simply insufficient to make a career if you’re a woman.

    Excuse my indulgence, but look at my case.

    I have just graduated from my masters in a famous european university and landed a plum job where they want me for at least 3 years.

    My parents let me have my own way when I’m staying abroad in terms of clothes and lifestyle – they’re chilled out.
    But they are hell bent on getting me married in a year or so. Me being single means that I don’t know where I’ll have to move to for a husband and what are the chances of a (most probably US based) geek husband to move to Europe.

    I’m only just 24 but the pressure from family is so high – emotional – that there is but one way out – get married.

    In a case like this, no matter what kind of flexibility companies offer you, my career is going to have to take a backseat.

    So it’s really a question of how unfazed you can be in the face of social norms.

    I’d love to hear you inputs though in my case.

    • true. this is one problem i dont know how to handle either. i chose my life partner so i didnt face this pressure, but why dont you put your conditions in place? that you are willing to get married as long as you dont have to move out of europe? surely you have some say in the matter. of course this only works if you are not in a hurry to get married and are in a bargaining position (provided you dont end up liking one of the matches so much that your heart drags you out of Europe!)

      • haha mm, i’m a bit more evil than that. I’ve a history of not getting along with stuck up tambrahm boys. So no fear of falling in love with a match yet.

        Besides, it’s going to be tough to concentrate with all the good looking europeans around, no? 🙂

        Anyhow, I did exactly what you’d suggested.. Let’s see how things work out… unless perakath gets in the way 😉

        • 😀 I’d like to see Perakath get in the way. He is the exact opposite of what you might find in an arranged match
          and that isnt always a bad thing!
          my blessings, children !

    • Hey Aarabi, I’ll marry you. Then family and compulsions and fear of loneliness will be felled in one fell swoop. I’ll do my thing for a while and you do yours; once our careers are firmly in place, we can live together. Deal?

    • I can say that I am sort of (in a 3rd person) kind of a way going through it. My Sister in Law is in the exact same position as you, 25 single, pressure from family to get married. She lives in US and has put down her foot saying she is not going to marry anyone who has no intention of moving to the US! It is funny because you would have thought that most of those “matches” would be from US but she has had two consecutive Europe/Australia matches and even though everything about the dudes was fine and dandy, the only wrinkle was that they were not in the US (and had no intention to move either). She clearly didn’t like them enough to change her mind about moving to Europe/Australia even though that is what her parents wanted her to do. She stuck to her guns on that one. After all, it is her life!!

  3. Very thoughtful post, indeed! That is why I love working in the US. I am a patriotic, do not get me wrong but here my hubby can and does tell his boss that he is taking the day off to babysit the kiddo, because the nanny did not show up and the wife has to teach today. Nobody judges! Except may my parents and inlaws! Also many a time he has suggested that one of us can quit to take care of the kiddo if the going gets tough – not me but one of us. The world needs to change, indeed!

    • thats wonderful although its sad that family judges. that is the biggest problem here in india too. if the OA quit to stay home there would be far too much judging from family.

      • My husband is waiting to quit (he’s the lazier bum :P) if I get a reasonable salary hike. He’s kinda serious about starting on his own, but both of us know we need a bit more time.

        But even when he talks about quitting joikingly, the immediate famly does not react positively to it. Almost like, they’d lose all respect if their son does not contribute to the daily bread!

    • I agree that it is quite flexible in the US for both men and women – and not just for people with families and kids. Both hubby and I have a flexible schedules. And I agree too that the only people that judge are parents, in-laws and desi acquaintances who are appalled that the kids are managed by daddy completely when mommy goes out-of-town on business for a week sometimes. We as a society are so conditioned on gender roles that we still stick to that formula in spite of being educated. I guess it will take another 100 years for enlightenment!

  4. The part on whether the OA can do it or not is so true. I am in a position where my better half might potentially be asked to quit and I am dreading that which might not even happen – being solely financially responsible for my family! A lot of it is conditioning and it has taken me a while to accept that. But fair or not at least I know enough to say I don’t want to be in that situation.

  5. “the OA cannot put up his feet the way I did and say he quits”
    I have known families that have done just that…my cousin was busy with a project and it was at this time that the baby they had asked for in adoption arrived, her husband gave up his job to look after the infant. I look up to him and respect him for what he did!
    There is adjustment called for from both sides…the husband has a duty too and developed countries recognize it…I think we are a very Patriarchal society and do need to break out of that mindset.

      • In that case, MM, we’re an outlier family. After we moved to India, husband decided to quit his job of 15 years and has been home with the children for 1.5 years. I sail out the door in the mornings, put in 9 hours at works and return by 8 p.m. By the time I return, dinner’s on the table, homework’s been supervised and completed, backpacks for next morning are packed, and my contribution is helping daughter brush her teeth before bedtime. It’s such a relief to know he’s there to meet the school bus every afternoon, and I don’t have to take time off if the kids are sick or have vacation. I’m definitely not complaining, since maternal guilt is under control. Also, to my utter surprise, I haven’t heard any snarky remarks from family members or friends! Husband seems to love being home, and I enjoy being out 🙂

  6. WARNING: very long comment ahead.

    I agree with you about the need for flexibility in the workplace and that women should not be required to shed who they are to fit into workplaces and schedules that are designed on the assumption of a male workforce with supportive wives back home. I found that article by Jessie Paul appalling because I felt it was out of touch with reality. The world and HR policies have moved beyond asking women to be automatons of men or slaves to the office and she did discredit to her organisation by revealing it’s gender biases.

    I have read interviews with the female CEOs of investment banks in India who point not only to the immense support of their families and the advantages of domestic help in India but also how they were ready to put in place flexitime measures to retain the best female talent in their banks. When my sister-in-law was promoted to marketing head of Asia-Pacific, she was asked if there was anything in the office she really wanted – she said a breast-feeding room and it was done. The multinational firm she works for has shifted her position, normally based in HK or Singapore, to India because she wants to base her family there. So even in India it is possible to demand and get a situation that works for you – though of course would be better if it was more part of regular HR policy.

    I don’t agree that we should be demanding this flexitime only for women because it would be more socially acceptable. Again, the world has moved beyond that – take Sweden which guarantees all employees a year paid maternity leave and a year paid paternity leave – and we should be looking to the best examples and demanding the best. Both men and women deserve the chance to be with their children, and Sweden has given them that. I don’t agree that women are more nurturing or better at housework… my husband is a domestic god and I suspect would be better with our baby too. Maybe many men won’t take up the flexitime or paternity leave offer but why should it not be available to them? If we want social change, we shouldn’t just accept social biases… especially in this case, where there are examples in other countries of men taking the slow track and the wives taking the fast one. Here in HK, my husband’s office offers every employee one day a week “work-from-home” in addition to a five-day working week. In his team, there are at least two women (and they are Asians, with all the social pressure too) who are the main breadwinners while their husbands are primarily at home with slower jobs.

    Bottomline, I think we should be demanding more flexible working options for both men and women. It will then be up to individual families to decide whose paycheck and ego matters most. But let’s not deny men the option of childrearing.

    • sure… completely with you on that. the post was not meant to say men shouldnt want flexitime. but to say that i prefer Rashmi Bansal’s way of looking at it, to Jessie Paul’s way.

  7. MM, It’s not just the women who take time off from work. in the US (agreed, I lived in possibly the most liberal state) I have seen my due share of stay at home dads (all american, no desis).Really, a disproportionate number—(this was pre-recession,) where men were happy to stay home and look after their kids becase the woman’s job covered health insurance.

    I think it is conditioning, but I also think the knife cuts both ways. eg. even if my husband wanted to quit, he couldn’t because of the pressure he would face within (our desi) community. He may be (and is) a better parent than I am, but staying home would’ve killed him (an inconsequential thing called stress). Many years back, I made the decision to step back from my career knowing fully well that once I stepped off I wouldn’t be able to regain lost ground. I chose a simpler path (not saying it was easy, but it was the right thing to do for the family). plus I’m a control freak who couldn’t bear the thought of letting anyone else rear my kid (daycare, relatives. nope, I wanted the baby to be Mine.)

    No right/wrong decision here, just that I found it easier to live with myself when I accepted the situation and decided to enjoy it. Attitude made all the difference for me.
    I found work on the fringes of my chosen field and slowly worked my way back up the ladder when my kid started school.

    okay i’m rambling….

    • its funny but to a large extent those of us who stay home are control freaks more than nurturing. the OA is a far better parent than i am, but i just want things done in a certain way where the kids are concerned and refuse to budge from my stance. which is why my career took the slow track and not his.

      • I agree with you. I stopped working my li’l one was about 1 and now that he is 2.5, I’ve just started working again. While the husband can take care of the baby just fine, I’d simply had enough of daycares at that point and wanted to do things my way. Now am back in work but I think my “career path” is almost completely derailed.

          • Aww – but you have 2 kids. You are like a DemiGod(dess). If I meet people with >2 kids, I won’t be in the same room with them – it will kill my self esteem!

    • I have a friend who joined work directly after her maternity leave was over. Her mum was home for a few months to take care of her baby girl. Now they have a nanny to take care of the baby while my friend is at work. She’s a career woman who loves her child. But she’s very relaxed towards the baby… and the baby is a very relaxed one too! I’ve never seen a more fuss-free baby in my life! My friend doesn’t *need* to work, but she wants to. And she’s making it work too, in her way!

  8. When I see people take umpteen sutta breaks during the day and stay after working hours to show how busy they are, and get better appraisals for ‘thinking like an entrepreneur!’, I wonder how many of us are really ready to work flexihours!

  9. Good post, MM. I think it’s important to recognise that the choices one makes are not just because of oneself, but because of the society one lives in, its expectations, the conditioning we have gone through etc. Hence, women’s decisions to place family time over career should also be seen in that context. This does not not of course make the decision itself any less valid, but as long as it is “only” women who make that decision, as a gender, we will not achieve the same things that men do. Of course, we may choose to qualify achievement differently, but strictly in terms of the money-making, news-making achievements, we will lag behind. When organizational structures start supporting men’s time on activities beyond work, even if it is only a small number of men who use it initially, it will grow with time.

  10. I have actually taken a 3-year-old Chubbocks to a corporate meeting because I had nobody to watch him and I had to attend the meeting. I don’t think we should forget who we are as individuals just because we work. A has ended up taking Chubbocks and Puddi to office when I was traveling and we didn’t have a babysitter available, he works hard to get more family time, despite the pressures on men to put in facetime in corporate India. Just because I am a working doesn’t make me less of a mom than it makes a less of a man at work because he openly votes for a more balanced life. That’s what equality means to me, not just wearing pants!

  11. Long comment, but just to continue, he has stayed home to watch a sick child as often as I have. He has attended as many PTA meetings/ paediatrician appointments and so on. He was fully supportive when i took time off to chill while he was working, and thankfully i was able to do the same for him when he chilled out and when he started the film business, so I think we’re very equally balanced that way.

    • A is a fantastic father, and almost as good a parent as you 😉 dont tell him i said that, he’ll kill me. seriously though – i’ve seen him in action when you are travelling and you guys have a fantastic system.

  12. “The OA cannot put his feet up say he quits” I so agree with you. My husband did it 2 yrs ago when the second one was 7 months old. His current job was not getting him anywhere and the travel was killing him and he wanted to be home for sometime with the kids, It was fine for 5-6 months no one raised an eyebrow. Slowly we started getting these “Concerned” looks and questions from our family..i mean the very near and dear ones. So much so at one point of time even i started worrying. We were not in financial crisis i was earning well..but the questions/concers…bah! could not handle it. To top it this was during the recession. Last year he got a good break, job in a good company closer to home and a good salary. I think we still have a loong way to go before we accept a man qutting his job to look after his family.

  13. Getting flexi-time and actually being appreciated for the work you do from home are entirely different things. When i was pregnant with my first kid i had such terrible back pains i could barely move. So i chose to wok from home – and the co. agreed at first cos we both thought it would be for a matter of a few weeks. Turned out it only got worse and facing a 2.5hr commute in packed buses and trains, each way, in my condition was just not feasible. I was actually a lot more efficient cos work which landed on my desk at the end of the day would have been, in the normal course of things, dealt with the next day. Instead i’d stay up late and get it all done as i was working from home. What i got for that, after a couple of months, was an offer to whittle my responsibilities by about 20-30% (not because i wasn’t getting my job done, but because it is not enough to do your work, you should be SEEN doing it) and a pay cut of 80%. I asked them to stuff their job…

    I also attended interviews for jobs i could do from home – for a few years. I was told things like it will take about 12/14 hrs/day to get work done on time, that there would be tight deadlines – but the money was paltry. And when questioned one of those people had the gall to tell me – anyway you’re working from home, so it’s only ‘timepass’ for you – some pocket money. Since when does a 14hr workday become fun and games just cos you’re not wasting time commuting and putting on your decent togs???

    I gave up trying for jobs after a point. Happy with my kids and any occasional project that might land in my lap from friends or friends of friends etc…

    forgive the rant. it rankles (shows, huh?)

    • not at all. i am sick of companies trying to crook you just because you choose to work from home. just like you, i ended up working late into the night when other colleagues shut shop and go home

  14. Hmmm. Like R (the husband, not The Roxana :P) keeps saying, it is not a fair world. And I am just glad when I want to take that break, I will have way more backing than men can dream of!

    But like someone mentioned in a comment, I really don’t think taking a day off or so for family stuff is not in any way a taboo in India anymore. Not in the India I know for sure. I mean my husband has taken days off for plumbing issues, and his boss once yawned in the middle of an 11 am internal meeting and candidly said that the child kept them up all night and that he planned to leave early that day. And nobody laughed, nobody thought it was un-male. So there. In fact, surprise suprise, my MIL is super proud that her son helps out in the kitchen. Even jealous I think 😛 First things first – GO INDIA 😀

    Another thing, if men can admit to yawning because of their children, women who complain about people bringing feminine issues to the work place have a loose screw or something. I would personal kill someone who makes a habit out of using this excuse for missing deadlines or work all the time, but I don’t think it is possible for anyone, men or women, to separate their personal and professional lives like a machine. And the day the place of work becomes as inhuman as to expect you to be paid machine, I say it is time to float around that resume. Period. Work is work is work. And while I can spend hours fantasizing about work and planning my days and months and the next 5 years even in the shower, I think I know where to draw the line, and I make sure my employers know that during the interview. And for those who just don’t get it. Well. Screw them.

    • *gasp*
      Tam Tam said screw…. naughty naughty girl

      and yes, the younger generation of men is very cool. the OA used to go to work drooping with exhaustion during the brat’s colickiest period. and his boss used to laugh because his son was about 6 months older and had just gotten over that phase…

  15. As always, I agree with you, except on the wee point – no company will hire a man who took thre years off to raise a child’- for I know one man who took off four years from an active corporate life as a scientist and management consultant to, and here’s the clincher help look after his brother’s daughter ‘coz the mother had expired during birth! And now, he’s placed as COO with an IT firm in bangalore and the next stop will be outside india.
    All am saying is even as we speak Corporate India is changing, very slowly, for the better. And yes as of now people like him are rare, fortunate, exceptions. May god create more of them, and there will be happiness all around

  16. Sigh. Another long rant. Yep this is an issue that’s close to the heart.

    “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?”
    Yep. Conditioning for sure. Coz even in the extremely rare cases (wrt Indian men) where the man ‘adjusts’ for the family’s sake – he isnt in a position to handle a homemaker’s job. To see that everyone’s clothes are washed and ironed on time. that the kids homework gets done, that they get some outdoor time everyday, that they are taken to all their playdates and extra classes. Or that there’s always hot food ready at meal times. That the house is neat and clean. Or that the pantry is always stacked with the right things. That there are fresh veggies and fruits. That the cook, the maids, the driver, the dhobi are all doing their jobs right.

    Even in the rare cases where dad’s said they’d take over the household chores for a while, i’ve seen it crumble in a few days. The Woman has to step to ensure that the job gets done. Even if she has a regular full time job outside the house.

    And I’ve seen many of my colleagues & seniors try this role reversal. But it always comes back to the woman.

    Not surprisingly these days I hear of many well educated capable young women quit their jobs as soon as they get married. And its not because they’re not capable or ambitious. But because they’ve seen their mothers or other working women burn the candle at both ends. And they know they dont want a life like that.

  17. ya true.. it has to be one of us…i had a baby some five months back, and decided i’d get domestic help to take care of the baby by the end of my maternity leave which lasts abt 6 months. But at the end of 4 months, i was asked to go back to work. I did abt a week of that, though i left the baby with my MIL.I must tell you, the guilt got at me real hard. I’ve taken leave on loss of pay. I never thought I was the type of person to put family before career in the sense of almost letting go of it.Well, i surprised myself, but thankfully I have a conducive child care policy at work…

  18. Rashmi Bansal’s solution to get flexibility is to become self employed after motherhood. Not every woman has that kind of a skillset or marketing abilities or the passion and drive it takes to do it. So I don’t agree that such solutions work for everyone. But I do agree that we all (includes men and women) need to put our foot down when it comes to seeking flexibility since work is not all we do in life. We do have a life outside of work and if your employer does not support work life balance, then it is not worth it at all since it takes you away from the loved ones for whom you are earning big bucks in the first place!

  19. I so get what you’re saying. And yeah MM, don’t you think that our companies are more understanding than the people we’re surrounded with? It could be family, friends or colleagues (yes, it doesn’t matter what the company policies are.. the colleagues are a whole different deal). That is so sad.. one would think that our families would be more understanding and perceptive of what we need and why, and that our colleagues would see that tomorrow a flexi option with a supportive team is what they would need too but it doesn’t happen that way. In the end, men and women both lose a part of the better life that could be made possible.

  20. “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.”

    I’m not married with kids–I’m a single woman in my 40s, living and working from home. I’ve been working as a freelance editor and writer for the last 7-8 years–I did work on various magazines and for a publisher before that. The fact is, working as a freelancer/working from home suits me because I’m living with my parents, both of whom are in their early 70s. Because of the career path I have chosen, I’ve been there for my mum when she fell ill with pneumonia this summer. It meant that I did not work for a month. Fortunately, my clients were understanding. It would not have been possible for either my father or brother to take time off work in quite the same way.
    I wonder if I would have been allowed to take off so much time had I been in a corporate job.

    • well there you go. i did a post on this a while ago too. why do we need to justify our desire for flexibility? why cant a man have a half day job because he spends the other half day fishing. its his call.. pay him accordingly. we just need systems in place.
      that said, its so lovely to hear of people taking care of old parents. its not an easy job and you dont get the credit you deserve.

  21. Hey MM,

    Don’t you think it’s easier for professionals in the creative field to demand flexi hours and get it? I would imagine it would be tougher for somebody in, say banking or IT, to demand the same. That said, I agree with Bansal completely. I am a SAHM to a 2-year-old and if and when I get back to working, it will have to be on my terms. No more working six-day weeks and clocking double-shifts for me!
    And as to why I am the one who’s staying at home looking after my daughter and not my husband, I’ll quote a close friend. When asked why she quit, she said: “I’m the most qualified day-care provider I could find for my son!” 🙂

    • i love your friends response. as for banking and IT – I recently met the head of HR for RBS. She told me that they have a system where one person can work 3 days a week and the counterpart does 2. they overlap seamlessly and ensure that no one is inconvenienced. the blocks are all mental

  22. PS: sorry, long comment!

    I read Rashmi Bhansal’s article.

    Firstly EVERYBODY ..man or woman..want it all But NOBODY..man or woman can have it all. And so we all have to make choices ..We can’t work outside of India and yet cry about not being able to be there with family(parents), We can’t be in love with a travelling job and yet have the need to settle down in one place with our family ( husband and/or children) .we can’t want a baby but not want to go thru the process of giving birth to them and raising them, we can’t want flexi working hours n yet demand the salary/promotion of a person who doesn’t have such needs and is available anytime, anyday.

    As much as some of our choices may seem like/ be sacrifices..most of our choices are what many of us make after weighing out the options that we have and deciding what’s priority for us..

    I’ve come across many mothers who are very particular about the way their children are raised, what they are fed at a certain time, when and how long they can nap etc etc….certain things which to a father’s eye feels like goin overboard. If a woman is that kinda mother then she can’t pressurize her man into being that way. If she can’t trust anyone but herself with her child, then she will /may have to sacrifice certain other aspects of her life to be able to give that level of attention to her children, n I don’t think she has the right to complain in that case.

    Regarding being able to take babies along to work….i’m genuinely asking..a baby definitely won’t know how to “behave” in a conference right? I mean (s)he wont know that (s)he has to keep quiet, not scream, not play, not pull things apart etc. ….so in some fields of work..practically it wouldn’t work to take one’s baby along . Right? tho I can see how an actor would be able to take their baby along to their sets..’coz that’s the kinda support system they have, I can’t think of many other fields that have that luxury.

    I have a desi friend here at work..she works thru the day ‘coz her job earns a better pay than his..and her husband stays back at home…cooking and taking care of her 2 boys. She returns home n helps him .I’m looking for this article that I read more than a month back about how popular stay-at-home dads are becoming. Not necessarily in India, but other parts of the world. Lesser eyebrows are being raised and they are becoming more accepted. I think this trend will only improve in the future n India will catch up too.

    N regarding a woman hvg to follow her husband’s job @ the cost of her own job… I think that’s again an area where the society is slowly but steadily changing. Many couples are now wise-enuf to weigh out who has to move based on factors like whose job pays more, who can find another job more easily and other factors related to life-style.

    It took 6 mths after marriage for me to get my work visa processed and during this time there was lots of pressure from friends n family about why we two weren’t together…but I remem my husband tellin me that he knew I would never be happy staying at home and being by myself all day long in the US..n that its worth the wait for me to get my work visa and if I dont get one within a year of our marriage it mabbe better for him to move over to india. Once in the US….i had a weekly travelling job for close to 2 yrs…n to help the situation…my husband requested work from home for a year n moved with me.

    These are the kinda changes and “sacrifices” men are going to keep making in the future…it’ll no more just be the wife following the husband. Of course…we women have to play our role of wanting n appreciating these changes.

    • you’re absolutely right. i’ve said it before. mothers who stay home are mothers who are particular and refuse to let anyone do it any other way. i wanted my kids raised in a certain way and i knew it was unfair to pressurise the OA to stay home considering he was fine with a daycare upbringing.
      as for babies at a conference – i wouldnt take it that far everyday. but if i have a 5 year old who will sit and colour in a corner and i have no maid one day – i might just have to take him along and hope for the best.

  23. “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”

    That just about sums up your whole post.
    As usual, you write beautifully, keep on doing it. Now that you are at home for 10 days.. how is the itch? 🙂

    Just as an aside, whenever there is a problem at work in evenings and I “have” to be at work place.. I pick my kids from school and let them play/study at my cube.. while I go through my work.

    At the end of the day.. you gotta do what you gotta do.

    To me, being honest (as far as my work is concerned) matters most. The kids are not permitted in my work place… I just told my company that if you want support you got to help me out… and it kinda worked out good .. cause with 2 kids sitting in a cube.. reading/wrting while their Dad is running in the other building or upstairs/downstairs.. the other staff started spending time with them… and then finally HR announced that kids are welcome (as and when necessary)

    Long comment.. but you are the one who gets it out of me

    • wow. that was a strong move. the OA could do that in one of his older companies. the brat was barely walking at that time and would sit on the floor and chew up his PC wires, but it was all good.
      i’ve been home 10 days and already freelanced, taken 2 train journeys and one car trip. and am about to take another in a couple of days. unemployment has sunk in yet!

  24. MM,

    In my admittedly small sample set, IT offers the best flexibility. Creative fields seem the worst actually, what with needing work done at weird hours (Read some interview of a celebrity that occurred at 2am – was zapped that the journo had to work those kind of hours!), poor pay for freelancing etc. As for women doing the bulk of the compromising, it’s the same the world over, just to different degrees. There are still articles being written here about how dads-going-to-playgroups get written up in Time, while women have been doing it all along etc. IMO, what India needs is for actual policies on leave that can be enforced. Something similar to what the PSUs have – noone dreams of messing with the leave policies at PSUs (no matter their other issues). Pvt. companies that don’t allow their employees to take the leave they are entitled to, need to be held accountable….but then, there are so many more HR policies needed, that I’m afraid leave policies are pretty far down the pecking order at many places.


  25. i like her article- simple and tells it like it is. Not sure what else she writes that people hate. It does depress me though your statement about outliers that if the OA did it he would be an outcast. I’m not saying you’re wrong, it just depresses me. For me feminism is not only my choices – my husband being able to do this for me is as much feminism as me being able to. So are you saying that women are leading the way towards this social change and slowly it will become acceptable for men to as well? But this change is not so much society-sanctioned as women like you taking the stand independently and demanding it of companies, right? So maybe it needs the same from men. I think if men fall behind, the social change can become labeled as one for women only and that would be a shame.

    • she’s another one of those successful women that people love to hate. she had done an expose on IIPM that brought in the trolls who study there.
      on the second point, i think most change is brought about by women. we live differently. our sons learn from us. they end up with a different world view… and so on

  26. awesome post MM! I like the linked article as well, seems very honest.

    you know i make funny sounding choices all the time with my child. sometimes it works out okay sometimes not so much, like last month when she wanted to run up and down the steps in the classroom when my colleague was presenting. i just stepped out with her, thats all, promising to catch up later.

    anyhow, almost 10 years in the work place, an almost 7 year old child, we both still juggle every single day. I am extremely lucky, in my profession, you can do just as much as you want to. So I can genuinely let my work things take a back seat, sign up fewer students, talk to fewer industries, prepare a bit less for my classes, so that I can do a better job as a parent. No one cares. And men, at least of my generation, make pretty much the same choices as I do, around here. I am hopeful that this will surely go on to become even more genuinely gender-equal and so on.

    The only jarring note I see around me is that there is STILL a whole bunch of women who use their gender as an excuse for slacking off. I cannot accept that at all!

  27. Unfortunately but quite unsurprisingly, I disagree with both Jessie and Rashmi’s Silver Bullet Solutions. Rashmi’s solutions (esp Plan B) imply that you would want to be an entrepreneur anyway and some people just don’t. There’s more to being an entrepreneur than just wanting flexibility. I gave up a potentially highly flexible academic job (make no mistake, long hours but flexible) to go into a facetime required corporate job. The hours are probably fewer than would be required at least in the first six years of the tenure track but because of the 10 hours a day, five days a week requirement of corporate life its harder to pull off work life balance. But I’m happier because i prefer the content and the environment and frankly, am not that self-motivated or directed to work well independently. I doubt I would become an entrepreneur even if my current workplace were unbearable.

    As a tangent, why isn’t someone talking about the most overlooked perk of the dual income earner? That, with minimal stress (provided one doesn’t do anything as foolish as take up dual careers in investment banking) the team of two can earn as much or maybe more than the highly compensated single earner. Our single-earning classmates income would have to be double one of ours (since we earn roughly the same amount) to match our HHI – and since we are nicely compensated (as anyone is in the vast range of corporate jobs just below the private equity Up in the Air types really), that’s really really hard to do.

    Just thinking. A neat solution I think would be to persuade one’s spouse to make the decision to take a slightly lower paying, more manageable job, in order to double ones overall household income. To any perfectly rational individual, that would make complete sense – the return on investment would be HUGE. So why aren’t more people trying this?


    • well the OA and I have done that for the last two years. somehow it didnt work for us. neither was getting anywhere. jobs and responsibilities were still falling between the cracks and indian cos being the way they are – they dont allow flexibility to be flexibility so we were working as hard, earning less and still not achieving what we want at home. or maybe i am just more anal about what i want at home.

      • Completely understand. But then I think you are in the tough case (if I know journalist salaries) of high workload and lower pay (well at least compared to corporate salaries, but please correct me if I am wrong). In fact in many other poorly compensated professions – teaching, architecture (initial years), social work, its hard to have my argument about doubling income by reducing the high-earners income a little. I guess my argument would hold for a very narrow subset of corporate dual earner or other high earner couples. But Rashmi’s advice was to corporate women.

        And also I agree with you that it depends on what the standards for the non-work component are (house, parenting etc).

        By the way, not to paint too rosy a picture. Responsibilities still fall through the crack for us. I guess we’ve taken the decision that we’re okay with that.


        • you’re right there. A top few journalists earn pots. i earn a fraction of what the OA does. So theres no point my going to work if it costs us more on childcare. particularly when childcare in India is so poor and I am so damn finicky. so i totally agree with you

      • That’s what my husband and I have done – we’ve always both worked, and family life is way important to my husband. Despite moving up the corporate ladder very nicely at his previous job, he decided the constant travel wasn’t worth it, quit, and took up a lower position elsewhere. And yes, being in the US, it is marginally easier, but make no mistake, there are enough folks who think he is crazy for dropping out of the race to the top. The good thing is, being the US, a lower position does mean fewer hours worked, lower level of responsibilities etc. so we’re happier this way. Yes, neither of us is an entrepreneur at heart, so this is the best way for us.

  28. Ooh….Grrr…should read the article! Talk about talking down your own sisterhood! Bah! I have a job I love, a baby who is 4 months old, a husband who shares baby work and a career based in conflict torn Kashmir..I think I have it ‘all’. hmmm!

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