What is your all?

Another year, another job offer that tempts me with more money than I’ll ever earn. Another year spent dissecting speeches made by Nooyi, Sandberg and what not. Exhortations to lean in.

The point is, that ‘lean in’ means different things to different people. This year I’m leaning in by trying my hand at a lot of different types of things. From cooking appams (haan, okay I owe you a post on that!) to painting my furniture to improving my driving…

Saying no to more money (and we can all do with lots of money, can’t we?!) has been tough. Here I must insert my favourite quote on money. I’m sure you’ve all read Erich Segal’s Love Story when you were young and foolish. The story made me sob through the night before my 10th board exams. But the quote that stayed on with me was the honest conversation between Oliver and Jenny when he asks her what her father thinks of him.

He thinks you’re okay, she says.

Having been disowned by his rich parents and now church mouse poor, Oliver fishes a little – ‘But he’d like it if I were richer, wouldn’t he?’

Jenny answers with her characteristic honesty – ‘Wouldn’t you too?’

And ain’t that the truth. We’d all like to be a little richer, no matter what we earn. The tough part is deciding where to draw the line. I am 35. Technically I’ve missed the career bus. And yet something tells me this isn’t the end of the line.

This time, for the first time in 11 years the OA saw me dither and almost say yes, and then when I asked him for his opinion, gently said that he thought it was a bad idea. For years he’s pushed me to get out of home and work, to get my butt off my home office chair that has now taken the shape of my substantial arse. For years he’s said I’m wasting myself and that I should have been the one with the career. And now as he gets to know his wife better he understands my desire for work but my dread of routine, schedule, organising. I hate institutions. I hate swiping in. I hate office politics. I hate hierarchy. It goes against all my deeply held beliefs and tussles with my desire to ‘get ahead and get a career’. They contradict each other.

I make a fair amount of money with my current projects but it’s the frills that my jobs offer that make our life awesome. That, and my flexibility. I can work from home, we don’t need to coordinate our leave, if he calls and says lets go do stand up comedy tonight, I can feed, bathe and put the kids to bed before we leave. The only trade off is that for the amount of money I want to earn, I have to do a lot of projects and I rarely get a day off. I’m working on vacation, working on the train, working on the plane. All so that I can make money, and still be home.

When I tell my family about the job that is pursuing me, the reactions are predictable.

My mother tries hard to keep the disapproval out of her voice – When do you think you’ll be able to leave the kids?

My brother who rarely opines on my life gruffly says – You’ll have to let go, someday.

But the Bean is only 7, I point out. She’s a baby. Too young to go to daycare. She likes coming home to Mama. Everyone likes coming home to Mama, the mad sibling points out in his sane way.

But the OA. The OA who knows it’s not just the kids. He knows how tense I get when I have a project deadline, he who rubs my back till I fall asleep. Who wakes up each time I get up at night to check the time on my phone incase I’ve overslept and the kids miss school. Who drags the kids away and lets me work in peace. He knows. He knows I am a tightly wound person and going back to an office environment kills me. That I am unable to let standards around the house slip and the truth is something has to give. Even Indra Nooyi admits she couldn’t have it all.

He knows that for me its also the sheer tension of getting in on time. Of looking presentable (!). Of making sure that there are enough groceries for the next day. Of worrying and fretting that I won’t get home in time to make the kids do their homework. Those things keep me up all night. The last time I had a full time job was when the Bean was 18 months and I lost my knees and my skin to it. I’m still paying the price for it.

But it’s so much money, I moan in despair. So much pretty, pretty money… I don’t know how to say no.

Open your mouth and push the word out, says the OA as he rubs my feet to help me unwind and fall asleep – ‘We don’t need more money. There’s always more money.’ And he doesn’t judge this inability to let go, the tussle to put on my office face and be a professional even while I train my creeper rose to climb up the railing and help the kids tie up skipping ropes to create a zipline.

I sit up in bed again – did I lock the front door? Did I put the milk away in the fridge? I think the light in the kids’ bathroom has fused.

Go.To.Sleep he grinds out. I lie down obediently and tightly shut my eyes like a child.

And so another year goes by, another lost opportunity, another what if…

And life goes on.

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65 thoughts on “What is your all?

  1. Life goes on, but it will always be the life you CHOSE and that didnt just happen to you.
    I want to put a big fat ditto on this post — it couldnt have come at a better time for me. Its always heartening to read words, thoughts and lives that echo my own, especially when it is about something I otherwise feel so isolated and lonely about.

  2. I think we have all internalised the current (capitalist) wisdom that two incomes per family is the norm and a person who could earn money in the workplace must do so. But why? It wasn’t so long ago that doing what you do was considered job enough and rightly so. It is a lot to do. The juggling when two people work outside the home is insane, it’s only not insane if you can source and afford a decent housekeeper. There are many reasons people go out to work but if you don’t want to and can afford financially not to and have your hand in because you’re freelancing as a bonus, then why should you join the drudging workforce?

    • A very good point. I agree. I just need people to keep reminding me so that I dont get tempted into going back. And no, I don’t think India has housekeepers yet. You get fulltime maids but they’re rarely efficient and mostly just do chores. They can’t really run a house.

  3. I hate institutions. I hate swiping in. I hate office politics. I hate hierarchy. It goes against all my deeply held beliefs and tussles with my desire to ‘get ahead and get a career’.

    He knows that for me its also the sheer tension of getting in on time. Of looking presentable (!)

    Like H says it—– big fat ditto.

    And what is with the non-sense of you need to be in office for minimum 8 hours, you need to fill in time sheets.

  4. Hey I have been reading your blog silently for so long. And I really love the way to “own your family”. I am a working mom and I do have a fulltime maid at home who is quite efficient. But I keep thinking about the What If scenario always…every single day. What if I stayed home and was around with the kids, what if I didnt have to dependent so much on the money I get from this job to pay off those EMIs, what if I didnt have to be so dependent on a maid (So much so that I had to plan my second kid – who is 5 now based on how long she might stay!!). And I think, yes, it is great to be able to stay at home and make it work. More power to you! But let me tell ya…I am real jealous of the situation that you are in 🙂

  5. If you really do feel the money and the steady flow of work that comes from an office job would be great for you at this stage take up the job and see how it works for you, the bean and the brat for a few months. Don’t look too far ahead and take it a week at a time. If the doldrums creep in, if you see your creeper withering away and it hurts too much, if the bean mopes every single day that she ins’t with you after school…..you know what…..just quit. Atleast you tried to have “some of it ” all no?

    • You make a good point. But a couple of things. For one, I’m not happy with any daycare or maid yet. Not happy enough to leave the kids. I dont know if I’m being fussy or if I genuinely haven’t found a good one.
      Also, I think it is too easy to fall back into your old ways if you just give work a shot. I feel like I’ll give up easily if I go into it with the attitude that I can always stop. Like anything, be it swimming or driving or a new country, you have to just decide you’re doing it and go for it. And then you learn to work the rest of your life around it.
      I’ve not found the courage to do it.
      I guess for the other reasons that I listed – I am very anti-establishment. Not anti-work or anti-working mum. Just anti-establishment. I was always like this. Hated school, hated office when I did go. Realised after i quit that it wasn’t the work i disliked – simply the arbitrariness of having to stay in office 8 hours even if work only lasted 6. Reporting to idiots. So on.
      Yes okay… I’m just rambling now.
      And good morning to you 🙂

      • Totes get the anti establishment stance.Ditto and how:-) Was a rebel always, sometimes without a cause mind you against the tyranny of authority for the sake of authority(esp. the types that threw their weight around or made you do stuff just because….) But….my point is if and only if you are able to find good help do take up the position and the money as well as the steadiness of the work flow might just make enough of a difference to make you stay. So perhaps buy some time and hunt for a good after school lady to come look after Beanie/Brattie. Having said all this I know how much you love being around your babies and doing stuff with them so the wrench of handing off to strangers might not be your thing at all. You know the funny thing with me is now that I cannot work at all I miss it very much but when I did work full time I couldn’t wait to be back home with the kiddo and the dog:-) Grass green…and all that eh!

        Whatever decision you do make please don’t forget to send the kids to me next summer whether you’re at home or not full time. Seriously.

        • Great post MM. So totally relate to some of it – only parts I don’t relate to is no one is offering me a lot of money for a job! 🙂 But other than that…I totally get you. People just do not get that there are different versions of success…just like there are different types of intelligence. A self assured human being who can walk with his/her head held high and have a clear heart and steady mind…confident about herself is one way I see success. Not that people who have done great research but are personal failures are not successful people in some ways. But the way you are able to make clear choices and have some conviction is also the hallmark of a successful person. You know when to say no and when to make changes.
          Deepa – reading your comments last few times just breaks my heart – I can’t tell you. I think of you often…my heartfelt wishes to you. I don’t know you, don’t know much about you…but I keep wishing for you each time I think of you. Miracles do happen and I hope it happens for you…This is noon by the way – I used to blog but have not done so in a long long time…
          Hugs to you both – MM and Deepa!

        • As Noon says, I think of you often and our little whines seem so trivial. But here they are anyway. I have to admit the wrench of handing the babies to strangers is a big one. I’d do it if my folks or the OA were home with them. Will pack off kids to you and you better not complain then. 😉

      • Same here MM. Mine are much older (like you didn’t know ;)) but would rather leave them by themselves which I dod do now, than with a help/maid/etc. Nothing against those people btw, just that I am not fine with that idea.

        • Haan. People are shocked when I leave the kids locked into the house or even with the house open and go pick up groceries from within our complex even. But I know they are safer by themselves than with anyone else.

  6. I love working, AND I want a clean house, plenty of time to spend with my baby, cooking everyday, working out everyday. You know where this leads to right, most times, husband and I are super tired because we both are doing something or the other until we sleep. It would be a nice break to just stay home and give myself and husband a break from chores. Sadly, with my hyper personality I do not think I will be a good candidate to stay home, as I realized during my maternity leave!

    • Oh I love working too. I just hate working for and with other people! I work in spurts and like to tell myself its because I’m creative. 😉 So you’ll see a spate of blog posts and then nothing.
      It’s the regularity of an office job, the timings and the hierarchies etc that I can’t stand.
      The OA and I mostly fall into bed exhausted because we’ve both worked our full time jobs, fed and put the kids to bed, and then worked on some extra project.
      I dislike staying at home too but can’t have it all 😦

      • I really don’t mind the regularity, as long as it gives me the flexibility I need to have a balanced life. But I have friends who are like you, and would curl up and shrivel in a corporate atmosphere.
        It is interesting that people talk about women having or not having it ‘all’, or leaning in etc, while men are also trying to have it ‘all’. At least the men in our lives. Husband works as hard if not harder than me to strike a balance, and that never gets talked about. I guess the only burden women are saddled with, that men probably don’t have as much of, is the guilt,

        • Also, agree that we have been conditioned to believe that we need to have fulltime jobs. Itni padhayi kyun ki is something we hear often, and this attitude should probably change.

        • Well the husband would love to be the SAHP but he is very good with routine etc. Actually that is what makes him better with the kids too. I’m always coming up with wild, disruptive plans. :-/

          I do wish I could give him a break, but I’d go mad in a regular schedule and I’d never earn what he earns. :-/

  7. I love reading your opinions on this, because it’s been drilled into girls of my age that we must work, must have careers, mustn’t give up our careers just because we get married and have kids. Staying at home to look after the kids is somehow seen as a form of giving in to the establishment-we must all be career women.Even my mother tells me that I have to have a career no matter what, though I think that’s because she is a doctor but can’t work in malaysia and has always resented the fact that she had to give up something she loved. But there are different perspectives and it’s nice to read them. Having said that, I like routine and organization and I actually(gasp!) liked school, so I don’t think I’ll ever stay at home full time.
    Ps:I love that you’re posting more frequently now. Do you have an old blog post about your wedding?:P(I’m getting greedy)

    • Absolutely right. I think its a corporate conspiracy to hold jobs up as the ultimate pinnacle of your success as a human being. You could be a shit human being but if you do well at work – you’re a success!
      No, I don’t have a post on my wedding. I might have mentioned it off and on but now I dont know what to write about it anyway!

  8. Well said as always. Am grappling with a different version of this. I have a flex work style. I stay home and make as much of more than I would if I worked a proper full time job. But, I hate what I do. I am good at it but do not enjoy it. I now have an opportunity to try something that pays less but is a full time job. It may be what am looking for. Am struggling to figure out what I want and its not easy. Like you say it may be another year, another lost opportunity.

    • yes, that pretty much defines my situation. I dont hate what I’m doing from home, but its unexciting. It pays well, gives me flexibility and the only reason they pay well is that they wont get a writer of my calibre (sorry, that sounds arrogant) to do this job that doesn’t give recognition and a byline.
      I’m getting jobs that are fulltime and pay well but they won’t be journalism.. 😦

  9. Interesting post. I’ve come to realize we are all made so different. Well for Eg.. I know My sis always says that having a job she loves helps her enjoy motherhood more. I have always been working , right since the time I graduated from college. In fact for the last 3 years, I have over-worked , at about 70 hours a week and at the same time did a fairly decent job keeping my home clean, cooking meals, socializing, pursuing a dream ( In 2013 I started learning Bharatanatyam).. I’m infamous amongst my friends’ group for being busy all the time and so as my project wrapped up early this year a lot of people advised me to take a break and take it easy and not rush into the next project.

    And yes, i used to work from home in 2007, but don’t think i enjoyed it as much. I missed the people interaction and lack of dressing to work.

    I followed their advise and was happy for 1 or may be 2 weeks. Waking up in the morning w/o an agenda, getting out for a run, watching mindless TV, volunteering at the library, practicing lots of dance and cooking good meals. But towards the 2nd week I got restless. By the third week I stopped doing everything I enjoy and make time for inspite of a hectic work schedule. I started stressing about my next project and mind you I was getting paid thru’ the “wait period” or atleast most of it, so money really wasn’t the problem or cause for stress. I was due to visit India for a wedding among other festivities in March and folks suggested I take advantage and go spend an extra month at India.. But I just couldn’t get myself to. And really made life difficult for the husband while I was at home.

    Now, that I have a project and am back working, I am back to cooking/cleaning/exercising and enjoying weekends. So, I’ve realized I am able to appreciate the other things I love and truly enjoy them only when I have a job. I’m working a regular 8-9 hrs job and get li’l restless coz I am not as busy as I used to be ( n so the reason I get to spend so much time on your blog  ) but I am holding back and learning to try and appreciate the “regular” schedule.

    • 1. I don’t think sitting at home without a child is something too many people enjoy. But being home with a child is entirely different because its not just your own day but someone else’s too. And fitting two people’s day into one is a different experience. I would go nuts sitting at home if I didnt have the kids too.
      2. I think one can be as busy with or without a 9-5 job. For instance I have a regular day job, but I have a very good contract with them and I can also freelance if there is no conflict of interest. So I have the kids, their homework, the house, the garden, my social commitments and a full time job other than the freelancing. I also learnt to drive last year and am in the middle of another project this year.

      The question is more of how we like to spend our time – regulated or our own schedule. And do we like being answerable or not. For instance Haathi is not a mum but like me, hates schedule. Schedule makes her as cranky as it makes me.

      • MM, the point I was making is being home or working from home just doesn’t cut it for some people. They need to get “out”, interact with people/nature or whatever to do their something and in order to enjoy their indulgences/hobbies. I’ll avoid saying ”sitting at home” ‘coz a mother or not, most people take offense to that and few people are just sitting at home. And yes, I know you didn’t mean it that way either.

        So that’s why my comment starts with how everyone is so different and is interesting to learn and know another’s perspective.

        And yes, I hear you as far as schedule and being answerable goes. Personally, I am fine working in a schedule( infact better for me, coz by default I tend to overwork) , so having work hours, VS dance classes VS exercise hours suits me best as long as I can use my brains and skills. Once the person I am answerable to curtails that, then yes, time to move on to the next gig.

        • Yes – that going out is VERY important. Which is why so many ladies join kitty parties. I used to laugh at them. Until I realised they run their homes with great efficiency – they are happy, their husbands are happy, kids happy, inlaws happy. So what’s it my face? And they need to get away and socialise so why not this way? I have begun to drive recently and I realise that I dont really care to meet people. I just need to get out of the house. So I take the care off on to empty streets and put on some music and drive for a while until my head clears. And then its back to work. :-/

  10. ooops, hit enter too soon and my lines got messed up ..the bit about work from home was supposed to be at the very end.

    And yes, wish you All the Best! Though it might seem like an opportunity and earnings missed.. Sure you know best what works for you and your family and what makes u a more efficient and happy person. So, go after your heart 🙂

    n also.. i miss

  11. Enhh.
    One can always get back money potentially lost, one can’t get back a life definitely lost.

    Think of it this way, content creation doesn’t get old. They’ll be offering you these jobs eight years down the line too, and with more money (because, y’know, experience). You’ll still only be in your early 40s, and the Bean will be 15, and you can let go of her with fewer qualms.

    … you can let go, right?

  12. What is my all? I want to work 4 days a week. I want to keep my government babu schedule of 9:30 to 5:30 pm the days I work. I want to be recognized for my work and not dismissed because I don’t want to go above and beyond and give my life to my career. I don’t want to be relied on (ever) for financial reasons. I don’t want to be looked at as schizophrenic when all the needs above change. Because lives and careers ebb and flow – if nothing stays the same, why should my ambitions? Oh and I want another baby.

    Sorry, was that too specific?

    • I want to have another baby too. But the partner in this crime refuses to oblige. I’ve tried public vote systems, got his parents and mine in (they all think I’m mad), got the kids to beg. Now I give up. Or do i?

      And oh. ditto. I dont want anyone relying on me for money and I dont want to give my life for my career, but damnit – how dare people not recognise me for my work? 😀

  13. Whatever makes you happy right? I know that sounds cliched, but shouldn’t that be like our guiding force while making big decisions like these?

    I’m friends with mothers that don’t connect/interact with their children as they do with their laptops. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but, I am just saying, there are a lot of people who find solace and happiness in fixing bugs all weekend for example. (I come from that industry so they are only type I’ve seen). They do not bond with their kids at a deeper level like I picture you doing with your kids from your passages. They savor motherhood as much as anyone else, but, money is not the only reason they’re working an 8-5 job, but because they thrive in an environment that has deadlines, unreasonable competition and basically very stressful.

    You seem like you have a fantastic relationship with your kids. And I wouldn’t let go of that if I were you. But, your daughter is growing up. So, she may be ‘more’ interested to spend time with kids her age than at home. So, instead of day care, do you think she may enjoy self-defense classes or ballet or painting even for a couple of hours after school so you can give working from office a chance to see that’d make you happier?
    I have a few other examples but, I’ve said too much already 🙂

    You seem like a Type A kinda gal. And our organizations are better off with people like you in them.

    • I am terribly Type A. When I go to work I forget all else. And then I suddenly snap out of it and realise that the kids should be coming home and I have to call and check if the maid has picked them up, fed them, ensured they wash their faces. But that is what makes it so hard. I’m Type A about my home and kids too. :-/
      Yes, the Bean is growing up and wants to be out and about. But that brings the security angle in. Who will take her for said classes? Driver? Can’t send her alone with strange male. Send a maid with them. Then who will the Brat stay with? Send him for a class at the same time. What if the maid and driver are in cahoots and kidnap them?
      Sounds ridiculous until I point out that a kid was kidnapped from down our road by the maid and driver – they tied up the mother, beat her up and robbed the house too.
      I can’t tell you how much I envy people who live close to/with family. 😦

      But I will go back to out of home, full time work someday. And when I do, it will be with a vengeance! 😀

  14. Even if you took up that job, I am guessing you wouldn’t be in a state of mind to really enjoy it. Because at the back of your mind, you would feel guilty about leaving kids behind, about prioritizing money over kids, about giving in to the temptation of more money… The satisfaction that you ‘thought’ you would receive from a big paycheck will be punctured with guilt, and doubts. Not so satisfying after all. I think you are really brave to stick to your guns, and you should not take up the jobs if YOU are not convinced. You are clearly not the person who cares what others say or think about success, and rightly so.

  15. I know..shit happens and we are same age..I feel haven’t done much career wise and been working as a journo for three years, took a break-bad politics and hierarchy, left three jobs due to people’s lack of professionalism. Still trying to make the mark and feel I may have missed the career mark but all not lost. Just joined some new place. As they say, let’s hope for the best.
    How I wish someday Ill be able to start my own content website and make lotsa more money to afford my own flat or pay rent cum afford foreign trips.
    Keep the faith.

    • You know, that’s the thing. Careers are just us, making money for others. The last platform I’d want to judge myself on harshly. If you enjoy it, that’s a bonus.

      I wish you luck, a good working environ, and lots of experiences, be they travel, family, friends or whatever else it is that your heart desires.

  16. I wish i could live without a job, but just cant afford.. I do have two jobs .. One pays the bills and the second one I do to keep myself happy 🙂

  17. Thank you for this post MM. Extremely timely. I had earlier today said a final No to my super supportive organisation, who let me have a two year sabbatical, post an extended six month maternity leave. There were so many, many reasons to say No – some of them just not good enough perhaps (e.g. I need time to vegetate), but I’ve realised I cannot work under schedules, deadlines and telecons, WHILE being a mom of any sort, good or bad. The thought of all that money lost still rankles.

    Thank you again.

    • Oh no 😦 Please don’t feel too bad about it. I’ve realised there are plenty of options today. Even those who don’t go back to full time jobs like me, have plenty of work from home options and make fairly good money.
      I am not one of those who advocates giving it all up. But neither do I agree with the arbitrary number of work hours one has set up in a day – who says we have to step out of home and work 8 hours? What if I want to work 10 or 4, and from home? Work is work. Earning is earning. Self actualisation comes in so many ways.

  18. A very impressive analysis of your confusion and reading through the comments its comforting to know that many of us are in the same boat. After all its best to share our collective miseries and sigh together than mope.
    I will openly admit that I enjoy the money and the doors to several choices that open up but I hate the routine of a job. Of having to be answerable to someone for my time. My older daughter is 13 and I have left her alone at home this summer to fend for herself. Imprisoned inside locked doors and often with her younger sibling to watch over. I have taken care of their safety but what about a vacation wasted waiting for mommy to come home? Of things she sees her friends doing, even if its just going to get an ice cream when she wants and not when I can. It breaks my heart. Kids and my house are the only responsibilities that I enjoy but I want that paycheck too. Plus my in laws live with us for half the year and during those days, its a perfect situation for me to be out of the house for the 8-9 hours so we all give each other the much required space. Like you said above, Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

    My all…be in my office for the exact hours as the kids school timings, drop off and pick up my babies every single day, get good money and go out and enjoy life with my family every time the kids have a holiday, no work during school vacations, have someone cook and clean for me and do my laundry 🙂 and then have some me time to watch a movie or go out with my husband. Damn, I want to be rich and spoilt and still be respected somehow for my intellect.

    Thanks MM for not just writing this blog but also for letting several folks like me air out their pent up feelings.

    • So I have a friend whose in-laws live with her for half the year and she unfortunately is stuck at home because she has nowhere to leave her daughter for the other half of the year. It’s frustrating.
      I think you said it – I like to be able to just take the kids for a walk when they want me to or for an ice cream – because. It sounds trite in the face of my education, careers, money. And yet, what else is life about? I hope that thought gives me some comfort when i’m old and poor and careerless 😀
      And oh yes – all of your second last para? I agree 100%!!
      I write this blog precisely to chat with you guys, so please keep venting. Which is why I never take up book offers etc. I’m an okay writer, I enjoy it… I don’t want anymore from life than this comfort.

  19. I am a working mom with three kids. For the past nine years, from the first day I went back to office after my eldest was born, I debate everyday, if I am doing the right thing. I think this internal struggle to work, to stay home with kids, to get back to the work force grind etc…. will always be there as long as we have choices.
    It took me a long time to be at peace with my working and leaving kids home with a nanny cum maid cum lifesaver-for-me(who’s been with us for 20 years and an excellent one by the way). There are still days I debate and go crazy, but they are fewer days….
    I have realized that you have to come to peace about whatever decision you take, provided they are not detrimental to you, the kids and family. It makes life much easier. Though easier said than done. !
    I so feel about your internal struggle regarding the choice you’ve made. I’ve been reading your blog for 6-7 years now and you are an amazing mom and person 🙂
    Best of Luck

    • I saw your name and smiled. Because that is how well I know my readers. I know you’re a working mum to three kids. I love this comfort of old readers and general chat. Like a friendly tea. Thanks to you guys I don’t feel the need to extend myself too much in the real world and make new friends.
      Yes – you have to make your peace. But like you struggle some days about going to work, I struggle about staying home. The face that we’ve both done this for almost ten years says we’re doing the right thing. But nothing is constant. Maybe in some years you will elect to stay home and I’ll go out – and that’s going to be fine too.
      Wish you lots of luck too 🙂

  20. YES. THIS.

    I’m 31 and all my peers are rising in middle management and making six figure incomes and I’m pretty much broke.

    My take is this – not so long ago, only a few generations ago, women didn’t have much of a choice of what “all” was. Ambition was rarely encouraged and they were forced to be content within their small world.

    These days, the pendulum has swung wildly to the other side. We are strong, independent, keeping up and surpassing the boys because the ideal of the “perfect” woman has changed – one who can juggle all the balls of the roles she plays and do it with a smile fixed on her face. Hard, masculine traits of pushing, striving, climbing. Never mind that behind it, many women are struggling to keep up and stay afloat to this new ideal of “balance”.

    I think that pendulum swing had to happen for us to be where we are now, but I also think that slowly it is coming back to the centre – to a place where the feminine is celebrated and we won’t have to apologize for wanting freedom – whatever that is to us.

    And my story – my version of “all” changed and it was the reason why I turned my back on the corporate world and exchanged it for freedom. Which for me right now means being at home with my baby, building my biz and trying to make a difference in this world. Broke or not. I actually wrote a post a week or so ago just addressing this – can women really have it all OR do you actually have it “all” already?? (http://bit.ly/U7MN9q)

    Do what makes you happy and abundance will follow. Truly.

    • I believe in your last line. The OA is a banker. And he often points out business ideas and says – Man, who would have thought such a ridiculous idea will succeed?!
      And I always laugh because I truly believe that any plan made from passion – WILL SUCCEED. I believe in you and I know you’ll do very well. Am following you closely anyway and trying to improve my health too. Here’s to a glowing, healthy life!

  21. “And now as he gets to know his wife better he understands my desire for work but my dread of routine, schedule, organising. I hate institutions. I hate swiping in. I hate office politics. I hate hierarchy. It goes against all my deeply held beliefs and tussles with my desire to ‘get ahead and get a career’. They contradict each other.”

    I get this totally MM.

  22. In my Mom’s case (she topped her college BA (Economics) back in early 80s, remained a home maker after her marriage when she had many job offers) ,Recently, I noticed some changes, she kind of reminisces her college life, regrets not going to work after marriage. My perception is, this stems from the fact that there is no “her” world apart from the family, relatives and neighbors. She feels a bit left out when all are busy during the day.

    In my opinion,it should not be that you chose not to work because of kids. It should be a standalone decision on your individual merits/demerits attached to not working.

    I guess, we humans like some identity outside. Not necessarily for prestige, but just to keep you engaged in something. Maybe work gives a better way to have that. You are a celebrity writer 🙂 it many not be relevant to you, but I hope you get my point.

    • You make a fantastic point and I love that there are men commenting on this. I’ve often said that flexi timing, telecommuting etc should be available to all. People resent mothers who work flexitime because they would love that too. So many men who would like to work 6 months a year and go trekking for the other half. So many women who would like to leave early to catch a pilates or dance class. So many people who have elderly family members to nurse.
      but all this apart – so many people who dont want to give 8 hours a day to a company. Period. So bingo, bang on – i dont want to be part of the rat race for all the negatives that it brings. I miss the positives and its getting harder each day to say no to the money. 😦 And that’s the truth.
      I’m a celebrity writer? *blush* Only you guys think so. And I’m fine with that. thank you, kind sir!

  23. As always, a thought-provoking post. I have been managing with flex-work since the kids came along – with a break of a few years to be SAHM. it’s tempting to go back full-time into a demanding job, but I am paranoid about the child-care aspects just like you, even though I live in the US (which admittedly has better daycares etc.) The issue comes from being the Type A types, very involved both at work and at home. So, what works for me today is being a consultant, where I go in only during core hours (aligns for most part with kids’ school hours) and doing the rest from home as and when possible. The downsides are of course, no paid sick time off, no paid vacation. generally few/no perks etc. but the flexibility makes up for it. I love being able to pick up my kids from school at 3 pm and being with them in the evening. I love that I can tuck them in early at night, so that they wake up early, drink milk, shower and eat a good breakfast, before heading to school. So far, so good. More and more men in the US too are moving to flexi roles. I firmly believe the choice should exist for both genders. If you’re the types who wants a demanding job with travel/ odd hours etc, go for it, else stick to a flexi-type job (applicable to both genders). There are several jobs that truly require only 5 hours of focused work a day – if you’re the type who’s motivated. Many companies in the west do realize that it’s not the hours you work, its the work you put into those hours. I work way fewer hours than my colleagues (mostly men) but make it up with my enthusiasm and focus. I wish the culture shift would come to India sooner and bigger – the way western countries are embracing these changes..

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