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.