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.

What’s the plan?

Since I began my notice period and began to tell people that I was quitting, I’ve had to deal with one question on a regular basis – What’s the plan? What next?

I don’t have one. I got a couple of job offers within days of putting in my papers (the grapevine is really efficient!) and regretfully turned them down. I really don’t feel up to it right now. My knee is a mess, my skin looks like a nuclear testing site and  various joints just go pop as I twist and turn. But most of all, it is in the head. I don’t feel like committing. On the first day of being unemployed I got a desperate freelance request from a publication and did the story out of a sense of honour. But as I rushed around making calls and trying to make appointments I suddenly realised it was not what I wanted. Oh I wanted to work alright, but not like this. Then how? I really don’t know.

A lot has happened in the last two weeks that I shall later blog about. Suffice to say I’ve been travelling, I’ve lost weight and have rediscovered my collarbones (yayy!!), the knee is uncertain, the skin is worse, the kids school is off for almost 3 weeks thanks to the CWG and that gives me a lot of flexibility.

The only thing I’ve realised is that I want the next month or so off to revisit my life and my health situation. That, and the fact that I don’t want to commit to anyone other than family. For work, deadlines, anything. Nothing. I’ve had a hellish two years trying to keep every ball up in the air, spend time with the kids, do a good job at work, entertain, socialise, make sure the fans are clean and the corners well dusted. But now I’m just going to sit back and let it all go for a while.

So for now, the plan is that there is no plan.

Bean, get out of the kitchen!

…yells her father, as the Bean wanders in to take a peek at the brownies I am baking. “Girls in our family are not encouraged to enter the kitchen.”

I nod approvingly, because I am a disaster in the kitchen and amazed at my foodie husband coming up with something like this. Until I hear his next line.

“They must study hard, work well and make lots of money so that their fathers can retire and become beach bums.”

Oh. I see. So it’s still about the men!

Career 101

You will always be the outsider at work if you don’t join in the hourly cigarette, the extended lunches, the endless chatting over chai and the after work drink. You’ll never get the best projects either. In short, if you have a life and want to finish your job and go back to it, you can forget about having any sort of relationship with your cubicle mate. Period.

Clean living isn’t everything it’s made out to be. Just sayin’…

Tring, tring…

I answered my phone and the Brat’s baby voice floated down the line…

‘Mamma.. Didi’s not giving me pasta…. I don’t want to eat dal-chawal…please can I have pasta?’

I was so taken aback at the thought of him calling me to plead his case that I mumbled something about there being no pasta.

‘Yes, there is,’ said a determined little man. ‘I saw three packets in the larder.’

Call me a wuss, but I couldn’t say no. More so because I was taken aback by him calling me.

Sitting twenty kilometres away from your child and listening to his baby voice come down the line… the office sounds blur around you and you want to rush home to be with him.

He hangs up and you sit there staring at the phone in your hand, feeling quite lost. Someone else is nourishing my child, filling his belly, while I sit here writing about things that don’t matter for people who wouldn’t care if my byline disappeared and a new writer filled in my place.

This month’s Good Housekeeping carries an interview by Sonali Bendre where she says that she disagrees with the term of ‘fulltime mother’. She says that a mother is a mother all the time. While I dont like the idea of the midgets taking over my life entirely, I get what she is saying. I’m a wordsmith sitting at my desk pounding away at my keyboard to meet a deadline, but there’s a mother’s voice ringing in my head, telling me that time is flying and my son is old enough to pick up a phone, complain about lunch, plead his case for pasta and walk away with a piece of my heart in his hand. Was it only yesterday that breakfast, lunch, dinner and all the meals in between were breastmilk and taken without a word of complaint?