Back To Work

Tired of mom- dates and push­ing swings in the park, a Stay- At- Home- Mom de­cides it is time to re­join the work­force.

India Today - - CONTENTS -

I found a re­ally shal­low rea­son to go back to the work­place in my fourth year of stay- at- home mom­my­hood. I wanted to dress up and go to work. I wanted to change footwear, ear­rings, wear hair prod­ucts, lip­stick, nail- pol­ish, per­fume, cot­ton saris and sil­ver jew­ellery.

Here’s another con­fes­sion–- When I first quit my good- on- pa­per job to pur­sue moth­er­hood four years ago, I had reached the point where I was sapped by the job, by its same­ness, by its au­topi­lot­ness, its rinse- re­peat­ness. Moth­er­hood at that time was like a siz­zling af­fair; it was a start- up; I felt like an en­tre­pre­neur. I liked the fact that I could do it by trial and er­ror, that there were no style- guides or briefs, that my baby was a brand I could to­tally make my own, that it didn’t come with ex­cess bag­gage and that I had no boss! Plus Re, my son, was curly- haired, dim­ple- chinned and drop- dead- gor­geous.

I was con­stantly asked “When are you go­ing back to work?” It made me mad. I wrote angsty blog­posts. I got hatemail and love- mail in equal mea­sure. I smiled and waved.

I had what many women dream of hav­ing– un­lim­ited credit. The hus­band said it was my re­ward for do­ing what I was do­ing. He was lav­ish with praise, grat­i­tude, money; he fixed me the best drinks af­ter par­tic­u­larly dreary mommy days, he mas­saged my calves, he al­ways fed the cats, threw out the garbage and made me tea. Some­times there was a voucher for a dress, some­times I had a cash- bonus thrown in, some­times a ticket to Goa; he did his best to keep me in­cen­tivised. I had three years in which I could sit around, paint my nails, out­source baby­ness, buy clothes, go to spas and do pretty much any­thing for self- in­dul­gence, as long as HE was off baby duty.

I wasted it; I out­sourced noth­ing. I took my job se­ri­ously. I treated SAHM- hood like I would a new job. I was al­ways try­ing to think out of the box, do things dif­fer­ently, wake up ev­ery morn­ing and plan meals and things for the day, find ways of mak­ing ev­ery minute I spent with the boy fun and in­spir­ing. I planned out­ings, li­brary vis­its, beach dates, cookie dates, ac­tiv­i­ties, park dates, pot- lucks with much gusto. And one day, I got bored. Re­ally bored. And tired. Re­ally tired. I had de­cided, though, that the day I felt it was a drudgery, I would stop and try to get back to the work space. I didn’t want Re to be at the re­ceiv­ing end of this en­ergy.

The prob­lem with women like me who are awe­some with do­mes­tic­ity is that you can be­gin to think it’s a

ONE DAY, I GOT BORED. RE­ALLY BORED. AND TIRED. RE­ALLY TIRED. I HAD DE­CIDED, THOUGH, THAT THE DAY I FELT IT WAS A DRUDGERY, I WOULD STOP AND TRY TO GET BACK TO THE WORK SPACE. I DIDN’T WANT RE TO BE AT THE RE­CEIV­ING END OF THIS.

ca­reer. Three years later, I hated be­ing a SAHM for the same rea­sons that I loved it in the first place. That it sucked me out. That it con­sumed me. That I was so emo­tion­ally in­vested in it that I thought it was me.

On most days, I could see the hu­mour in it. I also think chil­dren are deep and there’s a lot to learn just by lis­ten­ing to them. I found my­self laugh­ing and cry­ing in equal mea­sure as I spent hour af­ter hour with my son, just the two of us, and the ‘ ca­sulls’ we con­structed, the mess we rev­elled in.

When I got tired of push­ing swings in the park, I started mommy- dat­ing. Mommy dates are ac­tu­ally play- dates in dis­guise. You make it about the child, be­cause it’s le­git. But what you are re­ally in­ter­ested in, is the mother. Will you click, will there be laughs, con­ver­sa­tion, wit, shar­ing, food, travel, sleep­overs?

So I put my­self out there. I lurked. In schools. Parks. Book stores. Twit­ter. Face­book. I made plenty of “I quit my awe­some job be­cause I re­ally wanted to be a stay- at- home- mother” mommy friends. I be­lieved them. I be­gan to say the same thing. It felt good. There is the power of the col­lec­tive. Blog­ger mom­mies. Twit­ter mom­mies. Work­ingfrom- home mom­mies. School gate mom­mies. Face­book mom­mies. Des­per­ately- so­cial- net­work­ing mom­mies. It was im­por­tant.

Mean­while ev­ery Sand­berg, Slaugh­ter, Mayer and Bha­gat were hold­ing forth on women in the work­place, con­stantly mak­ing a case for or against SAHMs. It was as if there was a con­spir­acy to shake women out of their com­pla­cency and get them back into the race. Mom­mies on Twit­ter were con­stantly up in arms or re­ally gushy about their words, de­pend­ing on which side of the fence they sat on. Twit­ter was full of mommy angst, very clev­erly cam­ou­flaged to fit a 140 char­ac­ter breezi­ness. Mom­mies In­sta­grammed pho­tos, they wrote mi­crop­o­etry, they posted link af­ter link ( I still don’t know whether they ac­tu­ally read all that con­tent).

The ones who spoke about the mo­tions and the mun­dane were termed whine- bags and dis­missed. If you had to be cool on Twit­ter, you had to rise above mom­my­ness. You had to be with- it.

But it still didn’t bother me. I was as happy as can be, I rea­soned. I had a book deal, a blog, a col­umn, I wrote for var­i­ous news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, and I ran a well- oiled home. What more could I pos­si­bly do? On the face of it, I had it all. But it wasn’t enough. It was all too deep. I needed the shal­low, the friv­o­lous to feel real. And no, work­ing in PJs is not as much fun as it’s made out to be.

I re­alised one thing: It’s okay to call your job a drag, but it was not okay to call moth­er­hood a drag. And then I read an ar­ti­cle on Slate which truly ex­plained the in­ten­sity of what I was feel­ing in the

I AM LIK­ING IT. I LIKE SWIP­ING MY CARD AND HANG­ING OUT WITH MY TEAM IN THE CAN­TEEN. I LIKE THE QUAL­ITY TIME OVER THE QUAN­TITY TIME WITH MY SON. I LIKE THAT I HAVE OUT­SOURCED THE DREARY BITS... I LIKE ME MORE.

lan­guage of eco­nom­ics. That the mar­ginal util­ity of time with your kids— the hap­pi­ness you get from the last hour you spend with them— de­clines as you spend more hours. Which meant that for nearly ev­ery­one, there seems to be at least some de­crease in en­joy­ment as you con­tinue an ac­tiv­ity. The same holds for SAHM­hood.

I de­rived my own truth from it–- no one leaves a job that is per­fect, that truly makes them happy. Just like no one gives up on a re­la­tion­ship when the sex is re­ally good.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was be­ing dumped by a mommy on a play- date I had planned for our boys. A mommy I didn’t re­ally give a rat’s ass about.

It was the be­gin­ning of the end. I was done with SAHM­hood.

It mo­ti­vated me enough to send out my re­sume, line up meet­ings, and an­nounce that I was ‘ ready’. In less than a month, I had a job.

There have been good days and bad days. I have been late for pick­ups, I have snapped at the hus­band on the phone, I have run out of meet­ings like Cin­derella, I have got on the wrong train and got so im­mersed in my book that I didn’t no­tice, I have started dream­ing about work.

I am shal­low enough to think moth­er­hood is about lo­gis­tics af­ter a point. As long as your plan B and C is in place, you are okay. For now, I want to wake up ev­ery morn­ing and GO TO WORK. For now I can pre­tend to be Ra­pun­zel who has been res­cued by a Prince from the tower.

I am lik­ing it. I like swip­ing my card and hang­ing out with my team in the can­teen. I like the qual­ity time over the quan­tity time with my son. I like that I have out­sourced the dreary bits. And I am no longer afraid to call them dreary. I like me more. I know there should be deeper rea­sons for go­ing back to the work­place, but for now, this will do.

Lalita Iyer is a jour­nal­ist and the au­thor of “I’m Preg­nant Not Ter­mi­nally Ill, You Idiot!” Fol­low her on twit­ter@ Lal­i­tude

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