Sunday, August 12, 2007

an age-old battle...

[by Sheela, also posted at The Joy of My Life]

A couple of points I have wondered about: 1) Women are biologically primed for child-bearing, child-nurturing/rearing etc. 2) society has defined Man's role as bread-winner/provider.

To be honest, before I had my own baby, I used to dismiss that as hogwash - in this day and age, roles can be reversed - so what if I am biologically birthing the baby, after birth I can hand over the baby to the husband and head out and be the bread-winner, right?

Wrong! At least in my case. The hormones and the surge of maternal biochemistry over which I seemed to have little control made it extremely tough for me to even leave my baby alone in another's care for longer than few hours (even though out of necessity I had to get back to work, leaving Ana in daycare).

Rational thinking flew out the door in a flash under the maternal surges I felt then. I was fiercely possessive, incredibly curious about raising my baby and quite determined to get it all right the first time around.

Do I envy the SAHM? Not at all! It is hard-work, and best suited for people who have made that choice and stuck to it.

Am I proud to be a WOHM? Not at all! I have made a choice and am trying my best to stick to it and make things work.

Is one inherently better than the other? Clearly not, or we wouldn't be having this age-old battle in our minds.

As I had written earlier, many women don't come this decision - of being a WOHM - lightly or easily.

The dance with the numbers is a tough one. We calculated and re-calculated the budget to see if there was any way we could make it meager-er:
--We don't have cable or DirecTV or any such additional expense;
--we have basic land-line phone with no extras like call-waiting, call-forwarding or even voicemail, as we have a good cell phone deal and have relied on it for all our telephonic needs;
--we buy in bulk from Costco and buy our groceries from local farms getting mostly seasonal produce and maybe some other fancy stuff from one of the eclectic places nearby, plus growing our own as much as possible (season-permitting);
--we are very careful about electricity - unplug wall outlets when not in use (except TV, of course), turn off lights as soon as we exit the area, energy-star rated dishwasher/fridge/oven/water-heater etc.,;
--we decided to use only one car for all our needs (keeping the second one only for emergencies) and plan the shopping trips and commute to work/daycare and such to minimize waste...

Now, if only just recovering the daycare expense by being an SAHM would have made our budget balance better...

Circumstances arranged themselves to make it a necessity for me to supplement D's income. I try to look upon it as a partnership where the sole burden of providing for the family should not rest on his shoulders. By the same token, D looks at raising Ana as a partnership and has helped a lot in taking care of her say two or three evenings a week to give me a couple of hours off to take care of myself and my needs.

A lot of Life is about compromise, planning and doing what seems best under the given constraints.

Either I can complain about it, or, find a good work around to establish some semblance of balance in my world.

My solution was to look at a job as just a job, not a career path, not something that would define me in the long run, but something that helps me raise my family in a comfortable way.

Also, my mom is my role-model in that sense - she worked as a teacher all her life, and raised us, and is a great cook and does wonderful crafts and sewing and such. So, naturally, I consider myself a failure if I can't do at least as much as she showed me it was possible to do.

Besides, we kids turned out fine despite our mom being a WOHM, so, I am possibly not depriving Ana of a well-rounded childhood by not being an SAHM...

But, the day and age in which my mom worked is different from my work situation. At least as far as IT goes, when projects need to be delivered on a deadline, one cannot excuse oneself and work only from 9-5 and head home and forget all about it until the next day.

That aside, my mom had neighbors and family around to walk us kids to school, bring us back, feed us, play with us and know we are safe even if my mom (and dad) had to work late some days. Such resources are hard to come by here, unless one is very lucky indeed!

Also, who doesn't want to be one's own boss, and command one's time as one wishes, instead of pretty much being a bonded laborer on someone else's clock and payroll? Alas! Not many of us really have that luxury, except sincerely wish for circumstances that let us make such a decision and abide by it - for better or worse...

And, when the need to be professional at all times combined with callous and inconsiderate bosses drain the cheer out of us WOHMs, no wonder we doubt whether it is all worth it? But, I prefer not to complain, I prefer to abide by the decision to help bear the burden of raising the family - financially and otherwise.

But, would I be happier as an SAHM? I'll never know... but, all I know is happiness is a state of mind that comes from accepting the situation one is given and making the best of it, drawing a sense of contentment about the way things are - instead of constantly trying to make the current situation better before one can be happy.

Somehow, despite all the Feminism and Equal Rights, it irks me when D suggests that it is not fair for him to bear the sole burden of providing for the family. Especially when "providing for the family" involves more than the basic Food, Clothing and Shelter.

Why have I subconsciously come to accept that the Man should not have a choice? Why am I worked up about making my choice, knowing that I have the luxury to make a choice, whereas upset when the roles are reversed?

Rhetorical as these questions may be, sometimes, there are no easy answers to our brooding. Hopefully, I am making the choice that is right for my situation, just as other women have done over generations and will continue to do way past my lifetime.

As I had written in another post, the need for perfection, the need for things to be a certain way before one can feel inner peace, is clearly convoluted, and conflicts with achieving the said inner peace.

If we are striving for something to be better than it currently is, well, therein lies the paradox...


Asha said...

Another great post from you Sheela.You have questioned your choices and answered with your choices too. Good for you!:)
"Inner peace" , that's what it is!! If you resent working outside when you want to stay home and vice versa,that is a dilemma.But you have accepted your choice and happy with it, you don't have to answer anybody at all!
Many people ask me whether I get bored at home and I say "where is the time to get bored?!" I have millions things to do everyday including hauling kids to after school activities,cook,clean,keep appointments,do the finance,vacations, and budget etc.I wouldn't change a thing of my past or present I say!:)
Yes,I am happy most of the time because I am in control of my life and so should any woman who does what she wants.If you are not happy,change it! My husband gets scared and panics when I say "I need to talk you!" Hahaha.(We know each other since we were teenagers,so we are okay that way!;D)
Inner peace comes from within you, nobody can give it to you and take it from you! Enjoy:))

DR said...

nice post!

Poppins said...

What a beautiful post. I am with you on every thing you say !!

Sandeepa said...

Very nice post Sheela

These days my thoughts are like what you say. My job is no longer a career as I had planned it to be :) Its not that I am entirely happy that way but at least I am happy for the present

Kay said...

Wow! Sheela, what thought provoking questions you ask...and you answer them yourself so beautifully...

indosungod said...

well written and wonderful post. I cannot acknowledge and agree enough with each of the points you make.

Archana, mama of twins said...

i loved your clarity and thought process in this post sheela!
You are inspiring me to write my own thoughts.. soon..

Saheli said...

Well, there is nothing else to say, you have said pretty much all.
Good post Sheela!
Also I really admire the way you guys conserve the electricity and gas. Kudos!