Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pro Choice: In a different sense

[Also posted by Cee Kay at her other blog]

When it comes to a mother's working outside of home or staying at home, I am strictly pro-choice. I believe it should be the woman's choice, and hers alone. After all, it is she who will be juggling home and career and family more than anyone else in the family because, unfortunately, even today our social system is male friendly and doesn't put the responsibility for "balancing" things on men. But that is matter for another post. I shouldn't digress.

Another thing - I never say "Working Moms" because I firmly believe ALL moms work (I have mentioned this in another post of mine - I think). I always say "Working Outside of Home Moms". That's just me :)

For me there never was a question. I grew up watching my mom balance work with home perfectly. I learnt from her that it is possible. And she brought me up believing that I MUST have a career. In our family it was a given that both, my brother and I will study, get a job and get married IN THAT ORDER. My parents taught me from the beginning that the most important thing for me to do was to be financially independent. If I ever showed signs of not taking my studies seriously, my mom would threaten me that she'd marry me off :D And it worked! I took my studies and persuit for a career seriously.

For reasons I have discussed in another post, my career stalled when I got married. But that didn't change my views on this matter. I still believed that a woman should work outside of home even after having children if she wanted to.

I have discussed my views on this in another post on the same debate. But that was in response to a post by MadMomma which, in turn, was in response to a comment of mine (and other similar comments). This time, I will just list my reasons for my choice without getting defensive or offensive. And my views in this matter are solely based on my personal experience and observations.

I work outside of home because I want to. And because I am not stay-at-home material. I believe a happy mother makes a happy family. For a long time I was not a happy mother. Because I had to stay at home. Not by choice. I have seen the effect a woman's unhappiness can have on her entire family - firsthand. I was that woman. There is a marked difference in my home's environment since I started working. But that is a choice that works for me and my family. My husband and I make it work. We work really hard at it so that my working outside of home affects S (and now M) in the least possible way. Because he knows how important it is for me.

I work for intellectual fulfillment. Yes. I need it. I want it. Nothing wrong in that. (I remember reading another post where the tone insinuated it is). When I was home with my daughter, I could feel my intellect stagnating. It doesn't happen to everyone. It happened to me because we were new to this country, with no friends. And later the friends that I did make were moms of my daughter's preschool buddies. We connected because our kids liked each other. There was no other reason. No other connection at an intellectual level. I am not saying that these moms weren't capable of carrying on an intelligent conversation. They were. Many of them were very accomplished in their own fields. But when we met, our conversations revolved around our kids and their needs and our dreams for them and such. I wanted a break from that.

I wanted to work outside of home because I wanted to utilize my skills for something extra. I wasn't content just teaching my child math, and colors and alphabet. I didn't need the whole day to do that. I still teach her a million things in the time that I do get with her. I desparately wanted to be "needed" for my skills. And now, when I am on my maternity leave, I can tell from personal experience that it is a good feeling. When I get calls from my colleagues asking me to help them fix things that no one else can, I feel validated. I feel satisfied that I am making a difference that reaches far outside my home.

I wanted to work outside of home because I firmly believe that will make my daughters more confident and self-dependent. No - I take that back. I am not working to achieve this, but I am sure as a result of my working outside of home, this will happen. Working moms need every family member to pitch in to keep every thing going smoothly. The more things my daughters tackle in their day-to-day routine, the more independent they get, and confident too.

I work to bring in the extra paycheck. Because, like every other parent, I want to give my daughters a better life. I don't want them to have to take out loans to study. Granted it is easy to get student loans in this country but I am an old-fashioned Indian that way. I'll pay for my kids' education like my parents did for me. When I was in college, it was really a comfort to know that my parents would pay for my studies as long as I wanted to continue. On the other hand, J had to work full-time to put himself through graduate school. He would leave for work at 9:30 in the morning and return at 11 in night after classes. I believe he could have worked much harder at his studies if he didn't need to work full time to pay for it. And we are both sure we don't want to put our children through that kind of struggle.

I work outside of home because I worked very hard to get to this point. I didn't bear shitty behaviour from my uncle and aunt (yes I did) and still continue my studies for three long years to sit at home. I did it because I wanted to get somewhere. I went through that hardship to make a career for myself.

I don't believe that my kids will miss out on life if I work out of home. I don't think they will come to harm either. Of course, if I am going to work, I am going to make sure that I find good care for them. It will be criminal on my part if I don't do that. I will make sure that the care available to them is the best possible and will keep an eye on things to make sure everything remains the way I want it to.

I also work outside of home because I worry about the future. If something were to happen to J, I want to be able to provide for my kids without having to depend on anyone - even family. I have thought a lot about what I will do if worse came to worst. What if I cannot pay the mortgage on the house or save for the girls' future? I have even made plans in my mind(like moving to a low-cost-of-living state, or to a smaller house) and we are also looking into Life Insurance to make sure that the girls will be least affected should something happen to either or both of us. Recently a dear friend had emergency surgery and then later found out he has B-cell Lymphoma (cancer of the Lymphatic system). He has already been at home for a month. His wife had to take two weeks off to take care of him. His mom came here from India as soon as she heard about his surgery. This all involved expenses. If they didn't have any savings, they would have been in a serious jam right now. If his wife didn't work, she would have one more worry of finances on top of everything else that is going on. One has to be capable of and prepared for anything that life throws at them. It is easier to think that one can find a job if the need arises than to find an actual job. If, God forbid, the need arises there are going to be a lot of things clamoring for my attention and at that time looking for a job might be impossible for me even if my survival depended on it. In such a situation, I will have to accept the first job that comes my way instead of holding out for one that suits my qualifications and needs better. Of course, this is "galss half empty" kind of mentality but I always believed in hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

This is not a complete list of my reasons to work outside of home in any way. I have too many things going on right now to sit down and compile an exhaustive list. And the haze of sleep deprivation often obscures any rational thought I get in my mind. This is what came to my mind just as I was typing this post. I have been delaying the posting of it because I wanted to complete the list but now I can't think anymore. So... much... thinking... my... head... hurts...


Asha said...

I agree with your Pro choice idea!! Whatever it takes to make you and the family happy!:))
As for not satisfied with "intellectual fulfillment" staying at home with just Math and colors, have you seen any High School Algebra 2,AP Chemistry, AP Physics,AP Calculus AB and BC , AP Statistics text books lately?! Hahaha!
That will keep little House wives like me pretty busy, believe me when I say that. I am a total "working woman" at home which I LOVE ! My teenage daughter however is not inclined to domestication like me.I know where she is going, the other way which is great too and happy for her!:))

GettingThereNow said...

Asha, we are still far away from the times of AP Chem, AP Physics etc :D I know Stay at home moms work very hard that is why I said in the beginning of the post that ALL moms work and I use the term Work Outside of Home for the same reason.

I can understand why a woman would choose to stay at home. I don't believe that they are wasting their degrees by doing so. I just want them to make the choice. I have seen far too many women being forced into one choice or the other (myself included, right after getting married) by their husbands or ILs and that infuriates me.

Dee said...

your article is loaded with confidence and clarity. Great to hear from ppl like you. Good luck :)

indosungod said...

Cee Kay! thanks for your thoughts. I am strongly Pro Choice in every sense of the word. I readily agree to most of your points. But with me there is always a shred of doubt and usually happens when I am not having a good day at work.

mnamma said...

Wonderful post! You worked very hard to get to the position that you are in now, and you must be proud!

shweta said...

Cee Kay,

Great post..Yes ALL MOMS WORK!! as you posted..this is "galss half empty" kind of mentality -- I am a strong believer of this kind of mentality..You have acheieved what you want..feel proud !!

Saheli said...

Pro choice, indeed!
All moms do work no matter where(At home or outside). I agree with you that it should be "her" choice.

Kay said...

I totally get this one. It is the woman who should have a choice in making her own decision based on her preferences and circumstances at home. It should not be thrust on her or expected of her to do/be in a certain way. This is the same way I feel about the number of children she should have .... It should be her choice. heck! It's her uterus and she's the one carrying after all.

Intellectual fulfillment - another thing I totally get it..

I am a very positive person - with the glass is half full mentality... but I also know, it is only half full and will not last for ever and keep a pitcher full of water for using when that half glass gets empty. So, Amen! to that hope for the best and be prepared for the worst attitude!

hey CeeKay, most of the times, when I read your posts, I feel like I am reading my own mind. And it makes some issues very clear for me.

Sheela said...

>> hope for the best, but also be prepared for the worst

Loved the way you put it - this is something my dad always has tried to teach me - he always used to ask me about "fall back" plans, about savings and such - even back in the days when he was paying for my education! And that lesson stuck with me. It is not about material possessions - hoarding or amassing wealth - it is about having a contingency to deal with Life's eventualities - and unfortunately, dealing with external world today involves financial stability... whereas dealing with our inner self only needs harmony, no money :-)

I do love to be at home- am most happy when at home doing my own thing be it sewing or crocheting or cooking - it can be a busy life - as busy as you want to make it...

and as you pointed out, each woman has to find that balance that lets her make the necessary decision and be at peace with it...

GettingThereNow said...

Dee, Indo: I have my moments of doubt too, but since I have been on both the sides I know what makes me happier and that is working outside of home. I am going through those self-doubt moments these days again ever since Baby M arrived.

Mnamma, Shweta, Saheli: I am happy to have found so many moms who think like me!

Kay: I am flattered that so many moms identify with what I wrote. And relieved that I am not alone :)

Sheela: I often think that I would have been much happier staying at home had that choice not been imposed on me. I love taking care of my home, cooking, entertaining etc. and would love to sew a few dresses and other stuff (like blankets) for my daughters if had more time. I would enjoy staying at home if I did that by my choice - but right now I am not ready for it (emotionally OR financially).

mummyjaan said...

Eloquently put.

The point about being happy about your choices is important. A happy Mum is the centre of a happy family.

Hope you took something for that headache, after all that writing.

:) said...

Many good points in your article. It is annoying when others judge your choices, and don't take the effort to respect other peoples choices. Both my parents worked, and I don't believe my sister and I suffered for it. There are no guarantees on how your kids will turn out with either choice.

Do what makes you happy, and what is right for your family needs. Thats all that matters.

Jellybeans said...

The best day for me to read this post. I was heartbroken seeing my 6.5 month old baby crying while feeding in my office creche. Frankly, I considered sitting at home for her.
Thanks Cee Kay for reminding me why I chose to work. Now I'm more calm and composed.
Love and Hugs, from a mother to another, and that too working outside!