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Sunday, August 12, 2007

the age-old battle...

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.

When Ana wouldn't sleep at night, I stayed up and fed her, rocked her, sang to her - even if it meant doing this every two hours pretty much all night and then heading out to a full-time job the next morning. Obviously within 3-4 months I was a mental wreck, close to nervous breakdown.

When I was not coping well with a new infant and having to get back to work (else we'd be deeper in debt or D would have to find a second job - thanks to the vagaries of IT industry), D quite frankly offered to be a SAHD and let me work full-time if that is the solution I can come up with and agree. I was surprised by my own reaction: I screamed my lungs off saying he wants the "easy way out" and "stay home happily while I slogged and fed the family"!!

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.

While I wanted to bring in the income we sorely needed to keep up the middle-class lifestyle, I also wanted to be everything to my baby, caring and nurturing and raising her happy, basking in her development.

As I had written earlier, many women don't come to 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 my 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...

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.

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...

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...

An edited version of this post also up at DMC...

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At 9:44 PM, Blogger Anna said...

I am a working mother of a three year old. When I started work after my maternity leave, I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't entrust my baby to anyone else. The end result was that I started picking up fights with my husband for silly reasons. Now, I have learnt to balance my feelings. I tell myself that I am doing everything in my power for my baby. I spend most of my free time with her, play with her, take her out. So, the 9 hours I work at office, I take them as my effort to provide for her upbringing. Now I am a very happy person.

Take Care

At 7:24 PM, Blogger Deepika said...

HI - I have a 6month old baby boy; with whom I literally spend 24 hours of my day with. The only time I have been getting to myself lately is when I take a bath!

However, now that Saahil is 6 months old - I have decided that for both our sanities - he will be spending more and more time with the day care lady while I help my husband out in his business before heading back to my full time high stress job as a Management consultant.

i feel so guilty - thinking i am going to miss the first time he sits up by himself, the first time he crawls...

only time will tell how I will handle this


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