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Friday, May 22, 2009

an all-too-familiar thorn...

The wise saffron-robed version of me that has been the little voice of reason through my adulthood is right. It is a luxury to even revisit this topic as often as I have been doing these past four years.

I firmly believe it is terribly selfish to think about just myself and how difficult it is for me when weighing the decision to work outside home.

Both D and I being extremely frugal, living within D's income has never been the issue...

It has always been clear to me that I need to share the family financial responsibility, not in any noble equal-rights kind of way, but, in an empathetic and considerate way - knowing how my supplemental income, however meager, takes that much weight off D's shoulders, giving him room to breathe and soar and pursue his interests, whatever they may be. Especially in these tough economic times when the earth can be pulled from under our feet without notice, like once before...

The challenge evidently has been to balance my responsibilities, manage the household, raise healthy, happy kids, and not crack under the strain.

The nagging question has always been: would I be the blithe and delightful mom that I hold as ideal, if I stayed home with my kids till they were ready for their formal education? And, by sending my kids away to daycare, am I depriving them of much-needed bonding time together?

No, it has never been a question of much-needed "love", because love is a way of life not something offered in installments at one's convenience; love is not whether I co-slept till they were teens or set them in their cribs from birth, whether I nursed them till they were five or weaned them off at one... Love is not something easily measured and quantified in such terms.

If I could indulge in Idle Thoughts... I wonder if I'd be the ever-smiling mommy with monumental patience and infinite cheer if I had some extra help around the house - like, what if I had a dedicated cook, an efficient maid for laundry and dish-washing needs, a spiffy housekeeper to shine and polish and pick up after the mess, a personal shopper at least for supplies and provisions, and a chauffeur to share my responsibilities?

Case in point: Our Washer broke a while back. After budgetary considerations, we've decided to replace it next month. We started getting the laundry done at a nearby laundromat.

Agreed there are advantages: Not only am I doing fewer (read bare-minimum) loads due to this encumbrance, I have been able to teach Ana not to pull out fresh clothes from her cubby, wear it for about 2 hours, and throw it in the hamper even if it is perfectly unsoiled/re-wearable. And, of course, this has made me extra sensitive to Oggie's messiness...

However, in addition to all the stuff I normally have to do, I am pretty miffed that now I have to find time to spend at the laundromat, and schedule it so I don't have to lug the kids there... or, leave it in D's able hands, if he can spare the time, that is.

Getting extra help to do what I consider my duty to run a smooth household seems moot especially when my Idle Thoughts also include How are you going to pay your little helpers?

It's not like I do everything around the house... D takes care of sending out the bills, taking out the garbage/recycling, fixing the toilet, unclogging the sink, cleaning kitty litterbox, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, Costco/Winco runs and all those little things I would rather not do. By the same token, I cook, wash dishes, mop floors, vacuum the rugs/carpets, scrub bathtub, sinks and toilets, bathe/feed/entertain/nurture the kids, do the laundry and put them away in respective cupboards, darn/mend/sew buttons as needed... all those things that D would rather not do.

Seems fair. Except, whereas D's tasks require attention about once a week or once a month, mine seem to be in an endless daily loop...

It is possible that feminism kicked chivalry out the door. Perhaps that's why I feel guilty even daydreaming that D would offer to slave away for the rest of his life to give me and the kids everything we want, not just need, expecting nothing in return from us, except maybe our resplendent smiles.

I am digressing... or, more precisely, I am just rambling.

The more I think about how my mom's mom and her mom before her managed, the more apparent it becomes to me that it did indeed take a village to raise a child. Aunts, grannies and neighbors kept an eye on the kids while moms were busy either nursing their littlest, or fetching water from the nearby well, or pounding grains for the next meal, or weeding their fields, or hanging up the laundry in the clothesline, or any number of other chores that kept them busy throughout the day.

Admittedly, kids all over the world have been growing up fine despite well-intentioned parenting... and the evidence so far suggests that my kids have learnt so much more from their daycare than I could have taught them with my limited experience in guiding the cognitive, social and emotional development crucial at this early stage.

So, it still takes a village, but the village that is helping the contemporary mother raise her kids (for a steep fee, of course) happens to be the urban daycare with trained professionals... and I am at peace with this modern arrangement.

It is not as if mommies of yore didn't have a busy life even if they never stepped outside their homes. In fact, they probably had it tougher, what with no washer/dryer, blender/mixie, instant noodles or canned tomato sauce.

Why then, with all these labor-saving and time-saving devices at my disposal, am I so strapped for energy, patience, and spirit?

I seem to be on a short fuse a lot more than I need to be, and about 5-7 days a month I am positively volatile... and while it is easy to shove it down the Hormone throat, it does not make my life any easier balling up the guilt and soaking my pillow with salty tears.

I realize I am not all bad, I couldn't be, not with parents like mine who manage to bring out the best even from a lump of clay...

Despite conscious effort to untie the knot in my stomach, this teeny little side of me, the little black-and-red-robed storm-clouds-over-head lightning-bolts-shooting-from-fingertips part of me, refuses to be quelled once and for all... and therein lies my weakness, the thorn on my side that I haven't managed to dislodge...

With her unique perception and understanding, my mom time and again has tried to remind me that it is a matter of shifting one's thinking - irritation and confusion are by-products of dashed expectations - expectations set up asymmetrically, expectations that ignore realities while striving for an ideal - an ideal that is conjured up in my mind carelessly discounting my severe limitations...



Rock Balancing image courtesy Google search

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13 Comments:

At 6:05 PM, Blogger VJ said...

great post... could so much relate to it !!!

 
At 10:22 PM, Blogger IBH said...

beautifully written Sheela!
those extra helps and hired help was one of themain reason for us to shift base to India..my daughter was born in the US..and I was adamant of not letting my job go!

you have very beautifully written this post Sheela! kudos to you!

 
At 11:03 PM, Blogger NC said...

I can totally empathise with you. being a mom of 1 yr old, I understand the problems, but I cant even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to have two kids when I am at wits end most times, even with one. My story has taken so many twists and turns lately, with having to pull N out of the day care due to health issues and leaving her with a nanny at home. Sacrificing/ should I say, risking job security, so that I dont have to leave her alone with the nanny. There is so much I do in a day and still....whenever I catch a moment, the guilt resurfaces from no where. the reasons are many, the problems are too much. However I feel that this has filled my heart with fear. i dont think I can handle a second child. N is not even a difficult baby, but its still nervewrecking to raise her, how will I handle two kids...anyways...I hope you feel better soon!!

 
At 5:50 AM, Blogger Sudeepta said...

Perfectly said. I had to unlurk - these are the very thoughts going through my mind for the last couple of weeks. I believe every mom these days thinks about this every once in a while. While some of us know we will never be able to sit at home and be the ever patient mother, we still wonder what life would be like if we could. I for one know that I would be a "shouting all the time" mom if I were to do it. I am happy sending them to daycare until Sunday evening, especially after a weekend well spent.

 
At 2:40 AM, Blogger Poppins said...

No easy answers there Sheela, as you very well know.

Life *is* easier with help though. Why not start small? Couldn't you get a cleaning service to do "mop floors, vacuum the rugs/carpets, scrub bathtub, sinks and toilets, " of your task list. Try it for a month or two. I'm sure if you look hard enough you'll be able to find the budget for it.

See if that helps a bit. I do feel that you and D are doing a LOT ! So give yourself that pat on the back, you totally deserve it.

Meanwhile the thing to do is to let unimportant things slide.

As for giving up the job.... All WOHM's daydream about becoming SAHM's, but the fact of the matter is that life as a SAHM is tougher. And with less money to go around.

P.S Since you moderate comments, would you be able to remove word verification? Give your fellow Mo2 a break ! :)

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

VJ: thanks for the support! sometimes all it takes is a fellow-mom who understands...

IBH: thank you... and you are so right, in India, we can get hired help plus family support which is invaluable.

NC: thank you for sharing your concerns and issues - they are so similar to mine; hope the nanny is working out better than daycare...

Sudeepta: thank you for taking the time to leave me a note, awfully nice fo you to share your struggles here.

Poppins: Wise as ever, you are! hard lesson for me to learn has been to let things slide and not look for perfection everywhere :)
oh and re p.s: Done!

 
At 7:27 AM, Blogger Praba said...

Hmmm....Well said. Hugs! Your voice, so very soothing and gives the "I am not alone" comfort to so many of us.

emailing you with more thoughts...

p

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

Praba, thanks for the lovely email! I have read it a few times just to absorb the much-needed solace your words have given me.

I think the issue sort of precipitated for me as Oggie still wakes up several times at night and I am the one trying to settle him down, and finding it hard to fall back asleep afterwards... sleep deprivation compounds things.

When Ana turned 2 and started sleeping through the night, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders and was a much calmer, happier person...

So, I guess, when Oggie decides to sleep through the night I can hope see the light at the end of the tunnel:)

 
At 8:56 PM, Blogger Sole said...

Why then, with all these labor-saving and time-saving devices at my disposal, am I so strapped for energy, patience, and spirit?

Because, you are doing it all alone, while they had help. There was someone, doing the dishes, washing, mopping etc. They had to cook and manage kids, but somehow I get this feeling that olden days kids grew up on their own, but these days kids constantly want our attention. Plus, olden days there was one type of food and that's what everyone ate, but these days we seem to cater to each person in the household making it harder for us! So, doing the house chores,cooking, cleaning and keeping the kids entertained it is natural that people would tend to get a bit low on energy, patience and spirit. Its not just you, its any woman who has to do it all!

Chin up, you are doing a great job and all you need is some time for yourself!

 
At 6:04 AM, Blogger Tharini said...

Sheela...

This post has been haunting me ever since I read it. And I have composed many words to you in my head. And I want to sit down soon and write those down and send it to you. For now, I just want you to know that you are not alone, and you are in my thoughts very often.

 
At 2:21 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Sole, you have brought up a very important point that i tend to easily forget:
"but somehow I get this feeling that olden days kids grew up on their own, but these days kids constantly want our attention"

Yes!! so true! Even my generation, when I was little, I used to play in the streets with my brother, his friends and our neighbors all day till sundown when our respective parents call us home when they light the evening lamp.

Now, my heart breaks when Ana hopefully pleads, "Amma, can you come and play Globs & Woosh with me in my room?" and immediately adds, "Leave Oggie in the living room, Amma, I don't want him in my room when we play"!


Tharini: Thank you - with all that you do, I am glad you manage to have me in your thoughts... and as you know, your lovely family is an inspiration for many of us moms-of-two who want to do the best...

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger MDB said...

hi Sheela, stumbled upon your blog and have enjoyed skimming through some of your posts.

you write: "Seems fair. Except, whereas D's tasks require attention about once a week or once a month, mine seem to be in an endless daily loop..."

what is stopping you from delegating some daily tasks that you do to D?

you work outside the home, take care of kids, cook, clean, read books, write entries on blogs, etc.etc. you and D are frugal spenders when it comes to money. have you considered logging how you spend your time? (perhaps there are areas that you can cut back on).

just some things for you to consider.. sorry if it sounds a bit harsh.

s

 
At 12:54 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

Not at all, MDB, you have noted something that is logical, sensible and something that should be obvious, a given.

However, I guess my post skimmed over the fact that D has several commitments outside of home (all agreed upon by both of us when i was pregnant with Oggie and cannot be rescheduled/rearranged mid-way now) that make him unavailable for domestic needs... just the situation we find ourselves in at this juncture in life.

I do see how biased my post sounds with regard to D, now that you brought up a good point... but, I cannot demand more from D than he is already giving, not when days have just 24 hours and he is just another human like me...

So, my reflections and analyses here are basically to see the situation for what it is (that I am primarily responsible for the domestic tasks and running the household without expecting much from D at this time) and how to make the best of it under the circumstances without complaining about things I cannot change...

I have no answers and it is something that only Time can tell.

 

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