One of the topics I often come across in the discussion about a working woman is how she balances it. More importantly, her contribution towards running the family is weighed more than anything she does at work. Women like Indra Nooyi endorsing that makes it even more painful for those who are climbing up the ladder of life with hope. Then there are Junkets! Voices like Jennifer Garner giving us the hope back.
I often get asked – with all their good intentions – whether I miss my children when I work away from them? Of course I do. I am sure a man who works away from home will miss his children too. Yet, the society has accepted men travelling all over the country and working, or should we say, working hard to earn a crust for the family. Yet, the eyebrows rise to new heights when they hear my story – I just smile. A friend recently asked me how the children manage without me around. I had to remind her that it is illegal to leave them on their own – hence there is an adult, indeed their very own parent, who is actually managing the situation. This makes it no different to any other contractor’s household. She nodded and said, “yes, one of us has to compromise. It is alright if he is staying at home”. I wasn’t going to waste any more words on her, explaining that he is working too and not staying at home.
Our nanny who is helping us out with our “situation” has a child too. She has got some other arrangement with her child while she looks after ours. As my son is of the same age as her daughter, I often wonder how she is ok with doing homework with my children, while she can’t do so with hers. I don’t know how she ‘balances it’. I wonder if she will end up withdrawing from the current arrangements or continue with things as they are. Despite the undeniable fact that it is a curious topic for me, I refrain myself from asking her as a) she teaches my children better than I would have, b) my daughter listens to her and changes some of her habits – this doesn’t tend to happen when I am in the scene and c) I do not want to make her feel the same way that other make me feel by asking the question.
In an Indian scene the “good girl” quotient is so high that it is suffocatingly difficult to maintain a poker face and stick to the “I will not defend, and I will not explain” mantra. However, I am pleased to note that there is some hope there too. It is not easy for Indian women to break the mould and think beyond the conditioning the society has been subjected to for centuries and centuries.
Applying some of the tricks I have learnt through the experience of being a Scrum Master is the best therapy I can ever get in these situations. A friend asked, “Do you have to go all the way to Scotland to find a job? Would no one local hire you?”. I smiled in response and thought in my head that may be she doesn’t know people who do weekend commutes. “Do you have to go all the way to Southampton, for a contract?”, another asked. Again I smiled but thought in my head, may be he doesn’t know any contractors. “Do you miss your kids?”, many ask. “Hail Skype” is my standard answer. An ex colleague of mine who is also a contractor told me that he has been contracting ever since he can remember working and he has been all over the country. He has four children. He has only ever been a weekend visitor to his home. He mentioned that no one has asked him such questions, when we exchanged our notes of our Junkets! Another friend of mine works away from home a lot, travelling all over the world, he has only been referred as a ‘high profile’ man. I have not seen anyone asking him how his children are doing or how he ‘balances it’. I am sure he is exhausted too.
I do not know what the mom who slowed down by famously quitting her job in a big pond is doing now, as she has stopped updating on her blog. I used to follow her blog religiously. This was her first month in her having the life she wanted. No disrespect to her sentiments, but I am trying to show the confusions women from all different socio-economic background go through. Gaby’s quitting it all generated a few reactions from her circle and they were all good reads -a good sample of the real society out there for us.
I love being a Scrum Master. It is a passion I have discovered in myself and I am impressed to see it working every time. I enjoy the different challenges the contractor life gives me – the way it takes me through a steep learning curve in every new situation, – makes me feel alive. A friend of mine took to running and other related challenges to take away the frustrations she faced – stemming from the conflicts between having to stay at home and her appetite to remain the ‘intellectual someone’ she wanted to be. In her blog about one of her such adventures, she called herself feeling “alive”.
The act of balancing “it” applies to me, to my husband and to our nanny despite all of us having very different daily routines. The things we miss are similar, and different, if we drill down to the detail. Life, as it is, is such a ‘balancing act’. Looking at women through a special microscope is not doing anyone any good. Everyone should be able to have the freedom to breathe and carry on with whatever the juggle they are in, without having to explain, defend and face the additional pressure from the society. Freedom is women’s right too. That is the balancing act everyone should learn to do and aim to do.
Published on linkedin: On Balancing it!