On Balancing it

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! 

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A letter to my daughter

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/nov/03/letter-to-14-year-old-daughter

I owe a letter to my strong headed daughter and one to my happy little chatty cheeky son. No, I didn’t suffer like the woman in the article, but yes, I suffered too but differently. The differences between me and my children in terms of where we started and what we had were much higher than and may be just too different from what is described in the article, but that is what makes me think that I owe them a letter, sooner the better.

To my daughter:

Some say that I am this strong (I refuse to call myself “extreme”) feminist, may be because I suffered more gender discrimination. I thought so too. Then I observed others which made many things clear to me. No, I didn’t suffer more, but I could see the difference, I could reevaluate and reassess things constantly. Many accept what they get, what they see and what is around them. I don’t. That is what made me different. That is what made me who I am today. No, I didn’t suffer more, but yes, I suffered too.

Let us go back to where we started. My parents often commented that they had too little in their lives and we were given everything we wanted. I can smile now looking at you that now you hear us whinging the same words around you. My father didn’t have a bed to sleep in. My mother had to drop out of school to help  out her mother in childcare and then to help with her father in earning for the family, at a very young age. We were sent to school so yes, there were differences. I didn’t suffer the freedom as such, as I don’t remember any such suffocation, but yes, I was mostly housebound compared to my brother who was mostly street-bound, when growing up. I have to admit that I had been denied going to friends’ houses if I haven’t reevaluated the concept of freedom in my growing up. But, I am afraid similar levels of ground rules will be there in your growing up too, as it fears me when I see teenagers “hanging out” at take-away shops and similar “joints”. But the difference is going to be that the rules apply to you both, you and your brother. No exceptions.

I was constantly asked to be grateful for whatever I was given, which had its positive effects that I value things I get. I am afraid you will also be instilled to value things you get. I am very pleased to see that you are already learning it and working hard to earn every penny around the house 😉 .

I grew up without knowing any multiculturalism or any racism. We were the only people around. We were everything. Then I moved to the city were I faced a different world which baffled me such as fitting in, facing people who happily offended and idiotic boys, to name a few. You are growing up in a multicultural world. I hope to teach you about different races and things to be aware of. I hope to teach you to look after yourself, be strong and stand up for yourself. I see you now when you play with some dominating kids that you accept what they ask you to do. I hope you learn to stand up for yourself. I see you were looking forward to be with them and you are willing to do what they ask you to do. Nothing wrong with that. But then you have to learn to spot when they are bossing you around. But then, I am glad you are not mean like the other kid who deliberately did not give you what you liked and did such mean things.  I am sure those kids will do well in their careers. But look, your mother has not done bad herself. Your mother was never socially clever. But, it will make me happy to see you do better than your mother.

Yes, we didn’t have lotsa money to buy whatever we wanted. But the trick was, we didn’t know what can be bought if we had money.  You don’t ask for anything big yet. You had not remembered or did not complain whenever I had put the toys away when paying at the  check out. You had not asked us to get you what others kids are having. You seem a contented child. I am happy about that. I hope to see more of it when you grow up 😉

I know what your favourite colour is. Pink! Surprise, surprise! I do not know what my favourite colour was, or, is, for that matter. You have your own computer. You have a few boxes full of toys, some educational and some for play time. I did not have any. I did not have toys. I can’t remember having anything as mine except my school books. Wait, they were borrowed too. Oops! I had my own collection of seven little stones which we used in our little play – thattankal. I still have them.

I wanted to be a recipient of young scientist award to make my chithi proud of raising me. I failed her in that. I did become a scientist though. She was proud alright, which she seemed to have forgotten now. I will not forget your every little stars you get from your school. But your swimming certtificate last week was outrageous. I watched you enjoying the “floating” experience all the time in the class but you were given a certificate for swimming certain distance! That is outrageous and you have to forgive me if I don’t keep count of such “achievements”! Yes, I didn’t hide my feelings when I handed over the certificate without any awwwing and cooing at you. If you are going to blame me as a “hard to please” mummy, so be it. But, do know that you don’t have to make *me*proud. Do it for yourself. I hope to show that difference.

My family did many injustice to me (it still does), but it was not the family but the society that suffocated me. It still does. I hope you do not have to face that struggle. I will not take you back to your “roots” just for the namesake. I will, if you enjoy. I will let you go free when I sense you do not enjoy particularly. Tamil is a great language though. It will make me sad if you don’t speak Tamil ever. You do not now. I am partly to be blamed for it. But I hope to hear you speak in Tamil one day. Equally, it will make me happy if you make and eat food items such as idiyappam and paniyaaram.  I am sure you will enjoy too. You gobble up iddli and thosai now, which is a good start. Can you please learn to say “chutney”? I cringe when I hear you call it “idli dip”.

I grew up with girls wanting to prove themselves as “good girls” and boys constantly challenging girls to prove themselves as “good girls”. They are still around me. They are still bothering me. I am still fighting. Now that I am a mother there are mothers around me proving themselves as good mothers by drawing me as a chinna kodu just to make themselves as periya kodu. I hope you do not have to fight that, although it is universal and not restricted just to my bad bad Tamil culture. But, I have taken you out of that ugly caste system in that bad bad Tamil culture, although the local (local in UK) Tamils and the internet Tamils constantly throw such ugliness at us. I hope to teach you to protect yourself from that.

I grew up not knowing what an offense is and what bullying is. Not knowing what victimisation is and the victim psychology is. I blamed myself for everything. Bullies ruled and they still do in my culture. Bullying can be seen even in general social get-together in the name of “having fun”. You are growing up where it is at the least acknowledged and identified. That is a great help in itself. There are such differences I am glad I have provided you. I hope to provide you more. I hope to provide you a home to come to at any time in your life. Not like the one that my chithi has in which I was constantly told that I do not have any right in any inch of the floor or the wall, but now I am asked to “buy” to keep it in the “family”!  That is the difference I hope to provide you. Whether it has all your “roots” and communities around you or whether it has all strange different coloured people as neighbours, all I hope to provide you is a *home*. A home to come to at any time in your life. Same for your brother.

Feminism and TV serials

Apparently, there are many TV serials that are made from the Sherlock Holmes’ story. I do not know whether the creators of Dr House have openly accepted it but the Mentalist creators have. Both very intellectual kind, both very popular and both are in the top of my fav list.   But, the two differ distinctly in how they portray women. Dr Cuddy of Dr House is always ridiculed by the main character. Agreed that the main character Dr House is written as an a**###**&& by the creators themselves, but it also shows what is in the heads of the creators when they write some scenes. The Mentalist creators on the other hand have done a wonderful job of portraying women. Yes, we do have the pretty Grace Van Pelt who is considered by her boss less competent than the other agents in the team, but she is also the new recruit hence lacks experience. The team lead Teresa Lisbon, who is also one of the lead characters, is a woman. Over the time, she has even overtaken Patrick Jane. Susan Darcy’s portrayal is again admirable. Love the actress (Catherine Dent) who plays the role.

What makes the tyger a tyger and the lamb a lamb?

The Mentalist, for me, has been an interesting TV series for a few different reasons. It’s main concept, or the clue for the moment, is that it is the same creator who created the Lamb, also created the tiger.

Before Kids (BK), I strongly believed that the nurture plays a major role than the nature as I have seen how different siblings can be. Probably their genetic make up also differed to some extent although they came from the same creators. Some of the characteristics I have seen that made the siblings so different from each other were how they were raised, what they were taught as values and what they were taught as superior/inferior things … blah blah blah… I started to reevaluate my opinion on this after having kids (AK), as the children showed so much of the passed-down-through-the-genes matters. Muffin and Timmy differ in their genetic make up too and that is so visible. Timmy takes after my family side and Muffin takes after her dad’s family side. But, now that my own sibling is here with me, my old opinion (that nurture overtakes the nature) has come back strong as I see him often. What we value are so different. What we believe in are so different. We sometime like the same things, one of which interestingly is “The Mentalist”! Then we start to differ in our opinion on which character is what and what is right and what is not and blah blah blah….

Coming back to the William Blake’s poem and to my question, what makes the tyger a tyger and the lamb a lamb? The values, I think. Where in the brain it gets stored is science. How it is made to get stored is nurture, imo. That brings my theory back that nurture can make a tiger or a lamb out of anyone. I have seen people who have shown absolutely no empathy for others. So self centered and cannot think about anyone but themselves. It is the morality engine that has made them who they are.  It is the nurture. So, that shifts the blame to the parent and parent and parent and so on. Does it stop? It doesn’t if the next generation is raised with the same values their parents raised, which made them who they are. It can be stopped by people who can take their head above the water and look. That is all we need for feminism too. Complicated and yet simple.

Extremists and politics

The moment somethings looks beyond their comprehension, such as seeing some people stick to their principles, they call it “extremists”, or if someone launches a campaign for a cause, they care called “politically motivated”. Why is it not as simple as that that it may be just possible, just, that some people may truly have the strength and will to be able to stand unswayed? I was once called an “extremist” for being an atheist, I mean, for being “sure” that there IS NO god (apologies, God) in this world! The question was, how can I be sure never doubting or never giving in to praying etc.. My answer was, I wish I could doubt, I wish I could simply pray and believe that things will be taken care off now that I have prayed. I do wish. I just cannot make myself believe in things that are not etched in my brain by some strong etching agents.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/29/tim-lott-gender-girls-toys

I have too many questions about this article to put down in a list, nevertheless, one of which is “I’m not that kind of feminist” – sorry, I can’t fallow, what?

being a wife of someone big

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/15/political-wife-fantasy-real-girls-good

nicely said. I wanted to write about it for a long time, better written in a better place for a much wider readership. 🙂

what is the fuss?

I posted something on FB and I thought it can be shown to a wider readership. I cannot post others comments, so I am posting just mine. Here we go.

women fuss over men. yuck! have some self respect woman! you are dragging yourself beneath lower and lower. yuck!

Feeling queasy actually 😦

It makes me feel queasy whenever I see a woman fall beneath in her own eyes when she forgets to respect herself but fusses over a man who doesn’t respect her enough to stop her from doing it, but accepts the advantages of fussing. Which is a disrespect towards the woman herself. So, she falls beneath and beneath and it is nauseating. Why a woman would chose to live a lower life like that?

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