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Every other day, a SAHM (Stay at home mom) or a WOHM (Work out of home Mom) posts her perspective, the web just goes abuzz with trails, discussions, justifications and validations. The comments spread like forest fires. Some show solidarity, others fiery crossfires. The WFHMs (Work from home mothers) too occasionally add their own lovely seasonings to the simmering broth. Before we know, we are already delving in the deep waters of identities and their crisis, complexities and prejudices.
If someone is perennially mum in this entire din, it is the species from Mars. Smart boys! For, they know how to save their skin, lest the fairer sex turns their guns on them ;-)
A peep into my own life and I realise that in the last 15 years of motherhood, I have tasted the proverbial 'ghat ghat ka paani' and have been stumbling over from one bucket to the other. Every phase had its own pitfalls and pains, charms and challenges, gigs and gags.
The highest common factor midst the grins and groans of every phase was a handful of 'well-wishers' always ready to poke and take over the task of mentoring you. Ironically, when it comes to the working/non-working debate the most pointed pokes are from our own gender. The 'lakshman rekha' between 'being there' and becoming too intrusive is perhaps so thin that before the 'Sita' inside realises, she has already overstepped that.
The compulsive 'agony aunts', whom I would love to call the typical 'Sarla Bhainjis' and 'Pammi Aunties' (yes, the characters that have already gone viral) and my learned and highly enlightened 'Ted Didis' who cannot resist the temptation to enlighten others.
1. 'You must take a break' kind of Sarla Bhainjis
When you are a working mother and have a few of non-working ones in your immediate circle, be prepared that your child's tantrums, husband's ratings, you gaining weight, you losing hair, your PMS issues and what not will be countered only by a, "But why don't you take a break?"
It's just their concern for you. You better believe that ;-)
2. Masters at infusing guilt
Must share this. There was this Sarla Bhainji, a nice acquaintance. My son had just started his school when I started working. The morning hours were a virtual tsunami. The kind hubby offered to ease out the situation by offering to drop the baby at the bus stop every morning. That gave me an additional twenty minutes to gulp breakfast and get ready (that included tying a saree too). Obviously, having started a new routine the baby exhibited a new mood everyday. This Sarla Bhainji would first ask the father at the bus stop why the baby wasn't smiling. Then, would answer herself ,"Oh, because mom isn't coming to say bye!" The baby would board the bus wailing with an outcry and a declaration,"Mama will drop me tomorrow."
The father would feel wretched as if he wasn't doing a job he so eagerly took over, quite well. She would go out of the way to reach me in the evening in the park only to say a,"The boys miss you in the morning." Enough to make my belly go churning with guilt.
The Aunty Acid inside me was rather too busy figuring out the best permutations and combinations for the baby and us that she could never shoot back, "Sarla Bhainji, why don't you adopt both of them if so much is the concern". ;-)
Only, with time are you able to insulate yourself. Whilst meeting and beating challenges, pokes like these do create a unnecessary ripples. With age and experience, you are more sorted and know how much to allow people to trespass your territory.
3. Culturally biased Pammi Aunties
When the urge to conclude is hard to contain and we need reasons to dissect people's decisions, let's blame it on anything. These are the Pammi Aunties who won't let fellow mommies choose to retire too in peace. The most hilarious one I've heard when a mommy chose to be a homemaker was,"Girls from @&#% community are never pushy enough".
You will find yourself rising in the eyes of the little elderly Pammi Aunties the moment you hang your boots. With all the degrees in your kitty, if you choose to be a full time mommy, it shows how cultured and demure you are. You rise even higher if you hang your boots despite having had a working mother throughout.
Try beating that now ;-)
4. 'Always ready to console' Pammi Aunties
You ought to be naive if you think that deciding to be a SAHM will stop the wagging of spicy tongues.
There was a time when a national level test was the 'be all' and 'end all' of my life. So much was I fired by the drive that I decided not to meet my 'then fiancé now hubby' for a good six months to be able to focus totally ( heights of focus ;-))
From when, I decided to be a full time mother, there were a few Pammi Aunties who did a 'rudaali' on how all that went down the drain and others who placed me on pedestals for having the 'gills' to do that. A futile exercise which neither consoled nor exonerated me, if at all it was meant to do so.
A woman's/mother's priorities and perspectives are solely her's and she is answerable only to the self if they change. Do we slog for our degrees to allow them to hound and chase the mothers and wives out of us later. Am sure not!
If our academic backgrounds haven't taught us to prioritise and take calls accordingly, they weren't worth the effort at all. Education must empower us to deal with situations holistically and not with issues and roles in isolation.
5. 'You must do something' Ted Didis
If one thing is changing the world's thoughts and perspectives, it's either the Ted talks (genuinely) or their desi fallouts whom I call the 'Ted Didis' ;-)
These are your learned working friends whom you love, appreciate and hold in high esteem for all the multi-tasking they are doing. But before you know, they've been so concerned and getting a diagnosis ready for you. Try telling them just in the passing that you feel like taking a break. They are waiting to shoot off their ever ready prescriptions. They will motivate and try to liberate you from your downtrodden state. They will look at you with so much sympathy when you make plans according to your maid's timings, child's tuitions and hubby's meals that you might actually start feeling you got to be 'rescued' from the 'so protrayed' drudgery !
The self styled awakeners and healers!
I hate to love them or love to hate them? Still figuring out ;-)
Not withstanding these few and far between pokes, the hopping in and out of every compartment (that's what we have made them) was worth every moment. From the fast paced regimented routine of one phase to the blissful nothingness of the other, I have loved, lived and felt proud of every stage and every decision I took on the way. The noise and din around does make you wonder why it was there at all. By just being there without suggesting and poking, we aren't being indifferent but beautifully sensitive.
The fact remains that every mother (SAHM or WOHM) is a juggler and remains a mother first and foremost. The world doesn't have to keep reminding her that. It is much easier to take calls when no one is watching you eagle eyed and the world is not dissecting your decisions.
Being shoved under any a category doesn't beget or take away any trophies. Inner callings, guilts and turmoils, all find their answers. It is the futile external exercise of justifications, validations and suggestions that somewhere demean the sacred efforts a mother puts in. Your working/non working status might never ever enhance your identity and your being a SAHM does not guarantee that you will make a better mother. Lets stop applying our own maths and science to it.
Each one of us has a Pammi Aunty, Sarla Bhainji and Ted Didi hidden inside us. Before I'm spanked for this rhetoric, let me tame the one inside me first that might just be raring to go ;-)
Lets have a truce, flow with the flow, focus on our own choices and make it easier for each other.... girls!
'Sahnoo ki' ( how does it bother us) should be the approach in matters not immediately in our domain ;-)
PS: Lest the undertones and names suggest this is community specific. It isn't !
Do share with fellow Bhainjis, Aunties and Didis :-)