She opened the trunk to search for a sari – the beige one with the golden border. It was gifted to her by ‘Ma’am’, the principal of the school where she worked as a coordinator.
They shared a bond deeper than the ‘official one’ of a school principal and a coordinator. She fondly recalled how the three of them – principal ‘Ma’am’, the primary school coordinator Shobha and herself – would have lunch together daily. They would talk about the school, their lives in general and share a laugh. They had bought the same saris to celebrate occasions like Onam at school. ‘Ma’am’ had gifted her this sari for Onam.
As she took out the sari from the suitcase, she looked at some 50-odd saris lying in the trunk – unworn and untouched. They evoked so many memories of the past – saris gifted by teachers out of love and respect, saris bought impulsively and the ‘three saris’ pact with ‘Ma’am’ and Shobha.
Tears welled up in her eyes. She missed those days. The break taken to raise her granddaughter was her personal decision. She had no complaints about this. Though running after her granddaughter, enticing her to eat her meal, singing songs, reading a book for her and being her playmate left her tired at end of the day, the unadulterated love given by little ‘Angel’ was far greater than any other she had ever received.
She did not want her daughter to quit her job when she was doing so well in her career and had further aspirations. Nor did she want to leave the little one in a day care centre or with a nanny, because she believed that the love and care shown by family members cannot be superseded. It is in these initial years that kids cherish the love given by their families. As they grow, this sense of cherishing disappears.
Although she loved her independence, she also realised that her granddaughter needed her attention and care. Because she was confident that she could restart her career, she decided to become a homemaker.
Thus, she took a career break again. However, although she cherished every moment spent with the kid, a part of her still yearned to work, earn her own money or spend a few hours outside home. When she visited malls with her family, she was no longer excited to buy the things she wanted. “What’s the need now?” she started saying, “do I use them at home?”
Somehow, not receiving that monthly income any longer made her feel really insecure, Though her daughter tried to coax her into buying things, she was unable to derive the satisfaction derived from spending one’s own money.
However, I am elated that she has finally found her calling by balancing both her desires to work and be a part of her granddaughter’s growing years. She decided to start a day care centre in her complex to leverage her rich experience in this line. At the same time, she realised that it would be good for her little granddaughter to spend time with other kids. Also, she figured that her granddaughter would have it easier once she started going to school.
I am very happy that my friend has found out a way instead of being miserable about her plight. As she is a ‘lady of steel’, I know that she will succeed in this venture.
Yes, I have been talking of my mother all this time!
As working mothers, there are days when we get frustrated with what we are doing and start to doubt our calling in life. I often wonder what it would be like to quit my job and instead focus more on my blog, writing a book, taking up salsa classes and spending more time with my ‘Angel’.
A Skype call is all it takes to stop these idle fantasies. Yes, despite these moments, I know that I chose my own profession and that is what empowers me.
The purpose of writing and sharing this is to reflect upon the phase of ‘transition’ which, I am sure, is seldom easy.
This new year, I had called up one of my closest friends. While both of us took up chartered accountancy (CA), she couldn’t clear her exams and hence took up a different job. She is a dedicated, sincere and level-headed girl who takes pride in working. She was always serious when it came to discussions about career.
Then she got married to a coworker in her office and moved to Cochin. The job required her to work throughout the night. However, things changed when she became pregnant. It was a high-risk pregnancy and the child was born prematurely. As a result, she had to quit her job and has been on a break ever since. Her son is now three years old.
She told me: “While I have no regrets having enjoyed every insane moment of Keshu’s childhood which would not have been possible had I gone back to work – somewhere, I miss working. I miss dressing up, going to office, talking to colleagues, the number game and those accounting breaks which I always loved. At times I have my bad days – a tiff with my husband, an argument with my mother-in-law or my child giving me a hard time. I know these are and will always be a part of life. But during my jobbing days, however sullen my mood used to be, I would forget all about it once I stepped into the office, got engrossed with my work and started chatting with my colleagues. When I stepped out of the office, I always felt lighter. However, now, it’s different. I don’t have a single friend with whom I can talk. Some of them are busy with their jobs and others are busy handling their babies. I wish I had never worked, like my other college friends. In that case, I would not have known the professional world and hence, I wouldn’t miss it now. After all, you cannot miss something you never knew, right?”
On hearing her plight, I felt very guilty for not having communicated with her for a long time. Therefore, I resolved to talk with her more often. I now know that she has been looking for a job for quite some time. But getting a job is not easy in a small city like Cochin – especially so for a mother who’s taken a break for three years.
I also spotted a similarity between the plights of my friend and my mother, as regards loneliness. Even if I may not be very social person, or a regular party-goer, conversations and gossiping at my office make me feel good. I could thus relate to her observation regarding the therapeutic effects of office environment on any of the ‘bad moods’ that one may be suffering from.
This post is not intended to urge stay-at-home moms (SAHMs) to get back to work. At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision dictated by circumstances. I have only highlighted the struggles and little victories of some of my near and dear ones who have seen this transition. As is evident, this is not easy, but they do say that every cloud has a silver lining. You just need to find yours!
Do share your story! How was the initial period post the ‘big’ decision? How is it now? Do you plan to resume work or start with an alternate career? I will be happy to hear all your thoughts in the comments section.