Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I can't be fired...

I belong sporadically to the league of women which has been in existence for as long as men and women have been alive. It's called the league of stay-home-moms or housewives. We could have formed a regular workers' union, but that would have been been extremely detrimental to the fabric of society. As strikes and bandhs are a big part of being a union member which essentially is an arm-twisting of sorts, moms perhaps could have won on the wages deal but probably lost out on the human level. I cannot even begin to imagine the repercussions of regular strikes on a family structure. Even erratic ones would cause a pandemonium. I would have to say the reverberations would be felt in not one but many departments. Hunger and starvation would be acutely felt despite the presence of food, geography would be re-written as dirty laundry would form the newest ranges of mountains, the desert itself would settle down in the house, and fathers may never want to return home perhaps giving dead beat dads a run for their money. But these are merely the physicals. The emotional and psychological toll would be immense. On the other hand, this scary scenario may never occur, life would be bliss, and independence and survival would be two skills polished and honed to the hilt. 

Like regular workers' unions, we do not fight for our rights for fair pay because we do not get paid in cash or simply stated we do not bring home a pay check. In reality we should get paid like the kings' physicians in the gone by era when they were paid for all the times the king was healthy (and busy with shelling out orders for heads to be crushed or brought to his majesty's presence on silver plates). When the king fell sick - well that was the time for no-payment, because then it would be clear that the physician was no good and that his powers of pre-emption did not serve the desired purpose of keeping disease away from the king. Likewise we should be paid in hard cash as long as husbands are looking well-fed and not running around naked on the streets, children are healthy and happy (?) and not going around shooting people, the house is in working order and has not been blown up by confused but fatal family activities. I know of some mothers who have been rewarded for raising the best killers and terrorists. How about for some recompense for just raising normal sane healthy children and honoring reasonable and desirable husbands. 

In all honesty, I am relieved that I do not have the sword of getting fired hanging over my head. I just want to assure people that in the past and in the current years as well, I have felt - like the rest - the point (of the sword) graze me every now and then, but have usually gotten by - tucking the sword away somewhere safe. Let's just say we can't ever be fired because we hired ourselves and at most we can fire ourselves. For most of us, this has also been a time of rumination, discovering ourselves, and finding joy in what's closest to our hearts. Nonetheless, it's not as if moms and wives of the world are sitting cozy twiddling their thumbs. We have our work cut out but we do not have to answer any one or any bosses. Neither do we have deadlines. We do not have to be told things because we usually finish our work on time despite all the mindless groanings and moanings and the perpetual questions of what were you doing at home. Well for starters, we lay the foundation for mankind, so that husbands and children specifically would be ready to take on days and life itself. We see that they are nurtured, encouraged, and ready to go.  Their nourishment is ensured by serving them cooked and ready to eat meals in clean plates, while wearing unblemished and sometimes ironed clothes, and all this in a spic and span house. We fix little hearts, broken toys, and sometimes broken doors as well. As my friend Chhabi's irrepressible Calvin said things miraculously appear when moms look for them; so we provide repeated instructions to the family on how and where to find their things. We go crazy clearing after hurricanes that hit every room of the house with a sinister regularity known only to exist in the celestial world.

That brings me to the question of whether school and education for girls was really such a bright idea. I would have done the housework as well or as badly, with or without education, and with or without an additional job. Candidly speaking, my education did not make an iota of difference in my choosing family over career and other life altering decisions of the kind. Like all things, this too was a choice. The thought of course does not include women who made the wise decision of staying single without husbands, boyfriends, or children. But perhaps some validation of moms' work at home with kids and husbands is a little over due. Yes we've heard plenty about how this is the hardest job in the world and blah blah blah. It is actually not the hardest job. It is however one that requires a multitude of skills that have to be peppered with loads of patience and ingenuity; along with the ability to multi task. It also requires a head that can spin in all directions without losing focus. At most times, the condition of moms-at-home is really akin to the Dissociative Identity Disorder, where possessing  one personality does not work. We learn to speak in tongues, use mild cajoling, even use harsher measures of spoons and spatulas occasionally. We have our free time but our work also includes late hours which extend well into the night. It is however a job that has no recognition, no incentives, no immediate returns; plus it's a job with not too many thankyous thrown in. There are no medals awarded to a mother for a job well done either. With such few options of personal gain, I wonder why this well never runs dry. On the bright side of things, there is no company that dare think of firing this brood of mothers ever. Zig Ziglar said: when you do more than you're paid for, you'll eventually be paid more for what you do; and to that I say let's keep on truckin'.


  1. Vonney Andrews: You're awesome!!
    I have gone on strike sometimes, and although it might jarr I think it has improved my workplace mental health and saftey standards.I'm all for doing what I have to for my children and husband but not at any cost as I am a limited human being .I think that needs to be factored in even though it is more often than not overlooked. In terms of pay- I see it as investing in the future that may or may not pay dividends that's the risk. hopefully your children's care for you when you're elderly and vulnerable will be the pay off of tenderness that is priceless love. xx Von

  2. Jaiya Venkat:
    Beautiful, honest & perfect description my dear friend.....the last paragraph stands apart & so rightly expressed.

  3. Rohin Parekh:
    Straight from yr heart jo.. well expressed and damn right about the issues we go through in our daily life.... candidly expressed. I like yr measures u use.... spoons and spatulas/ very interesting! I guess for me my role is to keep doing without any returns and this selfless doing for few gives me immense pleasure but still waiting, as zig Ziglar says.. u will b paid more for what u do.....!!! well done Jo. And stay calm and do not over use yr lungs!!

  4. Nan Joshi:
    Wah wah meri Budded buddy . . . kya likhti ho ...
    Ma'sha,aaaalaaaaah !

  5. Jim Decouto:
    Yey to mum's at home
    YEY to M&M's (multi tasking mum's)
    Long impacts spats & spatulas - hurt then, but now mum & i laugh about it.

  6. Neera Pant:
    Great piece Jo.. would like to trade places sometimes as work can be exhausting even though its teaching..and then home... too much multi tasking at times for me..hard to remain sane and focussed.. You seem to have done it wonderfully..

  7. Raman Sinha: Honest description but 'textual ' in nature !!

  8. Rohin Parekh: October 15 at 2:54am
    My reading was.... that u translated, expressed and paraphrased your thoughts, and feelings so candidly through your writing in the form of text.

  9. Chandrika Sharma:
    Great write-up...straight from the heart and hearth! Keep on truckin!

  10. Abha Chadha:
    You definitely can't be fired but always have the option to quit.. and that puts you in the driver seat :)) at times it is a thankless job but where would your family be without you.. well done !!