A person in his late 20s or early 30s aspires for three things primarily in his life: a) wife b) MBA c) house - not necessarily in the same order. Those who got into the marriage trap early usually go in for a house immediately - sense of security to have a roof over your head. When the marital bliss slowly fades, career overhaul takes a priority and this is when MBA figures in the scheme of things.
For V, the first and last happened in quick succession leaving the MBA out of our priorities for a few years. Rather, should I say the first time when the opportunity knocked on its door (IIM - Bangalore) in 2005, he let it pass until it happened again this summer.
We, as a family, can’t stay in one place for too long; we’ve moved every August for three consecutive years and then stayed put in Pune for three years - the longest since we’ve been married. Not every move to a different city/country has seen a change in job. This August it’s time to move again; the destination is Bangalore. V will be off to IIM Calcutta to pursue his MBA while LG and I stay in Bangalore.
This cycle started sometime in March - in actions but in thoughts it has been there for longer. There was a complacency, you know the familiar “hitting the glass ceiling” kinda feeling. Everthying was good - comfortable life, good compensation, sane working hours, good recognition. There you go - when the going is good and you are comfortable that is the first sign to get out of a job because you stop trying for better things, in my opinion. V was contented and laidback - it was me who got the itch and pushed him for it. I threw a fit sometime in the last week of March when he mentioned about this course. I wasn’t keen on staying alone with LG for a year and wanted him to do something that is a residential program. We debated (heatedly at times) over whether to apply or not and decided to put it in the back burner for a while and focus all our energies on the residential ones. Five days before the last date for applying, in an impulse he got his act together and sent the courier one morning - essays written overnight, recos signed etc etc. He said, “Let me try. It’s just to get my confidence the motivation to apply for other schools.” I didn’t say much - I have it in me to not carry the aggression and arguments till the end - I lose steam somewhere in the middle. The rest is history - once the call came, the entrance and interview happened over a weekend at IIT Kanpur and he got selected. It just followed a natural course with everyone excited in the family and it was only expected of me to start planning on what to do next - logistics, planning, and how to manage the year ahead. I’ve lived alone in the past but with a toddler it gets a little dicey - knowing LG for one who can get a bump on his head in a second and finds the head rest of a sofa a comfortable place to rest his bum on.
I’ve never been a big fan of MBA. But it’s not fair to be so generic. I’m not a big fan of those MBAs who go to business school straight out of grad school with no experience, and later join the workforce as Business Analysts. Seriously, think of a Business Analyst taking requirements from banking veterans and then going on to argue about how a stock trading system works. It’s a different thing to have hands-on experience on something even if you don’t have the industry experience. Bookish knowledge and endless hours of arguments (fancy name: case studies) is what the country’s B-Schools teach. This is not my imagination - I’ve had the (mis)fortune of working with a few IIM grads (yea yea the top tier Management Institute of tis country) on a Asset Management Project. I don’t care what they go on to become later in life because it would be unfair not to acknowledge some of the greats those institutes have produced such as KV Kamath. The point is I truly admire business grads and schools abroad because of the emphasis on work ex. It’s the concept in India that I have a problem with - when they join the industry straight out of college after MBA, they pretty much suck which is fine. My grouse is they carry it on their heads that they know it all and are never ready to acknowledge that and learn!
Off track again..this is what years of working business analysts does to you. Anyways so what made the decision easier was the following:
1. Was there a better time to do it than now? No. The ideal time would have been without a spouse and with no family. Spouse is still ok but it gets complicated when there is a child with the emotional factor of separation thrown in. We can’t change that now for us. It will just be much more harder a few years later, so it’s better to just do it now and get over with it.
2. Next in the criteria was financial standing. It seems as this stage we can pull this through with some funding with neither of us being employed for a year. With LG starting school in a few years, commitments will rise and second thoughts will come in. As compared to other schools such as IIM A, ISB which come at much higher cost, this fared better. So it’s a tick on that front too.
3. Is this degree really required? There is no single answer to it and not a straight one for sure. Even if there is no benefit of it, education has done no harm.. has it? Moreover, one of the reasons one does an MBA is to get an entry into some of the companies where otherwise it would be impossible to be heard, much less be entertained - the likes of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs etc. Contacts, alumni and transition to different role/industry are the other obvious advantages - how much you leverage these is up to an individual. The school provides a platform and an opportunity which would otherwise be very difficult to get. And in my opinion, this is what you pay for!
So, I guess the decision is made!
“I don’t have the bandwidth”, I said a few weeks ago in a conversation with a person from a different field. I didn’t realize it when I used it the first time; when I repeated the cliched expression a few minutes later, the puzzled look on the person’s face made me clarify what I meant - in simple English. I meant to say, ” I don’t have the time and resources to do what you are suggesting.”
Cliched phrases such as this one are used liberally in the Indian IT industry. It’s not a good idea to use these jargons to appear cool in front of people who are not from your fraternity. For fun, I made a glossary of some commonly used phrases and what they mean:
Let’s think out of the box: Means “Can you creatively challenged people come up with fresh ideas?” Funny to assume how by saying this, people expect others to wear the creative hat and start churning out new ideas by the dozen.
As a child I was nosy and would often fancy being a journalist once I grew up. The image I carried of myself was that of one dressed khadi kurta with a white salwar, big black-rimmed glasses with a chequered jhola hanging over the shoulder with a leaf of papers / pen in one hand. All my imaginary colleagues were dressed in a similar ruffled fashion. How ‘70s right? Lot of day-dreams during those growing up days before I succumbed to the usual rut of studying engineering to code java in a software company culminating with an onsite assignment.
Recently, something good came of this blog. Finally. An editor attached to a reputed publishing house discreetly contacted me; one thing led to another and before I knew I was summoned for a meeting in person one evening last week. The thought of lugging around Lil’ General for a discussion across the city was weird at first but there was no way out. It was kind of V to drive back from the city to accompany me and watch LG. It’s been a good year and half since I’ve met with someone in a professional setting; this was very different from my previous interview(s) in the IT industry. For one, I knew what I wanted in IT – role wise, compensation wise and what I could give back to the organization so that both of us benefited from the association. The publishing industry is new to me but I am very excited to learn. This is an opportunity in disguise.
Over the years, I’ve visualized a media house to be some sort of a crazy place - far from being organized. I carried images of people running around, scrambling to edit some piece at the last minute, exchanging stories, finding appropriate reruns when short of news items and always staying up late to meet deadlines and get the paper out the next morning just in time. What I saw was so very different from this image. The people were real for one and ordinary ones – not the hippies I had imagined them to be. The editor was cool – chilled out who didn’t speak some fancy language. That was a relief. And more importantly dressed casual. The workplace was similar to any other IT organization – divided into cubicles – only the barriers didn’t matter for there were islands of people chatting (umm, discussing) away in every corner. And like many It offices, people in the same floor didn’t quite know what the guys in the extreme corner did – let alone their names. It was chaotic but in a nice way.
The editor had a corner office full of magazines and other national dailies. And I did get a glimpse of what was to appear in the next day’s paper. No sneaking – it was out there laid out in full on his desk. Cool, right? After a good wait of about 30 minutes, I got to meet him in person. What came out of that meeting, only the coming weeks will tell. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant experience and I was impressed beyond words how creative juices flow – one idea after another.
As they say, ideas are capital; the rest is just money. It can’t get more real than this.
Often when other women - mothers and otherwise - ask me what I do, I keep it simple by saying I stay home and have fun with my son. Because that’s what I do. No complications answering I’m a freelancer juggling writing and stock trading with some more fancy terms as stay-at-home mom thrown in. Unless specifically asked neither is the past history of working revealed. Past experience has taught me this works great for two reasons: one, if the other lady has a similar history of working and now staying home with the kid, then it opens a can of worms with non-stop whining and bitching about the lack of support system blah blah that doesn’t help me anymore - it’s just depressing. Secondly, it gives room for other interesting topics to talk about that doesn’t involve kids, notes exchange on their vaccination programs, feeding habits and sleeping schedules.
Working women think it’s cool to be a freelancer earning good bucks from the comforts of your home and staying home with your child. Mothers who quit their jobs feel they wished they could do that too and earn some money while on a break. But the truth is that I’m a starving (so to say) freelance writer with the checks always in the mail and never making it to the bank. People who change tracks or careers mid-way through their professional life have a plan and build on the secondary one slowly before making it their primary source of income. They don’t give up their job that pays their bills first while trying to get the hang of the other one. I planned but executed poorly. Didn’t have no plan B if plan A didn’t work. No backup - it’s good at times not to have plan B because that’s what you give your full - some call it commitment. Per Plan A, I write. A lot sometimes. I’ve been flexible accepting assignments I don’t necessarily enjoy but the check is assured and a little practice and building on credentials hurts no one when you’re starting out. Contrary to what most people think that online writing is easy and pays well, most of the jobs are ugly and pay in the range of Re.1 a word. Imagine if you were to make a living with that kind of payment how hard one would have to work!
The area I’m told to have failed miserably is in marketing. This is an age of self-promotion. I mean look at all the blogs - the bloggers being a good case in point. It’s a vicious circle - people spend hours on end everyday commenting on each other’s blogs patting their backs for every word uttered - be it right, be it wrong all too careful to be politically right and not highly opinionated unless you are very popular. Nothing wrong in that you might say! Sure, if it’s worth the effort and a means to what you ultimately want - traffic, popularity and credibility. Just being good without shamelessly self-promoting will not get you anywhere. Sell, sell and sell - to editors, publishers if you want to earn the moolah. I’m learning my lesson and hope to be out of the starving phase soon enough. Spread the good word. So long!
Rewind to year 2002. A team mate - a very social and outgoing person - was pregnant with her first child. She made the announcement while going through what seemed like a tough first trimester. With an understanding manager who didn’t insist on her turning up for work at 9:00 a.m. for the status meetings, she reported late most days while coping with her morning sickness. And she got back home early evening after staying at work for 4-5 hours a good part of which was spent in munching healthy foods on the desk and sharing it with her colleagues. So long the work got done no one really bothered and the rest of us were happy to help her out just as we did with others going through rough patches. Wondering how unprofessional? Well, for one not being professional at all times get work done and two - we had built that bond after staying through thick and thin in the same project for over a year and half. All seemed well until things started turning sour. Soon, this pregnant lady was observed being taking advantage of her manager and nice colleagues. Reporting to work late even when well was now a habit and encouraging others (two other women in the team got pregnant eventually) to do so was rubbing off the wrong way demoralizing the remainder of the team who had to put in long hours to complete the work of these women. The initially nice to-be-mommydom was beginning to affect the productivity of the rest when in the most serious of moment would pop an apple out of a drawer or the to-be-mommies would insist on dragging the rest of us down to the canteen. Read more
One of the country’s largest corporate houses - with whom I had been associated for a significant part of my career - ran a print ad a while ago. An internship program called the “TATA Second Career” was targeted at experienced women in Pune and Mumbai who had taken a break in their careers for whatever reasons. I missed this ad - yes, at times there are days in between when I don’t even glance at the paper. V who sights opportunities as these to boost my non-existential career persuaded me to apply. I did 3 times with different ids as advised after a lot of follow up with the TSC team - it’d be better not to comment any further on the online registration process. Anyways, they were very helpful over the phone and saw the registration process through.
I got the first screening call last afternoon. For once, I was not asleep, cell phone not in silent mode and neither was I cooking - which I usually do at that hour. With LG asleep, I was browsing the latest issue of Businessworld and was in a frame of mind to take calls. It would have been a total letdown to answer “what are your expectations?” with a apron on and stirring the gravy for dinner. The call was short and went well given the limited interaction I have with humans other than immediate family and grocers.
It was 9:05 p.m. Sunday night. We’d just returned home after looking at a few apartments in the city and I was done feeding Lil’ General his dinner when the phone rang. It was my brother - he asked me the usual question - what I was doing. I told him I’d go to the supermarket down the road to pick up vegetables for the week. “You’re a housewife!”, he exclaimed as if it was a discovery worth going down in Record Books Read more
I MAY never go back to doing what I did for 7 years until a year back; if circumstances are favorable. But, as they say, never say never, so you never know what future has in store. There were times I enjoyed the ride and times when I waited to get out of the rut; the rat race was getting to me. But, let’s face it - one needs a paycheck at the end of the month to keep the family wheels running. In total honesty, the paycheck was good and was the only motivator to keep going. That job of 7 years was my career - I still love programming a lot but from the confinement of my home; that I thought would last a lifetime. Nothing wrong with it. How many of us change our careers mid-way? It was a reliable source of income and I never cared so much at the end of the month when money got deposited into my bank account. Sometimes, I would never check until it was the 4th or 5th day of the month. It was taken for granted. Read more
OK, firstly, I had never thought in my wildest dreams that I would use this term - “stay-at-home-mom” ever.
The jargons SAHM and WAHM (Work at home mom) that all the online mommy blogger community with so much ease as saying hi and bye, drives me up the wall. Yes, I DETEST the terms because so much is made out of nothing. There’s always one post everyday you can find on one of those popular mommy blogger sites, to begin with The Mad Momma who leads the online mommy brigand with her never ending rant on this topic that talks about the trials and tribulations of a mom staying at home and those working. I have nothing against her or the others, it’s their wish. But isn’t the grass always greener on the other side and neither of the parties are content with their status with something always to crib about and justify why they chose the path they did. Financial independence, what if something happens to my husband some day, what use is my Post graduate degree if I sit at home, diminishing social life, gender (in)equality etc etc - you know the arguments and the never ending justifications.
This post is anything but all of the above. V and I do talk a lot about how things have changed ever since I started staying home and we both constantly work all the time to keep me mentally stimulated (not necessarily gaining financially) with writing and trading for instance. The arrival of Lil General had nothing or little to do with my quitting. It just acted as a catalyst that I had been planning for a long time in search of something I liked to do for a career.
As we went for our evening walk today, something dawned on me when V said, “these are not my topics of interest to discuss”. For some relationships, intelligent conversations provide that spark and you connect on a mental plane that no mushy or mundane conversation ever can. The dark side of my staying home has changed the way we connect. It is no longer about which corporate bagged the huge deal or how much profits our respective organizations made that quarter or what new hiring policy was going on or which moron MBA (oh I have a lot of issue against the MBAs and it’s no secret, at the risk of some of my good friends taking offense like MD, AK) got in as a new business analyst with zilch knowledge about systems. And we loved these conversations talking into the wee hours lying on the couch as weekend(s) passed by and we wouldn’t have moved our bums out of the damn house! There was always something to debate on. Now suddenly all of it has changed. I am the sounding board with very little to contribute. My window to the world is the Internet and Economic Times, which if I am lucky I get to read some days else it comes out of the potty next day from LG.
Every evening, I still have a lot to tell as V gets back from work. Not about who put in his paper or what mail my manager sent with screwed up grammar. It all revolved around which salesman came and at what time of the day - sometimes to the precise minute. I rant about the fights my maid has with her daughter-in-law, how the people downstairs spend loads of money on their wood work or how bad the noise level was from the neighbor’s house who just turned his driveway to set up a atta grinding machine and how the neighbour lady looks svelte all the time and impeccably dressed. Its more about the vegetables and groceries than the deadlines and milestones at work. Nothing interesting..all the mundane stuff with some exciting tidbits on how LG entertained me and kept me productive.
This life is convenient. I am in a comfort zone now, having stayed away from work for a year. But this is black hole. You just get drawn deeper and deeper by the day. I’ve no idea where I am going with this post…its all muddled in the head right now as I try to find my answers of how to take it forward staying at home. Maybe those of you who work from home as freelancers can show me some light as to how you compensate for the lack of working in an environment with people mushrooming around your work place.
I’m a self proclaimed recluse now - incommunicado with most of my friends, former acquaintances. I am just tired of answering the question, “Where do you work?” which is immediately followed by “Why am I not working?” The already small social circle is diminishing at an alarming rate now.
Just so we can set the record straight I’m very much employable and in the job market, much more than most of you who have posed this question to me. I am not trying to be rude here while stating this but just getting the facts right.
So, why does this kind of conversation get on my nerves? Times have changed and I’d rather not compare our parent’s generations with that of ours. On the lighter side, being an Aquarean means there is some part of insanity built in. On a serious note, it takes me down the depression trajectory. I’m not looking for sympathy because there is no sacrifice being done here, so please don’t make me a martyr. I did not trade my career for Lil General.
If people cannot come to terms with the fact even after 9 months that I am a mom and will be home (or as the fancy jargon goes for people like me stay-at-home moms) taking care of Lil General and feel bad for my situation every time I talk to them, then I’d rather keep away from such company.
For us there was never a if-else-if or choices in raising Lil General. After I conceived, we never discussed as to which parent would come over or if we would hire a full time nanny to take care of the kid. This debate never happened - amongst us or with rest of the family. It was a given that I would quit and stay home - not a forced one but something that I was more than willing to. Find some sanity for a while away from the rat race.
I have never experienced this before so I am not going to make it sound like this is all hunky-dory. Life has changed dramatically, more than anyone can take. Its a huge change from being busy for 7 years to staying home for starters. And to add to it, doing household chores from the crack of dawn until the half the world goes to sleep. Midnight feeds and changing diapers feels good initially but MONOTONY creeps in sooner than later. There are days that don’t begin because the previous one never ended. And ones that never end. There are phone calls I miss, birthdays I forget, days when I don’t look in the mirror and some that goes by without talking to anyone apart from V. And afternoons when I feel like resting my bones, LG is hyperactive playing merry go round around the bed that I can’t catch a wink. And the BIG FAT pay package gone. Who said it was an easy ride? It would be inhuman if I just switched roles from a career woman to one like an experienced nanny overnight. Once a decision taken, I’d rather not weigh in my options in every conversation. But whats important is that I’m ok with all of this. This hard work doesn’t earn me a penny but it gives me that million-dollar smile.
Call me foolish, call me outdated, call me whatever you would like but spare me the routine of asking that same damn question over and over again as to why I am at home taking care of Lil General. Parenting does not seem like a lucrative career option. And lets not forget the social standing among the corporate friends where you are judged by the double income.
Why am I doing this?
- Family matters. Period. A great deal of time and energy is lost when both couples work. “Send your child to the best day care and he will send you to the best old age home in town”, i read somewhere. I am not looking for LG to take care of us in our old age - this is not a deal.
- I’m too possessive and protective to let him grow at the hands of anyone else for now.
Maybe I will go back to work when I feel he has grown enough and I feel comfortable. Maybe not. until then please don’t make it sound like parenting was too lowly a job to have traded my career for.