I bet most of you have no idea whether, after having a baby, I still work or have opted to be a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). In fact, a few of you who know me only through my blog, mailed me and talked as if you have assumed I still work. I don't know why that is, because never have I mentioned anywhere on my blog, whether I am a working mom or not.
Anyway, let me tell you. No, I don't work any longer. I have resigned from my job. I am a SAHM. (Isn't there a better term for this?)
Among all my friends, only a handful of us have decided to become SAHMs. Most of my friends have gone back to work months after having their babies. So I am aware I am in the minority.
Why did I choose this option? Before I start, I want to clarify that everything I say in this post is the way I look at things. I respect everybody's decision to do what they please. Parenting is all about making choices, and everybody makes choices that are best suited to them. There are different ways of parenting, and this is mine. There are no right things or wrong things, only perceptions.
Now that I have got that out of the way, let me go on to why I decided to be a SAHM.
*A baby has to be left with someone if I went to work, and that someone could be -
- My parents or In-laws - The baby's grandparents have already done their job of parenting. They have gone through all the difficulties and adjustments. They are now busy with their own activities. So why tie them down with this responsibility? They might consider it joyful, but a few hours, a few days are okay. But everyday? For years? It is not fair on them. Even if they were very willing, my conscience wouldn't have allowed it. If I had no other go, if I had to work to put bread on the table, that is another matter altogether. But that is hardly the case here! I heard about a child who stays with her grandparents while her parents go to work. Apparently the child is closer to her grandparents than to her parents. I would never have been able to take that. I would have died of jealousy! This option was so not for me.
- A maid - I am totally against the idea of leaving a child with a maid. It might be because of bad examples I have seen as a child, or it might be that I feel it is like passing on the responsibility to someone who is not quite equipped to do the job. Why, sometimes, I myself, in frustration, put on Discovery Channel and plonk Puttachi in front of the television to catch my breath. What is the guarantee that the maid won't sit in front of the television all day long? Puttachi already points out animals like giraffes and puffer fish in books. Can I expect the maid to teach her things like that? Besides, who will manage the maid? I have a friend who is a SAHM, has a full time maid and a cook who comes in twice a day, and yet she complains about lack of time. Why? Because managing those two maids is a huge headache in itself. Especially for people like me - I have absolutely no patience dealing with household helps and maids. So this option didn't even enter the picture.
- Grandparents - maid combination. The maid does all the child-related work, and the grandparents provide the atmosphere and correct upbringing. This is not my idea, this is something that has been continuously suggested to me by "helpful" people. I am sure it would be the ideal situation for many people. Yet, the grandparents are tied down. Feeding meals, putting the child to bed, constant entertainment and engagement for the child - these responsibilities remain.
- Daycare. I know friends in the US who send their daughters to daycare, and I know that it is quite evolved there. But here? I am not too sure, and frankly, I don't want to know either. Leaving my baby with strangers this early is quite frightening. This option didn't hold water in my book.
*Second, important point. I hardly was in love with my job. I was not too bad at it, and it had its advantages, but on many days, I would feel like the high point of the working day was the lunch break and the tea break. Add to that the strenuous commute in polluted and clogged Bangalore - I nearly resigned out of frustration a few times, even before Puttachi was nowhere in the horizon. So leaving my job wasn't a major decision. I did it quite willingly. How I would have handled it if my job was dear to me - of that I have no idea.
*Third - and this is the simplest, most basic reason of them all. I love to be with Puttachi. I love having her around. It is one of the greatest pleasures of life. Period.
One more thing. People ask me all the time why I chose to be with home with my baby after being so vociferous about women standing up for their rights. Please understand - working out of home does not imply empowerment. Empowerment comes when a woman has the freedom to do what she wants to do. Now, if I am forced to go back to work, and I do so when I don't really want to, then I am giving up my rights as a woman. But now I have chosen to be with my baby out of my own volition - and that makes all the difference.
But being a SAHM is not all hunky-dory. As much as I enjoy being with Puttachi, and caring for her needs, it is also true that sometimes I need to be away from her. I am sure she deserves a break from me too, once in a while. Besides, being at home all day means that I miss company. I want someone to talk about things that aren't connected to babies and parenting.(Which is why I don't read many mommy blogs). More than anything else, I crave intelligent conversation. Sometimes I get this urge to break open the walls and run outside into the sun. But this is a connected world. I make the most of the internet, and telephone. People ask me how I find the time to manage my blog. I find time for blogging like I find time to eat, and to sleep. My blog keeps me going. My connection with you - known and unknown people - acts like a spirit booster. Every comment makes me smile, makes me feel connected. So it is not really such a great achievement, maintaining this blog. :)
One more hazard of being a SAHM - since you are around to listen, you are given advice - unwanted and unasked for. You are also constantly told what a bad mom you are. I have a healthy belief in my abilities, but there are moments of self-doubts, and it is during such times that theese comments erode my fragile confidence, and it leaves me extremely frustrated. These moments can be very hazardous to mental health :D
Also, I must give credit where it is due. S~ has a major role in making my role as a SAHM smooth. He sees to it that he is with us as often as possible, and that is what keeps me sane. He takes over as soon as he gets home from work, giving me time and space for myself. He adjusts his time and works around things to ensure that I get to go where I want to, meet whom I want to, be with people I love, do the activities that are special to me. He bears it when I am being difficult. He tolerates my mood swings that arise out of frustration, and does his best to pull me out of the pits. It is because of him that I am staying happy as an SAHM, and that is the whole truth. Without his support and help, this option wouldn't have worked for me.
But it is also true that I don't want to continue this way for long. I'll rust and start creaking at the joints, and develop early Alzheimer's. No, thanks, I want to put that brain of mine to work in ways other than thinking up creative ways to make Puttachi enjoy her meals.
I will tell you about that when it happens. But now, I will enjoy the present moment.