It’s funny how every person you encounter has an opinion about your occupational status. When I decided not to work after marriage, I knew I wouldn’t be ostracised, since I was a woman, but I was sure to get bombarded with every Tom, Dick and Harry’s opinion.
“So what have you studied?” He had come home to congratulate us, the newly-weds.
“I am a Chartered Accountant,” I told him.
“Great,” he said. “Where are you working?”
“I have chosen not to work.”
“What? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”
No. I wasn’t ashamed. I was angry. I wished a lightning bolt would strike this man’s bald head and scorch him alive. As the years went by, things didn’t get any better.
Even after my sons were born, while half the population lauded me for being at home for them, the other half warned me that my sons would grow up into male chauvinists who assumed a woman belongs in the kitchen.
I knew they wouldn’t because they hardly see me there.
Being at home didn’t mean I am a domestic goddess. I am not. It meant that I could be there with my children when they flashed their first smile, took their first step and uttered their first word. It meant that I could drop them to school, help them with their homework and read out stories every night. It meant that I could kiss away their injuries, cry with them when they are bullied and attend all their performances.
Life in Mumbai could be more comfortable with a double income. So, my choice was a little difficult to digest for my husband in the beginning. Soon, he understood my perspective. He has stood by me and created an atmosphere at home where I could do what I love best—write!
Writing became a secret joy. I couldn’t describe myself as a ‘writer’ to anyone. How do I face the next inevitable questions?
“What have you published?”
“How much do you earn?”
And the worst…
“Shall we co-author a book? I’ll tell you the story and you can write it.”
So, whenever someone asked me what I did, I said: “Nothing!”
At this point, I realised how important it is to have a supportive husband. When people booed my career—or should I say ‘lack of career’—choice, my husband stood by me.
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He taught me how futile it is to argue with people’s opinions. He helped me cherish the nobility and peace that being a stay-at-home mom gave me.
He encouraged me to send out my work and bragged about every little story that got published. He gave me the confidence and strength to do what I loved doing and be proud of it. He appreciated every little thing I did on my own, whether it was taking the kids to the paediatrician or going on house-hunting trips with real-estate brokers who spoke languages I didn’t understand.
Yes, in spite of the single income and rising real-estate prices, we managed to scrimp enough to buy our own house. After the housewarming ceremony, an old lady—our new neighbour—came to meet us. As soon as she knew I was a Chartered Accountant, the questioning started:
“Where are you working?”
“Home,” I said.
“The mothering practice keeps me busy all day…”
“What? You are not working? That’s shameful!”
I was standing before her with a three-year-old and a six-month pregnant belly. “Who will look after the kids, aunty?” I asked.
“Kids grow up by themselves,” she said. She was a mother of two and has never worked a single day of her life. Still, she had an opinion. Thankfully, my husband shepherded me away from her and I did not utter any words that I would regret later.
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Yesterday, I met her again. These five years have changed her.
“Archana, how are you?” She called out to me. Her fragile shoulders were carrying a school bag, her grandson was on her hip and she was trying to feed him a banana, that he refused to have anything to do with.
“I’m fine, aunty. How are you?”
“It’s terrible. My son and daughter-in-law leave even before this boy wakes up. I need to wake him up, bathe him, brush his teeth, feed him and take him to school. I keep asking her to quit her job but she just doesn’t listen.”
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t rub it in. I kept my opinion to myself.