It has been 9 months since I quit my IT job (of more than a decade) to stay home with my now, 3.7 year old son. I have been asked many times in these past few months about how the journey has been so far and whether I am getting bored staying home (Bored? Seriously? Does any parent ever get the time to suffer ennui?).
Here, I must admit that from time to time, I do miss the high one gets from receiving accolades and recognition from peers and superiors at work. After all, parenting was, is and will always be, pretty much an invisible “job” (For the lack of a better word, “job” will have to do here). As long as a parent keeps things in order and there are no “visible” calamities at hand, no one will pat a parent’s back or say “kudos” for a job well done. But the moment one messes up, even at the minutest level, there is hue and cry and tremendous judgment from all corners. (To be honest, every parent is both a victim and perpetrator of this “judging” phenomenon, myself included).
Anyway, to get back to my individual situation, I am still as involved (and busy) as I used to be when working, but my focus has shifted from trying to juggle way too many balls (and dropping quite a few, very frequently too!) to being “present” and grounded in things that really matter to me. It is not to say that being an earning member of society is something to be taken lightly (I can never, ever do that!), but right now, from where I stand, being able to give sonny his very own “individualized and customized” caregiver trumps the “joys of working”. (Of course it helps to have a hubby who works very, very hard to maintain the same standard of living 🙂 ). So until and unless I am able to find the right balance between working and living in the true sense of the word, work will have to simmer at my life’s back burner for a while.
So, yeah, that pretty much sums up my very own life challenge to resolve. And you have got to believe me when I say that for my individual case, staying home right now is the best option I could have chosen. Because I have tried all other options out there too! “Working Mom” model was extremely stressful and sadness-inducing for me (Daycare was a complete bust, sonny was sick all the time while I worried all the time!). Then “Work At Home Mom” model was slightly less stressful but physically exhausting (I was on the verge of complete burn-out; not everyone can function with 4 hours sleep in a day!). Hiring a nanny while working from home would not have succeeded for me at all because I am a control freak (There I said it!), especially when it involves taking care of sonny.
So, deciding to stay home trying to find my equilibrium was truly my moment of zen. Yet sometimes, when I am asked such harmless questions about boredom and how I occupy my time “now that I am not working”, I feel like my life choices are getting scrutinized to the core and maybe, perhaps maybe, I am falling short in the parenting department. After all, there are way too many “Super-Mom” celebrity role models out there who seem to “Have-It-All” without breaking into a sweat!
Of course, the random person asking these questions is, generally, just making small talk and the probing thoughts are just a product of my overactive mind…mostly. But once in a while, I do start questioning myself on whether I am just wasting away my time and my education being “unproductive and useless”. Nothing I am doing right now is tangible or measurable. So what makes me think that I could not do any better?
Then again, for some strange reason, I am way happier, stress free, peaceful even, than I was 9 months ago. I sleep better, eat better, laugh more, get time to read, pursue my other hobbies, travel more, spend more time with family (parents included) and most importantly, get time to play with sonny without constantly working out the maths of hours in a day and chores in my TODO list. I am present, now and here. That counts for something, doesn’t it?
But, then again, as Nigel Marsh, author of “Fat, Forty and Fired” points out in his thought provoking TED Talk on Work-Life Balance, “it is easy to balance work and life when you don’t have any work” (I am slightly paraphrasing here). And I start thinking about questions like what if hubby needs to take a break? After all he has been working non-stop and in highly stressful environment for more than 14 years. He too deserves a break. If he ever needs or wants one, he should be able to do so without worrying about the financial implications. So shouldn’t there be a way to balance the needs of my family with some amount of work in the equation?
Right now, I don’t have an answer. But, I am still looking and hopefully I will find “my kind of work” someday. And when I do, I will know for sure that it is the right thing for me and I will know for sure that it will not dishevel my sense of equilibrium and my feelings of zen. But till that happens, till I find that, I will continue looking.
As of now, I am not in a rush to get there. I am not time bound to reach. I stopped running 9 months ago and I intend to remain that way. Now, all I am doing is ambling on, sonny in tow, smelling the roses on our way and exploring the vast possibilities in our corner of the world. Who knows what we might stumble upon!