I was having a conversation with some friends here in office at coffee. We are all a bunch of married women and sometimes, we do jump into talks of how marriage has changed our lives, sometimes for the better, at times, for the worst. I doubt there’s any one of us who doesn’t feel that they could have achieved more if they weren’t married.
Honestly speaking, I am one of them 🙂
But then, when compared to what we have (jobs, steady income) and what we have (husbands, families, children), the what-we-may-have-had seems a tad insignificant.
Seeing the larger picture puts things in perspective. But the problem is, we may not always be in a position to see the larger picture. We are in the picture ourselves. And from that perspective, it doesn’t help that we feel rather small 😦
Anyway, coming back to the discussion I had, we were discussing about what all criteria is considered for a guy to make a decision regarding on-site opportunities. It’s an open fact that all people in IT crave at least one visit abroad. Even if it means going for a week. So the guy gets an offer from office. He jumps with joy. Comes back home, shares the news with his family. His parents are super happy, his wife (if he has one) will be happy initially and then a bit sad that he wouldn’t be around for some time. The kids may/may not express joy/hurt whatever, it doesn’t matter. The guy packs his stuff (or in most cases, the wife OR mother packs his stuff) and off he goes.
Now supposing, a married woman gets the offer, the scene changes entirely. She comes back home, shares it with her family. There is initial joy, which is quickly replaced with hard reality. Who will look after the house? What about the kids? Who will cook the meals? Will the husband be able to manage on his own? If the children are school-going, who will take care of their studies?
If the woman has been married for a couple of years, it brings out another set of questions. How long will she be away? What about starting a family? What about priorities? And worse, she has to take permission. Right from husband, to in-laws to parents and every other person of relevance. At times, the girl’s parents jump to her rescue, agreeing to look after her family in her absence. This situation may or may not find favour with the in-laws, specially if they live with their son and daughter-in-law.
Even if the woman does get a chance to go, she is burdened with the constant worries of home and hearth, not because it is an in-built mechanism (as some would like to point out. Woman’s nature and all such crap) but mostly because she is constantly reminded of what she has left behind. On one hand, when a guy from on-site calls back home, everyone tells him to enjoy his stay, concentrate on work and not worry about home. But when a woman calls up, she is asked how much longer will she be away, she is updated about the smallest instance of ill-health of her child or husband and also the major issues plaguing the household.
These are real inputs from my female friends over the years. The trend hasn’t changed much, though the count of women flying overseas has. And each time, these woman have to fret over a zillion reactions from family members. There are a few lucky ones who have the support and encouragement of their families. But these lucky ones are a minority. For the chunk of the working woman populace, an on-site opportunity is a life-altering dilemma. To pursue one’s dreams/career or give it up for husband/children, albeit for a short duration?! I’m one of those who gave up on such opportunities more than once, but these decisions were taken before my marriage (at one time, I got the offer a month before my wedding, so I gave it a pass and opted for marriage 🙂 ). It doesn’t hurt as much because I know that the BF gave up the same opportunities to be by my side, once before our marriage (he was supposed to be in US and me in UK. So we both refused the offers and decided to get married instead 😀 ) and again, after the kids were born. He could have been promoted and earned bag-fuls if he hadn’t sacrificed then. But we have no regrets, because our ship is sailing pretty smooth right now 😀 .
The reason I thought of putting up this post today, is because, today at work, we had a session by Padmashree Mrs.Lila Poonawala.I must say, it was an awe-inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable session. Do check out her website. This is one lady with the right amount of guts and grit 🙂
The crux of Mrs.Poonawala’s talk was on women in the professional world. Of the perception of men about women and their performance. But more, on the women’s perception about themselves as career women. I’m guilty of some of the faults she listed, like thinking about home when at work and then about work at home. Worrying about what neighbours/relatives will say if I come back late from work or getting irritable at home because of some conflict at work. I’m sure many other women suffer the same fate.
But more important, the talk centered around how men should change their perceptions about women. About how a woman cannot achieve much if she doesn’t have the able support of her husband and family. About how a man should accept that his working wife is a professional too and if he gets late at work or has to go out of town for work, then she may have to do the same. If she trusts that he will not indulge in some hanky-panky while away from her, she deserves the same level of trust and acceptance .
And if, (this is a BIG if) she gets an offer to visit on-site, it’s the husband’s responsibility to provide her with the same level of support and push which he expects for himself. He should stand up to being responsible for the home and hearth in her absence. This not only allows women to become highly resourceful professionals but also makes their relationships stronger. Because in any relationship, if the man only knows how to take and not give, then that relationship is destined to doom, irrespective of whether the wife is a working woman or not.
Anyhow, the best part of the session were these four points that Mrs.Poonawala listed out, specifically for women :-
- Look like a girl
At any time of the day or night, don’t forget that you are a woman first. You have to look good to feel good. A little grooming does no harm. Learn to spend some time for yourself. Make sure your nails are clean and your hair is combed. A dash of lipstick hurt no one. And no wrinkled clothes, even if they are just jeans.
- Behave like a Lady
Just because you are working with men doesn’t mean that you start behaving like them. Be dainty, be nice. Speak softly , coherently. Don’t yell, don’t back-slap. Never forget that you are a woman. If a guy opens the door for you, be gracious enough to thank him. Don’t just shrug and say defiantly that you can open the door yourself. There are some liberties which come along with being a woman, learn to accept them.
- Think like a man
Ultimately, we are working in the men’s realm. It is their domain we infringe upon. For centuries, men have worked together. Their level of understanding and acceptance with each other is much different than what it will be with women. To understand their terms of working, learn to think like them. Learn to predict their behavior so that you can stay one step ahead of them.
- Work like a dog.
Because at the end of the day, we have families to look after. Because even if we touch the sky, we have to come down to our homes, our kids, our parents, our spouses. To look after them, to take care of them to nurture them. To be a woman first and a professional later. To balance work and home, we should put in 30 hours in a day. Or at least, learn to do so.
As I type all this, I realize that I’ve done more harm to myself as a professional than everyone else combined. I’ve taken wrong decisions at times, worried about the reaction of the other people concerned and then regretted it deeply. And as I type, I know the change that I need to bring about in myself. I don’t crave to be a super mom or a senior manager . I just want to be good at what I do.
No, that came out wrong.
I just want to be satisfied with what I do 🙂 .
Because at the end of the day, can’t keep anyone happy unless I’m happy, right?!