Sunday, April 14, 2013

Do we really need to Justify?

Its getting repetitive and it is nowhere near ending.
And we do this to each other again and again and again.
Lifestyle choices need not be justified until and unless they affect the larger good of a large number of people.
If the personal is not overflowing into the public, let it rest.
If my decision has an impact on me, my family, my community and society at large it is for me to think, introspect and act.
In the process of justifying my choices do I judge others unfairly? 
Are my reasons in any way a reflection of a desire to assuage my own guilt and confusion?
To feel safe in others acknowledgement?
Today we tend to feel better about ourselves by thinking less of the it people, lifestyles or choices.

The above could apply to anything and so many things but today it is in reference to this article in Huffington Post titled " Dear daughter, here's why I work".  I was appalled to read the letter which supposedly addresses an eight year old child. The child asks her Mother if she loves her work more than her and her brother. This is a question which most working moms have heard in their lifetimes.
It will not be wrong to say that this questions is not uncommon for the stay-at-home moms too.

Behind this question I perceive an innocent attention and love hungry child seeking reiteration and declaration of love from the one person she values the most...Mother. It definitely did not warrant a reply and I quote here "The question breaks my heart, and as you are almost 8, I'm pretty sure it was designed to. Don't worry; I don't hold it against you. Daughters are meant to know and agitate their mother's vulnerable spots --it's part of the special intimacy we share. I did the same thing to my mom, giving her the business for going back to work part-time when I was a even older than you, after she'd spent years at home raising me, my brother and sister. I'll be sure to bring our conversation up over and over again when you're an adult and facing the same kinds of comments from your own daughter, like my mom does to me. (P.S. Mom, really sorry--again!)".

Is it really an eight year old child being addressed here?  The Author just called her daughter manipulative, inferring that the question was designed to break the Mother's heart,  all the while being guilty of the very same thing...manipulation.
 She tells her not to worry, that this will not be held against her. Was there a chance of this Mother holding a grudge against her child for having asked this question ?
And what could be behind the laced threat of I will surely bring this conversation up again and again when you are in a similar situation. Is she being vindictive?
And how can she predict what her daughter's life will be like or has she already made the choices for her daughter?
Will the Mother admit falling flat on her face when and if the daughter chooses to stay at home to do an equally important and rewarding 'job' of taking care of her children?
Will the Mother be sour if the daughter is blissfully happy with her choices?

 I will refrain from discussing at length as to how the definition of normalcy and surreal are different for different people.
 Leaving a three month old child behind, to get back to work might be surreal for the author. 
And agreeably, going back to work could mean going back to normalcy for many.
But for many others, leaving behind a vulnerable, dependent three month old baby to go back to work maybe extremely irregular and unnatural.
Understandably for some its not even a choice but 'majboori'(lack of choice) financial or otherwise.

The Author goes on to compare her love for her job to her daughter's love for art. Which was alright till she asks her daughter"What if I told you it was your art ... or me? Sure, you'd choose me (I hope) if you had to, but wouldn't that feel like an unfair choice to make?"
This bit is confusing for even me ,an adult. Its sends mixed signals. A bit of misplaced blackmail and then grovelling for love. The Author expresses her hope that her child chooses her over what she loves to
Is this not a Mother clearly hoping to hear that she would be more important in her child's life, above all other things.  
She specifically refers to her child's artwork/passion.Why is it necessary for me to turn my passion and creativity into a full time paying job? It may actually kill my joy in it.
Is the eight year old child not expressing the same hope when she asks if she and her sibling are loved more than their Mother's job?
Don't we as human beings inherently harbour a desire to be loved and cherished unconditionally?

 "And if you do, I hope your love of creating doesn't get sacrificed for the people you love, whether you make money from it or not. I hope you choose a partner that wants that for you too."
When did sacrifice as a quality become dishonorable?
Maybe my reference points are different or I sleepwalked through a time when I became more important than we, us, family, and community.
The Author hopes that a love for work or creating is not sacrificed for the people you love.
Tell that to the women who leave behind flourishing careers to attend to their children because they feel instinctively, that it is the right thing to do.
Tell that to a husband who takes voluntary retirement to attend to a sick ailing wife.
Tell that to a son who returns home, leaving behind better career prospects to be closer to his aging parents.
I know all of the above. People who do not think twice in giving up something they love for someone they love.

"I work because I love it.
I work because scratching the itch to create makes me happy, and that happiness bleeds over into every other area, including how patient and engaged and creative a mother I am."
 The above reasons are reasons which I can finally relate to.
This is exactly why I started working part time.
It gave me an opportunity to scratch that itch and yet do it on my time and my terms.
If something makes me a better , happier Mother why not?
Be it a stay at home Mom or a Working Mother...Motherhood is super challenging and super rewarding for both.

"I work because this nice house and those gymnastics lessons and those sneakers you need to have are all made possible by two incomes."
I wish you had not given this embarrassingly skewed logic after you were so honest and endearing in your reasons of doing it simply because you love it and the fact that it makes you a better person, a better Mother at the end of the day.
You just told an eight year old that she would be less happier or a lesser person if she did not have that pair of sneakers. She was much better owning them.
Are a nice house and fancy gymnastic lessons so important to one's well being I wonder?
Is success and happiness limited to a well paying career and material acquisitions?
It seems to me that in absence of any other reference point, success or purpose in life has become synonymous with running after objective happiness.

 "'d never ask your father why he works. His love is a given that long hours at work do nothing to diminish."
The above statement is not true. My children ask their Father for his time and attention. His long hours at work have lead to a feeling of alienation and have not been the best moments in our family life. His time and attention are equally important.

The Author makes me feel that in order to earn my children's respect and pride I need to be  financially employed. If it refers to being able to indulge in my creative passions I stand corrected. But for that I need not be employed necessarily.
If I think that a job is what it would take for me to feel more pride in my Mother than I already have, I would seriously question my values.
Having said that I have tremendous respect for those many women who had to work to keep the home fires burning.

"I work because even at your young age you've absorbed the subtle message that women's work is less important and valuable -- and that the moms who really love their kids don't do it."
On the contrary my children think Mommy is a Super Mom without a cape. She can do what daddy does but daddy cannot do what she does at home.
They have an understanding that however fun Daddy is,  it is Mommy who is naturally gifted to be a nurturer.
It is only Mommy who has red flags being raised mentally, if they did not have spinach or Brussels sprouts in their diet at least twice a week. 
Daddy loves them but he does not have special powers which allows Mommy to know exactly what they are thinking or doing even when she is not there.
Even when I had not started working part-time, I had told them that Mommy chose not to work because she felt that, that was the right thing for her to do.
They are confident in their knowledge that all Mommies everywhere irrespective of what they do and don't,  love their children above everything else.

Let us not justify our reasons for doing what we do. If we are clear, secure and happy in our understanding  and our choices, there should be no reason to talk about it.
I  too am confident that all Mommies everywhere irrespective of what they do and don't, love their children above everything else.