Being a work-from-home-mum has its disadvantages. You tend to switch on the laptop shortly after you’ve brushed, hoping to check your email before the rest of the house wakes up—just so you can plan your tasks for the day when you’re still sane. And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
After responding to a couple of important mails, you drag in the newspaper and milk packets and think about what to rustle up for breakfast, the kid’s tiffin, and for lunch, cursing yourself for not remembering to get that yogurt starter. All this while, of course, you’re drafting more email responses, charting out excel sheets, and ticking dates off calendars in your head. The house has woken up, maids are walking in, the kid has discovered crayons, and space is not something you can own anymore. You want to simply scream, push people out of the house, shower, and get down to serious business. But there is laundry to be done, motherliness to be shown. It is still going to be a couple of hours before you can find your senses, leave alone do some creative or mechanical work.
When you finally do settle down in your “office corner,” courier boys choose to deliver credit card statements, the electricity goes off a couple of times, and then it’s time for the kid to come home. Then, of course, there is the lunch and nap-time drill. Half the day is down already. You then desperately squeeze out every iota of working energy you have, chasing deadlines by the second and keeping a sharp ear open for the slightest stir from the kids’ quarters. By evening you are swearing to yourself that you must burn the midnight oil and finish a certain amount of work at least but fatigue takes over shortly before midnight and another day officially has to close.
The other downside of working from home is that you don’t get weekends off. Because the husband is home on the weekend and because there’s more people to help with the kid when you visit your mum, you fit in more work than on an ordinary weekday. You skip opportunities to hang out with friends and politely decline invitations to family get-togethers, hoping they will understand that as someone who is struggling to find your own spot in the sunshine, you need to work harder and make sacrifices. Unfortunately, they don’t. You are expected to pay your social visits more than ever now that you are “at home only” not working a nine to five job and commuting for hours. Apparently the latter merits more leniency than juggling two jobs, one of them involving a toddler. Due offense is taken, and you are outcast. Nasty jokes and sly taunts are cracked when you meet people next. It makes you sad. So sad. You are already unhealthy from ignoring meal times and not getting any exercise, and you’re already frustrated that you’re not making as much money as you’d like to, and then this.
But then,as in most happy stories, a sensible husband comes along and puts his hand over your shoulder and says, “Fuck it, babe. Look at our daughter—look how happy she is, look how secure she is. People may not understand it but we’ve taken some decisions together and as far as your work is concerned, it’s happening. Sarasvati has blessed us now; Lakshmi will bless us soon. Just focus on us as a unit and let everything else go to hell.” And although you want to mope some more, you know, deep inside, that you are ok. You will take greater control of your life and let barking dogs bark.
So, this weekend, I stayed away from my laptop and chilled a bit. I took some decisions about my health, and made a few rules. But most of all, I decided to care a damn about people who don’t.