I am suffocating. Literally! I am suffocating from the countless thoughts branching inside my head. I am choking from the unspoken words stuck along the passage of my throat. My facial muscles are aching from trying to maintain a smile on my face. The layers of make-up from my recently learnt make-up skills hide all proofs of sleepless nights and hard work; my dehydrated skin, the dark circles and bags under my eyes. I had either under-estimated the vigor of a one-year MBA program or over-estimated my abilities to multi-task between studies and family that I am breathless and panting. After five months into the program and 40 assignments later, I must be insane to even have the will to write a blog post, let alone the energy for it. But I need to do it, for my own good. Without offloading some, whether or not it makes any sense, I cannot drag on and I have seven more months to go.
I am a juggler here, juggling tasks with roller skates on my feet. I have been juggling fine so far. In fact, it’s not the act of juggling that bothers me. It’s just the number of balls in the air between my two palms that makes my head spin in tune. If I drop a single ball, my show is over and I have to go home packing. I am unable to attend as many “social events” with the class as everyone else and I feel guilty for excluding myself voluntarily. I am unable to give as much time to my family as I used to and it kills me when my son complains that I am “always working”. I split my time, that is, whatever is left (as if!) after the course work, between the two and that doesn’t seem to do justice to either. Damn! There are just 24 hours in a day and I don’t have a single minute to sit back on my couch, close my eyes and relax. My mind runs an internal calendar, scheduling sessions and meetings and setting-off alarms at weird hours. With plenty of people around, I feel lonely, lonely in a class of 80, lonely within my family, and lonely inside my head.
My husband is a huge help and along with his office work, he has taken on some of my share of the duties at home too while I cope with the readings for the next class. He is on roller skates himself. And without knowing our histories, some people do judge easily, don’t they? With two hyper children, no domestic help, no nanny support and draining financial reserves that makes hired help unaffordable, the pressure is high on all of us. From 2007 to today, we’ve spent years and years carefully building our nest from scratch to a comfortable home and good life back in India. All of a sudden, we are starting all over again in a different country. I sometimes question myself as to why are we doing this to ourselves when we have the option to lay back and get complacent? It is that answer that comes from deep inside that keeps me going, makes me want to push more and reach for the rainbows. The answer that simply says that I don’t want to give up.
Back in the 1960s and 70s when gender equality in India was even more elusive than it is today, my mother had studied medicine in JIPMER and practiced as a pediatrician. Given that her father, my grandfather had passed away when she was just 13 years old and that she managed it through her own efforts with three siblings to watch over, seemed like a mighty accomplishment to me. She was my heroine. And after all that, when I was little, she resigned her job, gave it all up and she did that to raise my brother and me. Every time I asked her, why did she do it, when I was much younger, she said that she had a choice between career and family and that she chose family over career. But I’ve seen her go glassy eyes many times and I knew that deep within she missed being what she could have been. I felt guilty. Was I a reason in a way?
As much as I am like my mother that she was and faced a few challenges myself, I don’t want to become the her that she is today. I don’t want to give up my career for the sole purpose of raising my children so that my daughter does well in future and gives up her career for her children tomorrow and so on with no one really doing what they wanted to do in life and everyone end up nursing an unexplained void. What’s the whole point? I remember telling my mother back then that when I become big, I need my career and family equally and would always balance both, no matter what. Its time I deliver on the promise. Today I am big and I will teach my children on how to balance so that they can do it and pass it on to their children and so on that the cycle is reversed for the better. I suddenly felt that my mother’s story has to be told and this post is my tribute to all those mothers who had faced or is facing the same fate that mine did.
These last few months has made me stretch myself to extents that I never knew I could. It has given me opportunities to constantly challenge myself and win over. Not just the MBA program but the whole experience has made me question myself and reinvent some of my own thoughts and beliefs. For the want of a fancy term, I would call it “self- actualization” and at the age of thirty-two, that is certainly something, isn’t it? As a student studying business, I need my return on investment and returns don’t come if we gape at the sky and wait for the roof to break open and pour riches. In my case, the return that I seek is not riches, or to be honest, let’s say, not riches alone. I want that perfect balanced life that people think is not possible. Career and family need not be mutually exclusive choices. I want to live and show that it can be done if we just make little sacrifices, put in a little more effort and have plenty of willpower and determination. To prove my point, I take a deep breath, drink another cup of coffee and strive on. All for the greater good! All for a better tomorrow!