Monday, 27 July 2015

"Working From home" Not "Working For Home"


Once upon a time I dared to tell my maid that you are late. She replied while still checking whatsapp messages on her mobile, “The other madam was getting late for office, so she asked me to finish work at her place first.” I almost crushed the tea cup with my clenched fists like Singham in anger, pain and shock. I didn’t know I was capable of reflecting so many emotions at one point of time. What caused the emotional overflow was that, not even my own maid considers my working from home as actually working and the work flexibility cascades down even to her, without my consent, ofcourse.

Its not about the maid (only), it’s the general attitude. If I am working from home, I am working for home, that’s what THEY think.

It takes a lot of discipline, concentration and letting go, to sit down and work when the circus activities of the home never cease to carry you along. It’s a mad house and its easy to get weighed down by it at times. But I chose this.

I chose a different work style, this is the choice I made for myself and my family. Everyone is different, their priorities are different, their family requirements are different and so are there opinions about work. But does this give anyone the right to question someone’s career or look down upon them?

I have to myself, some short intervals to work with full focus i.e. from 10am -12 noon and thereafter from 1pm – 4pm. If I miss that, I have to put on horse blinkers and some ear plugs to get back to work with a lot of motivation from husband and threatening from the clients.

It’s a constant struggle to strike a balance between work and home. My brain is overworking all the time. Its like, let me soak the daal now, so that it can sit for a while before I finish writing the client mail. Why is that LPG delivery guy not here yet? Just one call will not harm anything and then get back to work with a single track mind.

I agree that you do have a domestic mind working behind the professional mind all the time. But does that mean I am not doing justice to each one of them? Does that give you the right to think any less of me or my working style? Should I care about what you think? Or am I just seeking some respect from both the worlds?

Here is a glimpse of my daily struggle, challenges and conflicts while WFH–

  1. I am always in my PJs – The iron-man (not that iron-man, silly, the press-waala guy) thinks I am saving on precious money. The neighbors think I am always sleeping. My kids ask me, “Are we going out”, if I am dressed otherwise. “Is someone coming”, husband remarks. And me, I think, they are most comfortable, no fuss, wrinkle-free and all season wear.
  There is not motivation to dress better. Forget the husband; he has absolutely no clue if I am wearing a Chanel or Jockey, i.e. if I do.

  1. People come and go and I am always working – It just never ends. When you do not have any strict working hours, you don’t need to swipe in and out of office, you are playing every possible role at the same time, there is no one monitoring your screen from behind, you get little distracted at times. But then you work overtime to makeup for the loss.
  2. No meal but always snacking - Eating has become a way to take a break. I am always opening the kitchen cabinets, looking for that one last thing to eat. I eat on the sofa, work on the bed and listen to music on the dining table while keeping a watch on the maid from the corner of my eye.
  3. Panic if I need to get out in the middle of the day- No, its true. There is a checklist that I need to tick off, before stepping out. Bath – check. Change of clothes – check. Sniff test for clothes I am wearing– check. Comb hair – check. Kids disarmed – check. Call husband to tell him about my will if I don’t return, ever – check. Mobile Data working – check. House keys – check. I am cutting the list short here, for the sake of brevity.
  4. Forget free office parties, say goodbye to good feedback reviews and RIP pay hikes.
  5. Flexibility is a universal thing – Flexibility as a freelancer to work anytime anywhere means a lot of things to a lot of people. Some people, like one husband, Day 1 (of 5 working days in a week) – Can you please renew car insurance? Day 2 – Can you check on that plumber? Day 3 – Can you drop by at school for Parent-Teacher meet. Day 4 – Can you give directions to the delivery guy that is coming to drop by some office package? Day 5- Can you research online about which is the best mobile in market these days?
  6. Network issues when office calls. This is a serious problem. Whenever some client or office tries to reach me, I am unreachable. So they assume that I am backpacking on the trails of Kerala or watching a movie in some remote theater. But if I am in the bathroom or missed the ring, the kids are the first to jump up and answer the phone. Not only they say that mom is taking a loo break, but they take turns to talk to the other person and cutely engage them for over 20 min or until the client disconnects. It is not just embarrassing and so unprofessional. It re-establishes the boss’s faith in you forever.
Its awesome and terrible!

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Reflections of turning 35! Its about celebration and not age

Spicy Saturday

I turned 35 recently. Calls, messages, gifts, bouquets, hugs and dinner, every cue I had subtly (yet loudly) dropped had been picked up to satisfy my birthday greed and I completely enjoyed it. Oreo and Brownie might not have been very happy with the adult ways of birthday celebration with no return gifts, magician, balloons or games, but what do they know.

But after the birthday celebrations were over, the reality of moving towards the late 30’s struck me. There are times when I tend to forget how old I am, like reciting Twinkle Twinkle when rolling chapatti (because that’s what I hear most often) or applying Barbie nail paint that Brownie sometimes allows me to borrow. But when I am asked over and over again with each birthday blessing call (disguised as an age reminder call), it is difficult to ignore the big number.

Did I say ignore, how can I ignore when my offsprings have a no-snooze-age-reminder setup loaded for me. They keep running back from park, yelling
“Sorry, how old are you, you said?” Oreo said, back from a discussion with friends and all-ears-moms around.
“35”, I am yelling again.
“Its easy to remember you know Oreo. You are 3, I was 5 until recently and so Mom is 3 and 5 together. That is 35. Its easy”, said an over excited Brownie.

Voila, what an impromptu trick. I should have appreciated it but the number carried me away. Number that keeps ticking in my head like a time bomb. 35! 35! 35! I keep reminding myself its just a number. But when I try remembering what I did in those 35 years that just poofed away, all I see is grey hair, extra kilos and stretch marks that stand as a testimony to something wise I must have done.

So here I am taking a retrospective look at the past years, in a typical Now and Then table format -

Who I was 20 years back – Ancient history
I weighed 44kgs, loved the mirror and fitted clothes
I might have been fighting a losing battle with the weighing scale but I am proud of all the stretch marks, the bulges, the flab, the double chin and the ever-pregnant belly. I carry it with pride like an injured soldier with his scars (whatever that means)
Never a topper in class or sports
Always a topper in class and every other field for that matter, if you ask my kids
Love (as misled by movies) meant, being good friends, romantic dinners, hand holding, surprise gifts and late night chats.
Now I love to swipe the credit card, call him for OTP and later end up paying cash on delivery for the purchase husband made for himself. I also ask him to save receipts of rare gifts he gets me so I can shamelessly exchange them later.
My Mom is a little drama queen when she said, 4 kids are too much, so I thought
Managing 2 small and 1 adult kid with tantrum throwing maids, can give you 5 grey hair everyday.
Good day meant a bowl of ice-cream
Good day means good bowel and a novel
Best food is found in expensive restaurants
My Mom’s food is the best. My kids have been not so lucky but then they have their Nani to look up to.
Oh how I wished for a TV or PC in the bedroom
A separate entertainment room with a lock where I can sit with my invisibility cloak on.
30 minutes in the bathroom were never enough
Bath, afternoon nap and combing hair, you can’t have it all in one day
Periods were the bad days of the month
They are good days when you actually have a reason to say no to lot of things
Outsourcing meant, job opportunities
Now it means a way to get away with boring and repetitive house chores
Shopping was for the ones with the luxury of money
Shopping is a necessity and meant for the ones with the luxury of time.
Track pants meant night wear
They are all day comfort wear and easily available in all shapes and sizes
All I ever wanted was 20,000 bank balance and small low maintenance apartment
I wish I can have a big villa, where I can grow my own weed and live happily ever after
Hated school
Love school as it means time away from kids and memories of good old days
TV meant MTV
TV means answering Dora’s dumb questions

You might think I am materialistic, mean and rather 53 years old. But the truth is that I now know, better than ever, what I want to be and who I am. My mantra for life has changed. One short life, forgive, let go and live it. Don't hold everything so tightly, let go! 

Somethings in me haven’t changed at all, like I still keep hinting everyone about the upcoming birthday and mandatory gifts. I am still greedy and super excited about my birthday, even though husband would keep trying to pull me back to reality and insists it is only meant for kids.

But there are times when I surprise myself like how I slow down around my kids, how I end up calling my mom everyday and enjoy a hot cup of tea with newspaper on Sundays.  I don’t feel like I am missing anything if I am not going out on the weekends. I never knew how well I could yell until I became a mom. I can also act well now, when the moment after yelling I turn around and beg my maid to do some more work at barely audible pitch and folded hands.  

There are lots of things that I still want to learn like salsa dancing, surf boarding and patience. But not everything anymore. I expected too much and gave back too little. I have finally understood that husband and I are at opposite end of the lover’s spectrum and deeds speak louder than words or gifts (views and opinions are my own, believe me).