Sunday, March 29, 2015

Would the stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and fulltime working mom (FWM) empathize with each other? When?

The debate never ends!
Money….Power…. Success….They attract millions of listeners. When Pepsico honcho FWM Ms. Nooyi , possessing the three, admits that she has NOT had all in life, and is unsure if her children would consider her a good mom, the world listens. Ironically, if millions of SAHMs said that FWMs cannot have it all, they would be almost immediately brushed off by Indian society and the media, both leaning towards ideas and thoughts of the western world.

What about moms who choose to be FWM or SAHM after a lot of hidden heartache and deliberation over years? My talks with both FWMs and SAHMs made me more empathetic.

Ambitious women dream to keep achieving, finding their identity and sense of security in the jobs they began their career with when motherhood was far away. Peep into their homes and you’ll find a child extremely hyperactive or with learning difficulties or autistic or very introverted or very aggressive.  Then there is many a mom whose child desperately craves for emotional security that is hard to come by today if time-rich understanding grandparent/s or any other genuinely loving trustworthy caregiver is not around. These mothers watch with pain how their little ones are not understood in school or by caregivers. Some of them kick great careers to steer their life in a new direction with the child only partly devouring the sudden vacuum in the mother’s world. They believe in taking care of the emotional well-being of the child and inculcate values in the child apart from taking charge of their nutrition and academics. They live through frustrating days when the glorious past flashes back to them or their consistent efforts towards the child’s progress do not seem to yield expected results. They carry on silently and boldly, notwithstanding the din made by critical relatives, neighbours and the powerful media celebrating the freedom of FWMs and quickly relegating the SAHMs to nowhere. Are the FWMs empathic towards them ever?

Many a mom is keen to be SAHM and cherish the hours spent in the company of her angels (particularly when the kids have flown off the nest), but is compelled to toil away at the workplace. She may be a single parent or the family income may not be enough for a decent lifestyle today. She might have been the harassed daughter-in-law or the disrespected /ignored wife. Her parents may be looking up to her for financial support. Do the SAHMs empathize with them?

FWM or SAHM? An unbiased mom with a matured mind knows best WHAT THE SITUATION DEMANDS and can explain it to the family with conviction while BEING READY FOR THE CONSEQUENCES. If the child cannot connect to the caregiver for long, the emotional stability missing in her life could cause her irreparable psychological harm (all bruises do not show). On the other hand, the child may be almost unruffled by mom’s long hours of absence at home. LET’S NOT FORGET THAT EACH CHILD IS DIFFERENT. The adaptability to a mother’s routine long absence would vary from child to child from time to time. Still, even though a woman is naturally endowed with the qualities that come in handy during child-rearing, the father too should get involved in raising kids, and significantly more in case of FWMs.

A mother playing her role lovingly and sincerely during the formative years of her child (she knows - success AND emotional health both count in life) cannot be easily substituted by anybody else, but we are either too ambitious to give it a thought or embarrassed to spell it out. A career will give me instantaneous, visible gifts like financial security, recognition and material comforts whereas not-so-happening years spent for a decent upbringing of the child would expectedly only lead to an emotionally secure adult, though there is no guarantee of sure significant material success coming his way. Nevertheless I do get reminded of what the famous American Wayne Allyn Root, who has questioned Obama’s policies, had told America confidently about how homeschooling of his children has kept them ahead of their peers studying in schools there, also praising his homemaker wife. Can you rule out Mrs. Root’s solid presence in the world of the wise couple’s children as a factor behind their good upbringing and progress?

However life is a marathon and not a sprint. A MOTHER ALONE HAS NO CONTROL ON HER CHILD’S FUTURE as she won’t be there all along. The environment the child grows up in, the opportunities he gets and the pace at which he adjusts to changing circumstances to survive and then thrive also majorly contribute to his progress and emotional health.

Bad parenting and lack of parenting has impacted or marred MANY LIVES THOUGH NOT ALL. However it could definitely be an interesting topic of research if ADULTS WHO HAD MISSED OUT ON A LOVING CAREGIVER’S CONSISTENT SOLID PRESENCE DURING CHILDHOOD were interviewed and their thoughts and feelings about it all were HONESTLY shared and OPENLY discussed. As we adults rave and rant about FWM vs SAHM, do we even care to peep into the mind of the child who is too young to comprehend his own feelings to be able to express them?


All said and done, my current SAHM status does not give me a right to dismiss off the FWMs as selfish moms. Similarly, if I decide to turn into a FWM again like I was, I have no right to look disdainfully at the SAHMs. Could not the SAHM and FWM empathize with each other?

The culture!

Many moms are silently thanking Ms. Nooyi for busting the myth that FWMs have it all. A FWM has ‘three jobs’ – a job at the workplace, supervision of household chores AND child-rearing. Even the highly organized FWM is only a human being with the same twenty four hours in a day as SAHMs have, and obviously cannot perform them decently well without slackening on the last job (FOR WHICH THERE IS NO REPORT CARD/VISIBLE RESULT/INCENTIVE IMMEDIATELY). At last SAHMs may begin to empathize with the FWMs for what they have missed out forever. FWMs would hopefully empathize with SAHMs who kicked jobs for being a strong presence in their children’s life. For moms on the brink of taking this life-changing decision I would quote Mr. Morrie from Mitch Albom’s bestseller ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’. “You have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it. Create your own.” The culture is what the Indian media supports today by carrying articles on FWMs who have traded company of their kids for fat paychecks and glory or the culture is that of the traditional Indians supporting SAHMs. You either buy a culture or YOU CREATE YOUR OWN and PREPARE FOR THE CONSEQUENCES.

I hope more moms in India create their own culture. The pride and confidence from standing by this SIGNIFICANT decision made guiltlessly and unembarrassed (because one sees value in one’s well-thought-of decision as EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT and responds to a situation that may or may not suit the mom’s requirements) would bring self-esteem. REAL self-esteem needs to come from within and should NEVER depend on what anybody or media or anything else pushes hard for.

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