Five years ago when you were eight, you asked me, “Why do you work? Do you love to go to work more than being with me?”
Don’t worry; I never held it against you.
Daughters are special only because they grow to know the ins and outs of their mothers, particularly their vulnerable spots, and they feel it is their right to question them and get answers—it’s part of the special intimacy we share.
The question perplexed me, though, for a short while, as I realized you were growing up, and your question was designed to prove me wrong. You had started to compare me with the mothers of your peers who stayed at home and seem to be attending to every need of their child silently whereas you had to take care of quite a few requirements of yours by yourself. To you, this appeared unfair.
You were too young to hear the inner rant of those whom you took to be the ideal mother.
You’ve never really known a time when I stayed home full-time. I went back to work when you were two years old; it’s always been that way for you. When your vacations were on and I had to kiss your sleeping face (it is the most beautiful thing in my world), the thought that I am going to miss your touch and smell the whole day made me immensely sad, but I had to walk out of the door leaving you behind because I had to—my work needed me.
Some people go to work because they are compelled to earn a living and some people work when they get paid to do what they love even while staying at home too. It was neither for me. I was provided financially, and the work opportunity was not exactly what I idealized, but I learned to love my work because that was the only way I could be true to myself and my dreams and earn a rightful place in this world.
But the question remained, why did I have to work, leaving you behind? There were many reasons.
I worked because I love it.
I worked because nurturing young minds and inspiring them to dream makes me happy (I switched to teaching from a corporate job once you were born so that I could give more time to you. Though initially, I treated it as a compromise on my high-flying corporate career, with time, I started to count the blessings of my move) and that happiness bleeds over into every other area, including how patient, engaged, and creative a mother I am.
I work because of this comfortable house, those extracurricular lessons, frequent outings, and splurging on a food court in malls (especially when we two are there and my credit card empowers me), those sneakers you need for badminton, mid-year travels, subscription to various online streaming sites that you love are all made possible by two incomes.
I work because I want you to be proud of me—maybe not today, but tomorrow.
I work because I was working before you were born and that made me self-dependent, prevented me from being a doormat in my house, and made me happy about making a positive contribution to society. I never knew boredom, and this is how I would like to live in the future too: constructively busy even after you go off to college.
I work because despite being the parent who’s almost always the one walking through the door at 5 p.m., the one who rarely travels for the work, the one who keeps track of what is written in your almanac daily, and braids your hair in the night irrespective of how much tired she is—you’d never ask your father why he works.
His love is a thing that long hours at work do nothing to diminish. You must learn to respect my work also equally.
I work because at such a young age, you’ve imbibed the subtle message broadcasted by almost everyone and every situation around that women’s work is optional, often less important and valuable, and can be done away with, and that the moms who love their kids don’t do it.
I want to give a different message to the world through you.
I work because by the time you grow up and have your daughter, the subtle messages will change and she will know and accept your working mom status as naturally as she accepts your being. Your transformation is the key to that day.
I work because I want to show you that no dream is big enough. Life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage and grit to pursue the dreams that seem impossible at first glance.
I work to teach you self-love; love yourself first then everything else will fall in line.
I work to convey to you that the pain you endure due to the right decisions you took is temporary, but quitting your dreams lasts forever.
So, to answer your question: I do love work, and I am unapologetic about it, but I love you much, much more. If ever I have to choose, I will choose you.
But I’m lucky I don’t have to. And I hope you never do either.
Now you are 13.
The other day my neighbor had the same question when she visited my house and to my dismay, the visit coincided with my bad housekeeping day.
She asked the same question, “Why do you work when your husband earns enough for the upkeep of the family?”
A voice answered:
“She does not work only to earn, but she works because she loves what she does and she feels happy about doing it. Moreover, her work is very important; she is a teacher, she teaches people the skills which they need to earn.”
My day was made! I have done a wonderful job—despite being a working mom.