Unlearning the 30+ years of indoctrination of what it means to be a woman, what I should and should not be doing as a woman.
Letting go – of the expectations others have of me – and of the accompanying guilt. Atleast trying to.
Claiming a bit of space for myself; allowing myself to be.
While that sounds dramatic, it’s moslty been a bunch of small things. Like me feeling less guilty and ‘allowing’ myself things that many would consider ordinary. Like a 1 hr afternoon nap on weekends. Even when the boys growl. Like a monthly guilt free trip to the parlor for the basics. For eating when I’m hungry, rather than always waiting for the boys to sit down for a meal. Like not cleaning up behind the boys always. Letting things pile up. A majority of my weekend work is still housework. The kind that goes unnoticed. Changing the sheets, putting away the laundry. Putting away all the stuff that’s piled up in the wrong places.
I was brought up with a pretty strong sense of a woman’s place in the world – her place was to be seen and not heard, to get married, have kids, serve her inlaws and husband and kids and keep them happy always. No matter what. A woman’s place is last. Always. Whether at the dining table, on the Diwali/Xmas gift list, or for respect. If you didnt serve your husband the perfectly round, soft, piping hot rotis for each meal – well, shame on you! And if you didnt wait on your kids hand and foot .. well.. double shame! And ofcourse – girls/women are not supposed to question such worldly wisdom.
I thought I had managed to filter it out. I thought I was logical, rational and had turned out to be a rather nice independent capable young woman inspite of that indoctrination. Until I realised I was still managing house, kitchen, husband and kid – in the ways my Mom had taught me. And killing myself over it. Alongside a full time intense job, and no help. The height was when I was sweating it out 3 hours a day, with 1 foot in a plaster, a 2 yr old clinging to the other foot - to serve my husband and son a hot, nutritious meal. And you know what – neither of them cared one bit whether the rotis were hot or cold. It was just me. And my mom. Those 3 hrs, coupled with all the other stuff I was trying to do by myself, left me exhausted, and extremely irritable, to say the least.
2012 has been the year I questioned my belief system. That I was not born to serve.
That it’s ok for me to take time out for myself. It’s ok for me to not catch the ball when someone else is about to drop it. That its ok for me to not be perfect. That it’s ok for me to not kill myself over housekeeping or cooking or taking care of the kid. That it’s ok for me to be assertive. To ask for, and demand respect. To not allow others to pick on me, to walk over me, or hurt me, in the name of love or concern. That it’s ok for me to feel hurt and outrage if they continue to do so. And to express it. To ask for and even demand, care, comfort, time for myself. To be human. With all the frailties and vulnerabilities of being human.
At work, I’ve mellowed down. From starting 2012 as an aggressive, jhansi-ki-rani wanting to fix everything, change the world, make my module, my product, my team, just perfect – I’ve transitioned to be hopefully, understanding and yet firm. I like the way I’ve changed, and I hope my team, and peers notice it too.
At the personal front, it’s been a more tumulus transition. Saying “no”, demanding my space, stepping out of the image of the self effacing, docile, all responsible mother, housekeeper, wife that my Mom instilled in me; and those around me still expect, has met with much resistance. I’ve been labeled as selfish, self-indulgent, airheaded, emotional, uncaring and much more. They had just gotten used to me being a certain way. They’re taking a while getting used to the changes in me.
I’ve overcome the ‘guilt’ of not cooking dinner at home and getting a dabba delivered. It’s clean, healthy and we like it. It is a homecooked meal. Just not cooked in our home. It’s been fun explaining to the kids’s-playground-friend’s-mothers-and-grandmothers that he’s not lying or joking when he says ‘Abhi I can play some more. Abhi mera dinner ka dabba nahi aaya’.
I’m still working on the part where I “have to be” responsible for everything and everyone around me. I’ve stopped jumping in to solve my brother’s or my parent’s problems whenever they call. They’re adults. Responsible for themselves. I dont have to fix things for them. I can care, help, listen, advise. But at the end of the day, it’s theirs to fix. Ditto for the husband. He’s been forced to pitch in with the housework, with taking care of the kid, picking him up from daycare and paying the bills. He never had a problem with doing it. He just never did any of it. Coz I always took care of it. I doubled up backwards to make sure I took care of everything so he could just focus on his work, his career, his startup. I would take care of the house and kid and finances while he found his place in the world… Coz that’s the way I was brought up. Be useful. Take care of everyone around you. That, and that alone can validate your existence. And no surprises, it killed me – it left me exhausted, and extremely irritable, to say the least :) And you know what – he didnt see it that way. He only saw the perpetually exhausted, extremely irritable side of me. “You dont have to”. He’s right. I didnt have to. I just did it. Coz I believed I had to. I was still trying to be SuperWoman. A martyr. And it didnt really matter to anyone, other than me.
Perception. That’s what the world is all about. There’s no true or false. No real right or wrong. It’s just your interpretation of it. What you choose to believe. How you choose to live.
And since is the reflective year end post and I love my lists – let’s see how I fared on the 2012 plan
> Be Quieter, Simpler, Warmer & Firmer.
> Smile more. Fret less.
Well, a bit. I started smiling again. The kinda smile you feel from inside.
Fretting – has reduced. Under control. But still there.
Kinda. I blog. When its gets too much to hold inside.
Yes. With Aarav. Now that I fret less about stuff, have offloaded some of the ‘responsibilities’ – this year, I’ve actually been able to step back and enjoy him. Enjoy watching him play, watching him grow; playing with him. It’s still not as care free and spontaneous as his dad; but for the first time I’ve been able to step back and enjoy being with him.
Old friends. Old loves. Revisited.
Goa. Singapore. Nothing exotic or earth shattering. It’s a start. And I found I still have the travel bug. I still love it. New places, new sights, new people. Just love it. And so does my son! Yippeee!
2 failed attempts at signing up for couple’s salsa class. So I went ahead with with 2 levels of belly dancing! Awesome it’s been!
According to WP, I did 43 post this year. Not bad. Not bad at all.
2012 – you’ve taught me a bit.
2013 – be kinder please!