I have always been a career-oriented woman and firmly believed that I should always have some source of income, even if my husband’s earnings are enough to support the family.
But I had never honestly asked myself the “WHY” and how far am I ready to take it. Would I be okay with working part-time or taking a short sabbatical if I have kids in the future? How much does my work mean to me, other than the monetary aspects? What do I want to do, say ten years from now on?
Two excellent pieces I read this week from opposite sides of the spectrum inspired this article (I Was a Stay-at-Home Mom, and I Want To Be a Stay At Home Mother But Society Says No). They made me self-evaluate my life choices and made me aware of what I already knew in the back of my mind. I’ll be forever grateful to them.
Growing up, I saw numerous relationships where women donned the traditional roles in the family. They were stay-at-home mothers who ensured the family was well fed, and their children grew up to be responsible adults.
While it was their call to do what they wanted, I saw the harmful effects of their decisions too.
I still remember seeing a single-income family lose their father. The mother had to work extra hard to get even basic pay since it had been 15 years since she worked. Supporting two kids became an arduous task in such a situation. I also saw a family where the mother could not leave the abusive household because she was financially dependent on the father to provide for their children.
These were extreme situations, but there were also tiny but plenty of sexist problems that I witnessed.
The wives had to be financially dependent on the husbands and ask them for even minor expenses. The husbands joked about their wives “enjoying” at home while they slogged their ass off in family functions (they took it as a joke, but no one realized how sexist it was). He was also coming home “tired” while not even considering that she, too, has worked throughout the day.
I saw women not having any identity other than the “wife” or the “mother.” Or worse, I saw their identity diminishing right in front of my eyes.
Look, I am not trying to ascertain that these are universal situations; looking at my marriage, I know relationships can be different from the ones I saw. But, when you have only seen such types of households from your childhood, it leaves an unbreakable imprint on your thoughts and decisions.
Because of all the above experiences, I feared being lesser than my counterpart in any aspect. Call it my ego or a genuine fear of “I never want to be treated THAT way.” And this drove me nuts.
Everything was a competition between my husband and me. He did that? I could do it too. He is earning so much? I could make that too.
Looking back, I am so guilty of such thoughts. Not only because it greatly affected my relationship, but also because it affected me. It feels like I was constantly living my life for some unknown third party in our relationship. Never for myself.
Now I realize that both of us can be good and bad in some things. Each of us have our positives and negatives, and I cannot compete with my husband’s positives.
What does my career mean to me now?
I am now more focused on what I truly love instead of monetary aspects. But, I still want to make sure that I always have a constant source of income, even if it is minimal.
Will I work part-time or take a year off because I have to take care of our future kids? I will. Will I leave my job, take a sabbatical to figure out what I truly want to pursue? I will. Or at least I will be open-minded and think about the pros and cons before completely dismissing the decision.
**Again, in these scenarios, I will try to make sure that I am not out of touch and still have a source of income or at least an emergency fund.
While this might seem like an easy decision to many readers, it was not for me earlier because I always had this thought, “I have to earn XXX amount of money no matter what.” This fear and obsession affected all decisions of mine.
In the end, while my career is still important to me, I have now started to respect it for the right reasons. I now understand that there is so much more to life than money, and you cannot always be chasing some unknown fear or thought. I will always have a career, not for competing with my better half, but because I love working and am not the type to do household chores.
This self-awareness has also got me to another realization. I stopped judging all those women who chose to stay at home and take care of their families. Instead of looking only at the financial aspects and considering them “lesser” than me, I will now respect them for their choices. Each person’s relationship is different, and it is so wrong to judge them for their choices.