‘Why does everyone assume that someone forced me to leave my job? Why am I being judged?’ has been edited by Aashka Kanuga.
‘Why does everyone assume that someone forced me to leave my job? Why am I being judged?’ is a first person account to reflect a grave issue pertaining, yet being overlooked.
It was a hectic morning. I got up at six, went for a run and then got dressed for office. All the while reading my emails, making lunch for me and my husband. Amidst all the rush, I was trying to wake him up. It was my turn to do the chores today, so it was his chance to sleep in a little longer. As soon as he woke up, I gave him a quick kiss and sprint out of the door.
I was trying really hard to not curse and lose my cool due to the stagnant traffic. Deciding to mellow down, I lean my head back against my seat and close my eyes. Impatiently I murmured, “the cab could not move any slower, could it?” As if God had heard me finally, the traffic started to clear out.
A little relaxed now; I was staring at the overcast sky, wondering when I got so irritable. Gradually, the thought was replaced by of work, ‘Probably I should check my binder to go through the schedule for the day’, I thought out loud.
I ran up the stairs, like every single day I had in the past three and a half years. Signed in, asked my assistant to get me a cup of strong chai and as I was pushing the door to my cabin, I felt a little nauseous. Mental note to self: Cut down on all those take-away dinners.
I regain my composure and settle down; drowning myself in a day I was so used to living through. It’s the board meeting I’ve been psyched about since the past three months. I smile thinking, ‘things are going to change radically.’
Well, little did I know!
“Are you okay, Ayesha?”
I hear plethora of voices. The last thing I remember was giving my presentation in front of everyone in the board room. Once I regained consciousness, my boss sent me home saying “Take a little break, you deserve it!”
As I called myself a cab, I did a tiny dreadful mental calculation.
“Bhaiya, please stop by Planet Health right after this corner.”
**Four hours later**
“Woman, are you crazy?” Sahil says as he closes the door behind him. I say nothing. And give him the gruesome pee covered stick that screams “Positive”. He is quiet. ‘Well you do not know your husband after all’ mocks a voice in my head. But before I could shut it up, Sahil embraced me in the tightest hug ever. I squealed, I knew I was ready and thanked all the stars, so was he.
But the elephant in the over-crowded room in my head still stared at me, knowingly. My world did upside down, but I was happy, for sure. However, what about my job? I have read in all the magazines, that resting is the most important thing. How will I manage? I always thought that once we decided to have a baby, I would quit my job so that the child can have my undivided attention. Was I ready for ‘that’?
**10 months later**
The stairs felt a little foreign to me, the smell of the smoker’s corner seemed very unfamiliar. My cabin looked untouched, thankfully. It was my first day back at the office. ‘I am doing well, and so is Aaliya’ has been probably something I’ve said more than anything ever. Fortunately, Mr Bose called for me, pulling me out of the pool of people who had surrounded me. As I let out a sigh of relief, there came they question again. “I am fine, Sir. And Aaliya is absolutely fine and healthy too. Thank you.” I said with trying to supress my exasperation
“I am glad to hear that. Anyway, now that you are back let me bring you up to speed with everything. So you remember Obroi? We closed the deal with them and…”
“Hold on” I said, cutting off Mr Bose midsentence. “
Oh yes, I am sorry, I did not even ask you to sit down. Please have a seat.”
“No sir, the thing is…I hope you understand that I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. You have been a wonderful mentor as well as a friend to me. I have learned so much from you.”
“What’s it Ayesha? Do you want an extended leave? You did not have to come in for that. You know you could have dropped an email.”
“Thank you, sir. But that’s not the case” with that I slip an envelope across the table. He looks at me baffled, in loss of words, clearly.
“Is it because of Sahil? Do want me to talk to him? We support you in IntraTech, you know that, don’t you? If someone is pressuring you, you can tell me.”
I was shell shocked; he had known me and Sahil for such a long time. Why would he think I’ll be pressurized to resign? I sternly say, “I am glad that you are concerned, but no. No one is pressuring me. This is a well thought sane decision. I’d really like it if you do not make any sort of assumptions.” I got a look from him, which I had always hated. Yes, he thinks I lost my game and my ambitions have blurred.
Simpler words? He was being a judgmental ass.
So with that, my two weeks’ notice was the talk of the town. I was pitied, looked down upon. People—absolutely random people—came up to me to give me their condolences. Saying it infuriated me would not begin to explain how I felt.
Everyone was looking at me differently. Gone were the welcoming smiles, the excited questions, the happy congratulations. It was all replaced by something that looked an awful lot like pity. I overheard one of my co-workers saying “Poor girl, she is forced to quit just because she is a mother now. I cannot even imagine how unsupportive her husband or family might be.” But what pinched me the most was my assistant gossiping by the cafeteria. So thoughtlessly she said, “What kind of a modern strong woman gives in and gives up her dream. Such a spineless mess!”
Even my best friend, someone who had known me for over twenty eight years, was trying to talk me out of it. She was not ready to believe, that the decision to quit was entirely mine. Later that week, she gave me a call and asked me what the “real” reason was.
For the first time in my life I was so utterly clueless. I failed to understand that why in the world did everyone find it so hard to believe?
One night when I was putting Aaliya to sleep, my childhood flashed in front of me. My mother was a housewife. I remember how attentive she was to our needs, how caring she was. Her love and attention made me the woman I am today. She nurtured me; she did not leave me to be. I respect women who have the strength to juggle work and child.
Unfortunately, I know I am not that strong. And I know my conscience will haunt me every time I leave her with a care taker because I had it better. How could I rob her of the warmth I got? I wanted her to have a happy childhood, not one where I was unfair, and myself.
Why is it so hard to comprehend, that I know myself? I knew I would not have done justice to my work, nor would I have managed to be there for my daughter. I had a choice, and I made one. Sahil offered to sit out on this one, so if he can choose to drop his job then why can’t I? I know that my husband earns enough to support all three of us, and if I have saved enough money to be confident about raising my child without having to worry about work, then what is wrong with me wanting to quit my job?
Why does everyone assume that someone forced me to leave my job? Why am I being judged?
Is it all right, that my choice to be a mother is reflecting weakness?
In this modern world, where feminism prevails over all, is it considered “anti-feminist” to make this choice? To become a stay-at-home mother, to choose raising a family over all else? Just because a woman chooses not to work, does not make her weak. As the world shifts its perceptions, as times change, it is not fair to judge a woman who is a house wife, just like it was not fair to judge a woman whose first choice is work.
We remain true to our definition of equality only if, irrespective of anyone’s profession, we look at everyone through the same lens. A woman should be graced with respect, whether she is working, or if she is a homemaker, should not make any difference. She should not have to feel any less proud about the work she chooses to pursue. It is her choice.
Let us not judge.