Stay at Home or Work Full Time? A Human Perspective
By Jayaram Rajaram
I am sure women are wondering what I (being a man) am going to say about a debate that is always highly polarized and one that has been done to death. Here I am digging into ancient Indian roots & wisdom and am going to offer a perspective for all human beings, in a gender-neutral manner.
Ambition and competitive education with little or no introspection or self-awareness have harmed the human race and its peace of mind, irrespective of gender. It’s really time to move to a self-awareness, inward looking, duty-bound education system that nurtures creative thinking and collaboration while taking mental health very seriously (With an emphasis on yoga and meditation). A system that asks children what problem in the world they wish to solve and what their primary duties as sons/daughters/fathers/mothers/citizens of the world are, rather than what they want to be, with material gains, power, social recognition and bank balance being the primary objective. Seriously, material gains and ambition are no benchmarks to judge people and it’s time society (every mother, father, grandfather and grandmother) understands this, as the damage that consumerism and materialism over the last 2-3 generations have done are already showing up in several nasty ways in most countries. Spiritually looking at things, we have to nurture a generation that is grateful and contented, but not lazy, while acting to make the world a better place. Delving into the Nishkama Karma approach, we as parents have to lead by example. As parents if we prioritize staying away from kids emphasizing the importance of earning a living and making money, that’s what our children will feel is socially rewarding and emulate us later in life. If every father and mother prioritize needs from wants and look beyond their small ego-centric lives (that depend largely on social validation) to nurture the future generation with the right values, we might have a chance of nurturing balanced, happy, confident and emotionally stable citizens of the future who are sensitive to others’ needs also.
So all this sounds good but where to start?
- Every mother and every father currently working or not, have to assess how much time they get to spend with their children. I mean quality and quantity time with your children. We decided to bring our children into this world didn’t we? They are our purpose, duty and joy and not a distraction from our office work. If a job demands more than 8-10 hours per day at work, start looking for a better job. Always remember that we work to live and do not live to work – no matter how fulfilling one’s job, business or career is (To put things in perspective, even a doctor has to take care of himself/herself to provide optimum patient care.).
- Avoid taking up jobs that require late night phone calls, if you can avoid it, or work out flexi timings that let you spend time with your kids in the evening before your calls. A globalized-world is great for economics but disastrous for families. If it is a necessary evil, the least you can do is work around it without being a parent who is sleeping when your kids leave for school, and whose kids are asleep when you get back home. You will not be thinking about your American or Brit client (Or Indian or Chinese client if you are from the western hemisphere) who you never skipped a late night call with, on your death bed – I promise. 🙂
- Schedule maximum number of days so your child gets time with his / her mother and father.
- Ensure weekends or at least Sunday is 100% family time
- Dedicate time for family meditation / quiet time everyday before bed time or first thing in the morning. Time for prayer / puja / God is also recommended for the parent if you wish to bring up a child who understands that there is a higher force within all of us and external rituals/routines help calm stressed minds and bring about one-pointedness of mind. The benefits of meditation and rituals include clarity of thought, focus, intuition and creativity and are today being recognized even by the so-called modern-scientific fraternity.
- If you have all your needs and lifestyle requirements met, allow one partner to stay-at-home full time. I am not even entering the gender debate but putting kids’ needs ahead of parent-needs which is the beauty of the Indian parenting system has gotten horribly diluted along the way. This is a tough one as most of us have forgotten to be grateful for what we have and confuse needs from wants and justify all our wrong actions by looking outside for validation rather than looking inside and listening to that inner voice.
- Reduce travel for work as much as possible. Both in terms of proximity to work place and work-related travel out of town.
- When you attend your next work interview (whether you are a mother or father), keep your children’s needs ahead of your own. This might sound tough initially but this is where contentment begins and you will not regret the decision in the long run. Some parents say I am doing this to give my children a better life. The truth is children need us to be present more than the money (beyond basic needs and saving for their future along the way, which we must do as a duty too). Never forget that once they enter the teenage zone they won’t need you much anymore. No point having regrets at that point.
- Travel as a family at least once a year. If possible, do short weekend breaks. None of your breaks have to be expensive and over the top for you to have a great time with your children.
- Try to start your own lifestyle business, if your situation permits it so you have control over your time and how much you wish to earn (If your business works out well ). One partner can do this while the other brings in a steady income at first.
- Stop trying to keep up with the Jones’, Jagans, Janes or Janakis as they might be looking at you and trying to keep up with you in some aspects of life. So stop! This gets people nowhere. Use Facebook only for entertainment and don’t worry if you can’t do an international holiday every year like some of your friends. They probably have hardly anytime with their families. Even if they do- STOP thinking about others except when you can do something to help a fellow human being. Even when you help someone do not expect quid-pro-quo and give for the sake of giving like it is your blessing from God that you have been given an opportunity to help someone.
- Stop hoarding things and buying unnecessary stuff. Minimalistic living helps using resources (time and money) in experiences with your loved ones. Order of priority (Most important left to Least Important right) that we should aim for, work on, live daily and teach our kids is :
(Most Important) People–>Food, Shelter, Clothing–> Simple Experiences –>Money to impact ones family and world positively (even if it is in a small way like educating one underprivileged child)–>Bigger Experiences–>Things (Least Important)
- Take care of your and your spouse’s ageing parents and show your kids that this is how India works and that’s why the whole world looks to India for its solid family support system. You should not ask the kids to take care of you, but do your duty towards your parents (the child’s grandparents) and allow your child to watch it happening day in and day out. Nishkama Karma at every stage- where we do our duty without expecting anything in return. Very tough but this attitude has to be work in progress on a daily basis for all of us.
- Last but not least, nobody can have it all and nobody is 100% right or 100% wrong so stop comparing yourselves with others and do what works for you. Whether you choose to stay at home or work full time, always remember to find a job that helps you to spend more time with family. Indra Nooyi said women can’t have it all. I say nobody can have it all (Not men, not women because what does all mean? One has to sacrifice something to gain something else. Isn’t this the law of nature?). If we are to nurture a better future generation and really cherish the process, we have to spend more time with our children (This applies to mothers and fathers). If you don’t like what someone else is doing, or it irritates you, it probably means you haven’t come to terms with some aspect of your own personality and are allowing another’s actions or lifestyle to affect your mental peace. Introspect, meditate and course correct.
So what’s the essence of this entire article from an ancient Indian Wisdom and Sanatana Dharma standpoint? In two words – Reduce Desire!
Unfulfilled desire leads to anger and then disillusionment and depression (Kama – desire, Krodha-Anger, Moha – Maya/Disillusionment). Desire fulfilled leads to more desire or greed (Lobha).
I will leave you with a lovely piece on Maturity by Adi Sankaracharya:
*What is maturity? – by Adi Shankara*
1. Maturity is when you stop trying to change others, …instead focus on changing yourself.
2. Maturity is when you accept people as they are.
3. Maturity is when you understand everyone is right in their own perspective.
4. Maturity is when you learn to “let go.
5. Maturity is when you are able to drop “expectations” from a relationship and give for the sake of giving.
6. Maturity is when you understand whatever you do, you do for your own peace.
7. Maturity is when you stop proving to the world, how intelligent you are.
8. Maturity is when you don’t seek approval from others.
9. Maturity is when you stop comparing with others.
10. Maturity is when you are at peace with yourself.
11. Maturity is when you are able to differentiate between “need” and “want” and are able to let go of your wants.
and last but most meaningful,
12. You gain Maturity when you stop attaching “happiness” to material things !!
Writing for other parents helps me introspect and course correct as a parent myself. I learn by writing and am in no way perfect. Let us all cherish every moment of the journey rather than hanker after some fictitious destination.
Image Credits: http://www.stockphotosforfree.com/