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Anne Marie Slaughter, in her long article in The Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, takes a dig at society for holding back women from doing it all. She’s right, but only partially. Women do get the short straw when there’s rough stuff happening. Nobody gives them any quarter for having to manage children, spouse and work all at one go. In fact, nobody, man or woman, gets any quarter for doing multiple things at the same time. Life, therefore, becomes a matter of choice.
I had a working woman for a mother. For the longest time, in school, I was one of the few kids whose lunchbox contained sandwiches, inexpertly made by my father, instead of the usual chapatti-bhaji. But I was also one of the few kids in school whose mother helped her in writing beautiful stories that all the other kids envied. For, in her spare time, my mother was a writer, a skill she passed on to me. In looking after us, my parents worked together as a team, and built a bond that was far stronger than the one between most other parents where the wife didn’t work. I grew up in a lower middle class neighbourhood where most of the women were illiterate or semi-literate. Their ties to the children were woven from the fragile fibres of housekeeping and cooking, ties that weakened and sometimes broke when the children got educated and moved away. So yes, my clothes weren’t always ironed, and my lunch was seldom cooked, but while I lost out on the housekeeping front, I gained something much more valuable, a mother who became a friend by the time I was eighteen.
Yes, women can’t have it all. Who can? Can the father who misses out on his son’s Sports Day because an investor has chosen that day of all days to make a visit? Does the man have it all when he has to miss his mother’s birthday because he’s travelling on work?
These days my son is home after finishing his high school. He is waiting for college to open, and I’m busy collecting memories, putting together a mental scrapbook of the things that we do together, the conversations that we have all the time, about movies, and entertainment, and values, and city life, and all the hundred other things that form a part of an adolescent boy’s life. We talk about his parents, and their aspirations and desires and career choices. I know that we are building a special room, one that consists of every single part of our collective life, and the construction will end when he begins a new phase of life a few months from now. I’ve discovered my cooking skills, and the things that I cook for my son are also a part of the room, as is the music that he plays for himself while I listen though pretending not to. At this moment, I know I have it all. ‘It’ is the happiness that unfurls in my heart when I gaze upon my son’s face every morning when I go to wake him up, and his first words are a corny joke. Tomorrow he’ll be gone, and I’ll return to my routine of writing a certain minimum number of pages every day, and the joy of creating an article, or a novel, or a script will be as great as the one when my son smiles at me.
‘All’, after all, is as much as you want it to be. To be able to listen for ten minutes to your favourite music can bring ‘all’ into your life. To be able to say no to an important assignment in favour of pushing your daughter’s pram around the park can bring ‘all’ into your life. Just as to be able to complete an assignment successfully while someone else takes care of the child can also bring ‘all’ into your life. ‘All’ is not a fixed set of silos, it is not a block of cement, but a garland of roses, where every petal of every flower has the capability of spreading joy.
Beyond Pink writes on women's stories in urban India. They could be real or
Excellent, after doing my bit of complaining and crying of not getting it all along with so many other feminists views and their articles and comparing one to one to my husband or my other friends who are also boys/men, I have recently started noticing my father, my husband and my friends (who are men/boys) and their daily grinds, sacrifices and misses in their lives. Actually it is in our minds to feel that we have it all, have it partially all or have it none, it does not matter whether we are a woman or a man.
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