Behind A Career Woman, There’s Hard Work, A Man… And His Family

Women making compromises for the sake of their families is real; I have seen, heard and read about them. My family has been my biggest cheerleaders!

‘I suppose you will work after marriage?’ My (then) prospective mother-in-law asked a few minutes after we had met.

I was in the penultimate semester of my two-year MBA at IIM Indore. Amid lectures, libraries, badminton, extracurriculars, and placements, I somehow managed to discover my future life partner there. His parents had arrived in Indore from Lucknow to meet his choice and deliberate about blessing the marriage.

‘Yes, of course,’ I replied without blinking, trying to gauge her reaction.

‘No woman in our family works.’ She mentioned a fact I was well aware of – thanks to my beau – before breaking into a smile. ‘It is about time to have a working woman in our family.’ And with that statement, I fell in love again. This time with my to-be-husband’s family.

There would be a lot of learning, unlearning, adjustments, and compromises from both sides. But the first conversation with my then-to-be family seventeen years ago told me I would be fine.

I was a small-town girl with big dreams

I was a simple girl from a middle-class background, and my ambitions dwarfed my tall height. Unlike most Indian girls, I was raised with the belief that you need a good career for a good life drilled into me. My parents paid a lot of attention to my studies. My father, especially, was unruffled by the fact that I spent more time with books than in the kitchen.

The encouraging atmosphere meant that I excelled in my studies, graduating from the best college of commerce in the country and cracking the CAT exam on my first attempt. My plan for MBA was clear – study well, score good, and crack the placement to secure at least a six-figure salary job at a reputed organisation.

But life happens to you when you are busy making other plans. Cupid struck, and I found a person in my batchmate with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life.

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That didn’t mean toning down my career ambitions, though. We didn’t even discuss whether I would be working after marriage – it was a given in our minds.

‘Will your parents understand?’ I asked him. He had informed his parents about me, and a few days later, they announced their intention to arrive at our campus.

‘I don’t know,’ he confessed. ‘We will soon find out.’ If he was as nervous as me, he certainly didn’t show it.

Fortunately for me, they did understand.

‘Do you know how to cook?’ My to-be mother-in-law asked in the closing minutes of our first encounter.

‘I haven’t been to the kitchen all my life,’ I replied candidly.

‘No worries. Once you come to our family, I will teach you to cook everything,’ she said gently. I was floored. It’s a different matter that I can’t cook to save my life to this day!

My career began after I got married, and flourished side by side

I was hired on the IIM campus as ‘Smita Das.’ I married in the two months between the offer and the joining date. By the time I started the first day at my first job, I had become ‘Smita Das Jain.’ One of the positive side-effects of the timing of my marriage was I didn’t have to spend my valuable time changing my name on the PAN Card, Bank Accounts, and other official documents – my career commenced with this new identity.

My joining date was a week earlier than my husband’s. We arrived in the new city of Gurgaon five days before I commenced my work. My husband’s brother and sister-in-law, who had been staying in the Millennium City for half a decade, had secured a rented accommodation for us. My mother-in-law came to help me arrange the house.

Apart from the furnishings, durables and appliances, we also had to find suitable part-time house help.

‘I am thinking of hiring a cook only for evenings every day. I can make some quick breakfast and try my hand at lunch on the weekends,’ I suggested to my husband.

‘Don’t even think of it,’ my mother-in-law interjected before my husband spoke. ‘You don’t know yet how tiring your job could be. And some days you may have to rush to the office. It is better to relax on the weekend after a long week. You can give the cook leaves on the day you want to cook yourself rather than not having someone for all meals.’

I was pleasantly surprised at the sage advice from a woman who loved cooking for her household, with no work experience to show in her CV.

As an inexperienced wife, I heeded the words of an experienced counterpart. And thanked my stars for it.

Not only was my job more hectic than my husband’s, consuming late evenings and several weekends, but it also entailed a lot of out-of-station travel. I got out of practice with whatever little I had learned to cook after staying for two months at my in-law’s place. It would have been a real struggle to manage the meals had I not hired a cook for all three times of the day.

That has been the story of my career during my married life – a tenure of same duration characterised by support and understanding.

My better half’s support has given wings to my career

From the outset, my better half has treated me as his equal in need, deed and spirit. Managing our household is a joint responsibility. Our roles & responsibilities have become clearly defined over a period of time, sometimes by default but mostly by mutual agreement. He has taken the onus of paying the house maintenance and property taxes while I take care of our daughter’s school & other expenses. We go grocery shopping together. To date, we have been contributing evenly to our family vacations. We take turns in paying the bills when eating out together.

I value my financial independence, and he respects it. And no major decision concerning the family– financial or non-financial– is taken without one of us consulting the other.

I have observed him make compromises in his career to accommodate the demands of mine. He left a lucrative overseas assignment early to be on my side during the advanced stages of my pregnancy. He has been there when I have been overwhelmed with managing work pressures & family life.

I have overheard him convincing his mother and mine about the importance of my career for my happiness when every medical specialist was advising me to quit my job to accommodate my daughter’s special needs.

He has gone to many family weddings and gatherings alone because I could not manage leaves of absence from my work. And our family members accepted the same.

Our marriage has given me a partner who has been a sounding board and a pillar of support throughout my career.

Every choice made is a half-chance; I am fortunate mine has paid off

My phone rang as I sat in the back seat of my car. It was my mother-in-law. ‘I learned that you have quit your job without another one? What will you do sitting at home?’ She was worried.

This was two and a half years ago. I had quit my salaried job a few days earlier to pursue a new career innings as a writer and an entrepreneur. My husband had just informed my mother-in-law. Concerned, she immediately called me.

‘I don’t plan to sit at home, Mummyji,’ I assured her and apprised her of my tentative plans.

‘I am happy you don’t plan to quit working,’ she remarked after I finished. ‘I wouldn’t have liked seeing you sit at home.’ For the umpteenth time, I thanked my good fortune.

My family has been the biggest cheerleader in my career pivot.

Women making compromises for the sake of their families is real; I have seen, heard and read about them. It is equally true that some families encourage women to follow their dreams. I have been fortunate to be first born and then marry into one of these.

Every choice that we make in our lives is a half-chance. I am grateful that choosing my life partner is one of those chances that paid off for me –personally and professionally.

Images source: Smita Das Jain

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About the Author

Smita Das Jain

Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...

39 Posts | 48,186 Views

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