Freedom and Independence?

My decision to quit work after having a baby has got mixed responses. Most of the older generation women are extremely supportive and are beaming with pride that their daughter or grand daughter has taken this bold decision. Few of the girls of my age (cousins, friends) are happy too. They say they wish they could likewise. Some of them are paying heavy EMIs against their home loans and can no way afford to quit. There is this other group which is totally against my decision. On interrogation they come up with comments like ‘Baby is not the only thing in your life. Why are you ending your personal life for the baby?’ and ‘You will lose your independence and freedom’ and ‘You will not have any personal life. You will be a mom slave’. I don’t have an answer for them, and I don’t really have to convince them, so I just smile at the comments and change the topic.

I have never had a dilemma. Even before I got married and started thinking about a kid, I always knew I want to stay at home with my baby. Luckily, I found an agreeing partner in my husband. He was totally happy with my opinion but left the final decision to me. He never pressurized me or influenced me. Since there was no doubt in my mind, I resigned even before I reached the third trimester. Till date, I haven’t regretted the decision. Things might change once the baby is here, but let’s cross the bridge when we come to it.

I recently visited my Uncle’s house in a tiny town called Koppa. I was born and brought up in a village and hence like the country side a lot. I instantly took to the place and it brought back my childhood memories. My Uncle works as a Manager in a relatively new sugar factory. When my Uncle joined this factory, the factory quarters was literally like a forest. Trees and dried grass everywhere and lots of snakes. Nobody took the initiative to make the place a bit more habitable. All the women continued with their rant, but did nothing. Until the Chief Officer (something like CEO) came along. CO’s wife (as she is addressed by everyone) was the one who transformed the place. Every single day, she would gather a bunch of workers and get the place cleaned. The trees and grass were cut, the ground was cleaned. She built fences around and planted banana, chiku, jackfruit and coconut trees. Not only did the snakes intrusion dwindle, the whole quarters was enjoying ‘home grown’ banana, coconut and jackfruit. Why am I mentioning this? Is there a connection between this lady and my decision? There is one.

The CO’s wife was married off very young. She had kids even before she could appreciate motherhood. She was only 32 when her first daughter was married off. She now has many kids, grand kids and great grand kids. She recently stayed in the US for a few months to assist in her grand daughter’s delivery. I don’t know if she is literate, but I doubt it. For any city-bred, educated, working woman, this lady’s life is a sad story. She doesn’t have any freedom. Really? Is that how it is? The lady is strong minded, thinks and acts independendtly. She didn’t follow the other ladies footsteps and continue to rant. Instead, she chose to act. She didn’t need her husband’s guidance or other women’s support. She did all this single handedly. If this is not freedom, what is? She has her own personal life in which she does what she likes. Does she have a paying job? No. On the other hand, I know many working women who can’t even buy vegetables on their own. They have to depend on their spouses to fill their kitchen with vegetables and grocery. Is she independent? No. Is she working? Yes.

I am not justifying my decision, but I am pointing at the wrong assumption we all have. Freedom does not come from being in a paying job. One may achieve finanicial independence if the husband doesn’t snatch the wife’s salary away. But, is finanical independence enough? It’s time we identify the difference. Freedom is a state of mind. If you ‘feel’ free, you are. Having one’s own personal life is a side effect of that. If you start thinking independently, keeping yourself apart from the family, you will have your own personal life.

Look at your mother. I am sure atleast half of us think that our mothers are more independent than we are. I surely do.