Over the last 2 years, I have had the thought of quitting work more often than ever. And I have also wondered why I feel the way I do. Is it the work itself? Is it the folks at work? Is it the stress? Is it the fact that it eats into my time with Zo? Is it the people around me making sad, sorry faces when I tell them I work?
I don’t have an answer. I guess it is way too many things together that give this feeling. Yes, so I have started feeling this way a lot more since Zo came, and definitely more since she grew up a bit. But it’s not the only reason. It is the general attitude of people towards work.
I have spent 12 years in a relatively ‘less stressful industry’, as they like to call themselves. But I cannot think of one month, or day when I was completely off work, mentally. It doesn’t work that way for me as an individual. But unfortunately, those are things only I am aware of.
The great Indian working scenario, I believe is still sarkaari at heart. I also find the analogy extremely offensive because the folks who define sarkaari as a bunch of seat warmers who will leave when the clock strikes 5, are pretty much doing the same thing today; albeit in larger MNCs with better air conditioning. Maybe not as much 9 to 5, as 11 to 8, or 12 to 9 – only now this is the timing of choice because who can get up and rush to work so early anyway? Also, the plethora of entertainment options at work – ranging from online shopping to social media to Youtube videos means that they can hang around for even longer hours -10,12,14, and do exactly what they would have done back home, only there will be no one nagging in the background to lend a hand in the kitchen.
Slowly being at the workplace becomes the definition of hard work, rather than getting work done. And God forbid you fall in the latter category, because then, you are destined to be deemed as average.
I have a life beyond work, I always have. I was quite proud of it, still am. But as I grow up the ladder, this seems like an odd thing to accept. Doesn’t matter if I am dot on time to work, have lunch at my desk, skip tea and have my calendar blocked continuously through the 9 hours; just so that I am done on time. Doesn’t matter if I do all that I am expected to and even more, just because I know that I will be one of the few folks who will leave when it strikes 7 to go home.
Go home for those little things that matter just as much, if not more than work. Like checking Zo’s homework, or reading with her, or reading for myself, watching a TV show with the Dude. But no, it seems to amaze people that I want to do these things, and not hang around chatting a bit more because you know, networking? Apparently, how can you expect to grow if you are not giving it your everything?
Thing is, I cannot give work my ‘everything’ because it is not my ‘everything’. It will never be. I refuse to make work the most important thing in my life, at most give it a sort of low position in the top 5, but nothing more. And the more vocal I get about it, the more hurt I get in the process. This is where the Indian-ness of the people comes across, because I have worked with folks in the west, and there everyone – men and women, seem to think the priority is to get your work done and head to your family. Here, eh, not so much. Here, having an hour long tea break takes precedence over wanting to help your kid with homework, because your wife will do that.
And whatever I do to make up for it is not enough. Doesn’t matter if I am taking calls every day after Zo goes to sleep, because well you left office on time right? Doesn’t matter if I take up more projects than any other damn person because, well, you won’t come for the sports event on Saturday right? Doesn’t matter if I come in early so I can leave on time, because well the others work from 2 to 11, so they can’t be expected to stretch right? Eventually it’s about how you have taken a call to not grow beyond a point by being restrictive in the time you spend sitting at your work desk.
I try not to think of it but it is true. Companies on paper these days are much more flexible, but what goes on in the heads of those you work with is best known to them only, and no policy, no ‘best place to work’ ranking , no mention in the ‘list of most women friendly organization’ fixes this. Once they have made up their mind that the person will always do less than the others because she needs to go home, there is no looking back.
Like I said, it sucks, and it makes me very unhappy. It makes all versions of me sad for being made to feel not good enough – the professional, the mother, the wife, the individual. And I have absolutely no idea how I can get out of this rut, except for maybe wish for a miracle.