FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY leads to career shifts at all stages, says S. AISHWARYA
Rajalakshmi (name changed) was frustrated to see her daughters’ work and family hovering in the wings. She is all set to quit her job to take care of her daughter’s newborn.
“My daughter cannot leave her career that had been her passion. Though her in-law takes care of her child, she is extremely stressed out by balancing household chores and work. I don’t mind babysitting her kid and be of some help to her,” says this professor of a University-affiliated college.
In telling her story, she has joined growing ranks of working-class women of urban contemporary families into diverse careers. Collaborating with the Centre for Women Studies, Bharathidasan University, UGC recently sponsored a seminar for women academicians and also hosted a motivational workshop. The discussions revealed much more about the supposition ‘men outnumber women in the peak of career pyramid.’
While Rajalakshmi concedes that family is her priority, Radha professes lack of sharing responsibilities from spouse when it comes to parenting and housework. In their day-long discussions, Padma Ramachandran, the regional coordinator and former vice-chancellor of MS University, Baroda, tried all possible means to resolve the problems.
“There is no best way out. It is the attitude of mind that makes a difference. Whatever the context may be, you have to settle in with it-can-be-done attitude,” she says. Like in the case of Angayarkanni, professor from Department of Tamil, who handles the dual role with élan. There were crisis situations when she had to attend her sister-in-law’s wedding and senate meeting on the same day.
“Professional women, in most cases, lack the courage to say ‘no.’ In my case, I talked out things with my department head and sorted it out well ahead of the wedding,” she told the women.
One cannot be super-moms and super-employees all at the same time. “If you prefer to be a workaholic, so be you. Or if want your family first, be prepared to forfeit certain amount of career growth,” Padma Ramanathan says.
But whining about difficulties in managing the dual role would do no good to them, was what everyone agreed upon.
“There is no concession for you at both the places for being women. Nothing will come on a platter.”
However, the multitasking pressures and switching roles that loom in large at every household do nothing to rob the contentment of many women. Vrinda Ramanan decided to quit the steady job as an assistant librarian at National Institute of Technology-Tiruchi, when her husband took to business. “I didn’t mind quitting the job. I was undergoing a diploma programme in dance and was just waiting to find a right opportunity.”
As it happened, a right opportunity found her. She began to take dance and yoga classes and jointly coordinated her husband’s Science and Adventure Club.
A group of foreign students stay with her during summers to learn Bharathanatiyam.
“I can’t find as much satisfaction in any job as with this. My passion is my profession and can still take care of my family,” she says.
Homemakers too have their hands full with business activities.
Raji Ramakrishnan, who ran a boutique for over a decade, wrapped it up for the sake of her college-going daughter. But that didn’t confine her within household chores. A NIE resource person, she satisfies the philanthropist in her by getting involved in Seva Sangam Trust that runs an all-girls’ school. “I’ve taken up a correspondence course in human resource management. Being an alumna of Kalakshetra academy, I keep in touch with dance by choreographing for college troupes,” she says.
Rani Muralidaran, president of Women Entrepreneurs’ Association of Tamil Nadu, had a mid-career shift after her children grew up enough to take care of their needs. She had been working part-time for quite a number of years and took to business when her kids entered their early teens. “There is a flip side to everything. No doubt women are frazzled with work pressure. But they are ready to compromise for financial and social independence.”