D for Do you also work?

D for Do you also work

At the cost of sounding like a nerd, I must confess that I have always loved academics. After completing my second post-graduation, I started working as a Branch Head with ICICI Bank in Mysore. In 2015, when Tuneer was born, I was working as a Senior Manager / Branch Head with HDFC Bank in Bangalore. I took a sabbatical in 2016 only to return as a writer in 2017. For me, writing had become a profession for me, not just a passion anymore. This was the time when I had also started toying with the idea of my third post graduation in creative writing (certified nerd now!).

It took very little time for this bubble to burst. In our country, creative fields are great as hobbies but never as career choices. One of the primary reasons for such an attitude is also because of the lack of support and financial prospects in this profession. A Banker can gain accolades as a writer but if one decides to become a writer only’, it is often met with caustic or sarcastic comments.

I realized how much Bollywood had affected my thinking when I went around proclaiming that I was going to change this perception by proving how writers could make it big. But man or rather woman proposes, God disposes. I had a few life-changing experiences that got me thinking if it was time for me to update the CV and start applying for ‘real’ jobs. 

Just to prove that I have a home-office set up
Just to prove that I have a home-office working set up

One such incident happened when my father-in-law had applied for a personal loan from an NBFC. Because of his age, he wasn’t eligible for the same. So I suggested that I take it on my name instead. In no time, the executive dutifully made us realize how they don’t give loans to ‘Housewives’. When I handed over my visiting card to him that had ‘solopreneur /writer’ written in bold letters, he rang up his regional office to check what ‘solopreneur’ actually meant. Well, I couldn’t really blame him because, for him, his thirteen-year-old was also a writer.

I was already getting accustomed to such jibes when Tuneer’s school admission forms started coming out. The box against mothers’ profession started making me jittery. I kept thinking about the right word to describe what I actually did. My thoughts ranged from ‘An ex-Banker turned Writer’ to ‘Blogger’, ‘Published Author’, ‘Writer’ or ‘Solopreneur’. I finally decided to keep it to the point and put ‘Writer’ there. The box against his father’s profession seemed to be beaming with pride as I wrote ‘Doctor.’

As the interviews proceeded with time, we had this realization that almost every school had similar questions related to parents’ career choices and parenting techniques. My husband was asked, “You are in an extremely demanding profession and also posted outside the city. How do you balance your work and personal life so that the kid gets to spend enough time with his father?”.  But for me, the first question was invariably “Do you also work?” or “Are you working?” despite the details clearly mentioned on the form. On receiving an answer in affirmation, the next question would steer to “So what do you do?”. Sometimes there would be an add-on question of “And where do you work?”.  

Barring a single school, not one interviewer was interested in knowing about my way of balancing work and time for the kid. In their minds, I was free enough to give the kid ample time. By the time, we reached our third school interview, my mind would start nudging me to say, “Writing is just a time pass because it looks good on my CV. I don’t do any work. I hate cooking, so I have hired a cook. I also don’t do household work, I have a maid for that. Forget the fact that I am bringing up a child almost single-handedly and have to work at insane hours to meet my commitments. And of course, you don’t need to know how my daily struggles of churning out ideas, writing assignments, and taking care of a family because that is definitely not as difficult as selling insurance or projecting the profitability of a branch.” It took a lot of will power not to give in to this temptation. Instead, I sat with a face devoid of any emotion.

I had become so accustomed to this kind of stereotyping that when the Principal of a certain school asked me for details about my debut book ‘Deal of Death’, I was tongue-tied for a few mins for this ‘out of syllabus’ interaction. Because in my mind, I had also started stereotyping school interviews and their set expectations.

Before I could shower myself with some self-pity, two different incidents proved that as mothers, we are all in the same situation. A stay-at-home mum friend of mine was judged for choosing not to work despite having a masters degree in sociology. At a different school, a working mother was questioned on her decision to leave her child at a day-care while she went out to work. Truth is that the society will always put a mother’s life and her choices under a scanner, whether it be a homemaker mother or a working mum. 

I hope you enjoyed reading today’s post though I do realize that this had more thought-provoking content than the humor quotient. Please come back tomorrow for a hilarious post on E. You might enjoy reading the previous three posts here

Author: Sonia Chatterjee

Who am I? An erstwhile banker turned blogger/writer/author. Any qualifications? A Post-Graduate degree in Chemistry followed by a second Post-Graduate Diploma in Management. I completed a one-year MFA in creative writing course from the Writer's Village University, U.S. in Dec 2020. Though I must admit that I am still trying to figure out how and when I can connect all these dots. Have I done any real work? If two years in market research, six years in banking as a branch head, three-plus years of blogging, writing, and publishing a book can be considered as real work, then yes! Where do I live? After spending life like a nomad for sixteen years in Delhi, Bangalore & Mysore, I am back to where it all started from - Kolkata. My favorite things - Books, coffee, travel, food, and my five-year-old son. What is this blog about? Through Sonia's musings, I intend to explore writing in various genres, create social awareness, spread laughter, and give words to emotions. Anything for readers? You can check out my book 'Deal of Death' on Amazon Kindle. If you like fast-paced thrillers, this Detective fiction introducing the woman sleuth, Raya Ray could turn out to be your perfect weekend read.

61 thoughts on “D for Do you also work?”

    1. Hey sonia, nice and heartfelt post! I have met so many women who have similar stories… brighter part is we are all making the change in the mindsets, breaking the cliches and creating a new normal… gigs is the new normal…

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I didn’t know that schools do care to this level about parents profession. I have been in similar situations when people asked me ‘What I do’ after quitting my Engineer job. I just say to myself ‘I mind my own business’ 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t understand what is the problem with schools !! What is the relationship between mother’s job and parenting ? And what are they teaching kids in their school? If both your parents have corporate jobs, world is great. Anything less than that is a shame? What the hell

    Liked by 1 person

  3. People will judge, no matter what. In today’s world, it is a way to amuse yourself. If you work, why? If you don’t, why? Unless you have a boss and a small little desk to perch on, it is not ‘work’. Kudos to the principal who gave your work the respect it deserve by asking a simple question about the book. Good piece there!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sad truth. Working /non-working/stay at home, we are judged always. One of my friends in Chandigarh quit her banking job to pursue her passion of painting. She is doing really well still she faced a lot of issues in getting her daughter admitted in a decent school.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of my friends in Chandigarh quit her banking job to pursue her passion of painting. She is doing really well still had faced a lot of issues in getting a decent school for her daughter. There were weird questions and doubts in the minds of the Principal which I find quite baseless.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is the sad truth Sonia. Society just can’t let us be. Writing is a lonely job mostly and it requires hard work and persistence but no one understands this. Will come back to read more from you. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes. I have seen incidents where the kid was not given admission since the parents were both not a graduate, ofcourse this was a decade back. Bit I doubt if something changed now.
    So true. If you work people wil ask how can u manage the kid. If you are not, will again ask why u r idle 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Indeed a thought provoking post Sonia. We keep talking about breaking stereotypes but it takes people at the other (hearing) end with really progressive mindsets to take action, else we end up in the type of situations you have described. You are bringing out the harsh realities of everyday life and interactions which we usually have become accustomed to brush aside; and reading every post is making us realise how wrong we are in doing that!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I can relate to what you must have gone through. Parents, especially mothers are really put through the scanner when we try to secure admissions for children in schools. As you say there is stereotyping and if a mother tells an interviewer that she stays at home and works, she is hardly ever given the respect she is due, even though that is a more daunting task than going to the office. It is a 24 X 7 job with very little rest. Kudos to you for balancing things so well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nice post. Yes society wants a measureable criteria to understand the job a person is doing. Though raising a kid is a difficult job, it is not considered as part of the job because one does not earn money. Similarly, while giving loan bankers look at the potential to pay back. I think those who are doing out of the ordinary work can put something as collateral to get the loan. At the end of the day, we all complain about bad loans don’t we.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yes society wants a measurable income criteria to understand nature of job a person is doing. I think only intention being evaluating ability to pay back or sustain certain activity. Raising a kid is an extraordinary job but it is a thankless and money less job. I guess that is when bankers among others feel jittery about money not coming back. It is not fair, but that is how society functions. Beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It is a sad reality of life that only a mother is subjected to scrutiny. She is judged if she is working and she is judged if she is not. The choice should be hers alone. But this is not a fair world for women. Great post Sonia. I never sign myself as a housewife. I am not married to the house! I am a homemaker, and a host of other things but never a “house” wife!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I loved the thought-provoking content, Sonia. I remember me being gently made to feel guilty every time I put down my credentials on paper for my son’s school interviews. Why’re you just sitting at home doing nothing? Why’re you wasting your education? If nothing else, you can become a teacher. And so on.
    Mothers, working or stay-at-home, have a full-time job raising their kids which doesn’t have any promotions or a chance of resigning. It might sound rude but this is the most demanding kind of work there can ever be!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I am going to be a fan of your writing skills, how you describe and explain everything and silently put a big question mark to the nomes of the society for what they are doing? Good job! I can relate to every single word of your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I can completely relate to every word. I have faced this Q during my sons admission. The teach pestered me so much saying as a full time working mum you wont be ab to pay attention to your child finally i told her Mam you are also a working mum if you can manage i can manage too. Now as i am not working full time I am not sure for my daughters admission what will i face.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Am a writer, musician, YouTuber, creator … but when I have to fill an online form, I find none of these and so have to select homemaker from the drop down! These are not considered as work at all. It’s as good as doing nothing. I can understand your frustration completely.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. You know I started blogging 11 years back and simultaneously starting doing paid content writing for a lot of clients mostly in the US and Australia. Blogging was a hobby back then just meant to document my kids’ childhood antics. Little did I know that it would launch a career for me. I still blog passionately and my blogs were monetized a long time ago. Today, I work as an Editor of a corporate blog, which is my day job. I also am a Content Manager now having moved from content writing which I still do only for very high-paying clients. Surprisingly, I always had people who appreciated me for this career switch. I have a full day doing professional work which brings in good money. I go ahead and write Writer and Editor as mom’s profession wherever needed. My job is as demanding as those of others with regular hours. From an MBA who was in Brand management to this job, I love it. But you know what, with a surfeit of ‘bloggers’ and ‘writers’ and people who are neither good at it nor really talented but just want to make money from it, blogger and writer has become a much-abused term. Another one is influencer. And there is no industry body or rules governing it. For most people, writer still means those who write books while this definition has long since modified. You just continue to do your good work, and always say Writer. Smile and inform in case they are not aware. Rest, we can not do much about other people’s ignorance. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Thankfully, I haven’t faced this situation during my kid’s admission process, as we have chosen the Montessori system. But I faced this question umpteen times as to what I am doing sitting at home and hence stopped explaining and just use soloprenuer term to keep the people at bay.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Sigh, it makes me sad how some people cannot stop judging other people and their choices. Moms have it particularly hard – nothing they decide ever seems to be adequate for the society!
    Very thoughtful and well-written post.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. When we mention we are Writers, we should also add ‘On a perennial guilt trip for being one’
    What’s with these schools? Parents put in such a spot too!

    Like

  21. So much similarity between our cases Sonia. The Principal of the school we visited for the admission of my son told me that I’m an educated unemployed person! How could he?

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I can completely relate to your post Sonia. I also think twice before filling my occupation in many school forms. As a freelancer, it sometimes gets difficult especially when people don’t understand it. The sad part is that writing, blogging, and freelancing is not looked upon as other jobs. Many people think its a time pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. You have depicted the facts very nicely through words, once someone shared almost the same…he wanted to be a writer and the consequences…but not so many real life experiences were there.
    “Is it enough for earning?”…is an age old question when its about writers.
    Life is always tough for the ladies.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Absolutely True! We will always be judged whether we work or not. After much mind boggling I have decided to spend a year or so with my son, and people are already telling me “why do you need to do that? Or it’s not a wise decision.

    Like

  25. Thought provoking post-Sonia and the harsh reality of our so-called modern society. I had also faced the same kind of situations so many times, and I agree still a large percentage of people in our society thinks that all creative fields are good as a hobby not as a profession. hope this thing change in future and our kids can choose a profession that they actually want to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. I can relate to this post although I have’t had to go for any interviews with a kid in any school. For, anytime someone asks what I do and I reply I am a blogger/content writer, they just respond with an uninterested, “oh”. It sounds like they are offering their condolences because I am not “working”, like the other women, in an office set-up, at a 9 to 5 job.
    I so loved this post, Sonia! Hugs to you, dear fellow writer. It’s only we, who can understand our work and our stresses and encourage each other to keep going despite everything that the world says.

    Like

  27. ah, I get this. I work in academics. I had a parent who wanted to talk to their kid to convince that writing cannot be a profession and he could do it as passion along with his engineering. I could get their pain and did as demanded. This really gets tricky.

    I enjoyed reading this. The pain is real!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. The journey from being a banker to becoming a writer is quite relatable!
    Many times people view going to an office and earning an income as very glamorous (though the job may be very monotonous and you may feel like not doing it!). To pursue your passion and make a career in it is difficult but not impossible.
    Your concluding para reflects the mindset of society! At every turn – women’s choices are questioned. This is a remnant of the patriarchal mindset.

    Read mine here -https://evergreenleaf.blogspot.com/2019/04/d-dreams-atozchallenge.html

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Oh boy, you’ve echoed my thoughts so well. Honestly, I’m a full-time writer, full-time mom and part time lawyer, but find myself changing that arrangement in most situations to avoid the awkward conversations that invariably follow!

    Like

  30. I can understand what you must have gone through. Been there done that. Since I had taken a sabbatical from work and started writing my work was never taken seriously by anyone. It is such an irony. Nicely written.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. i was asked about the same, they say, “so besides writing facebook posts, what do you do?” they don’t understand that writing is as hard as doing a 9 to 5 job. i am a freelancer and i will never get a holiday. loved your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I certainly enjoyed reading about your experiences, and found it quite thought provoking. I look forward to the time when we can all be and do exactly what gives us pleasure, be properly compensated for our efforts, and be held with no negative judgments.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Wow you wrote my heart out, it is so heavy to write homemaker or questionable Blogger in mothers occupation for me too. I hate filling the diary forms that question me. If I write MBA & homemaker I’m fun element for them if I write writer they take for granted. Seriously it’s thought provoking why women are questioned even when they are beautifully multitasked.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I don’t have to deal with the judgemental female side of your experience, but I do get the writer side. I don’t volunteer that I am a writer to anybody, but if they ask, I will tell them. I state simply, “I am a writer” and I try to move on. If the conversation gets any deeper than that, I typically end up getting annoyed.
    “What else do you do?”
    “I do a lot of things, but if you are asking how I make money, I already told you. I am a writer. “

    That answer never seems to be good enough for people and I have met very few who actually perceive writing as a job.
    I am at Transformed Nonconformist. I usually write humor pieces, but I am getting serious this month. I’m writing about people who have deeply impacted my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Hahahaha! Could totally relate to this! 😀
    Even I have not been able to figure out yet what exactly to call myself! Professional blogger? Writer? Freelancer?
    And you are right… they still taking writing as a hobby, and not as a profession. And they WILL ALWAYS judge a woman for her career choice (or not) in this country! 😀

    miss_teerious

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Sonia, you won my heart with this post. Long Comment Alert !!
    I am an ex-banker, an adjunct educator turned into blogger. So, like you, this shift was not forced but out of choice. Last year during the summer holidays, I and mom-in-law were having this discussion on how blogging got me love and respect from all quarters and readers. Plus commercial blogging keeps my shopping list full. When suddenly she quipped, this is just for fun not really a job.
    I took with a pinch of salt, but it was fine until she started comparing me with girls a decade younger than me. Married, or new moms in the permanent teaching jobs.
    It really takes a lot to explain to them this is our choice not that we are not capable.

    Liked by 1 person

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