Woman's Work

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Soon after I had my twins, I actively sought the order and system of a day job, something that could mitigate the demands of relentless motherhood. Every morning it seemed to me like I was leaving a battlefront at home to enter a ceasefire zone at work. But very soon, as my children's lisped out utterances began to shape my world, the guilt of leaving them to someone else overtook my concentration and all I could do was long for them, my babies.

So, I quit my job.

Yet, before long, the insecurity of not being able to define myself by a monthly paycheck overwhelmed me and I was back to looking at cubicle possibilities.

This became a recurring cycle in my life.

The work/family debate is an old one. Hilary Rosen's recent comment about Ann Romney "never having worked a day in her life" adds to the growing pile of judgmental rhetoric on the subject and stirs up past controversies. Many of you might recall Hillary Clinton's remark in 1992, "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life."


That Hillary remark resulted in the same media kerfuffle that this Hilary comment is creating. What is even more disconcerting is that the persons leveling these derisive statements at women are themselves women.

As a stay-at-home mother, I dreaded the question, "Do you work?" It never failed to undermine my value and contribution to the family unit.

On the other hand, as a working mother, I am immediately put on the defensive by declarations on the sacrifices and responsibilities of motherhood. It is clear to me that neither the stay-at-home mom nor the working mother has an edge over the other. It's just a choice we often must make. I keep that in mind as I head to work this California morning.

With a Perspective, I'm Jaya Padmanabhan.

Jaya Padmanabhan is editor of India Currents magazine.