Our identity – what are we defined by

Today I read an article published in the New York Times, of a working mother, the title of which was ‘I picked my job over my kids’. I’d say it was a smart choice of title. Everybody has an opinion on this subject and it was bound to get her many views. Here in the article she narrates how on a number of occasions – important ones undoubtedly she chose to prioritize her work and not attend to the occasion or the children. Her justification was –

  • I’m a single parent, divorced and need to provide for self and family
  • My work as a lawyer (fighting for cases) against injustice is extremely important and my clients need me more at certain points in time.

As I read the article, somewhere I felt traces of pride on her accomplishments creeping in and the fact that she was doing a mighty important job. I have nothing against women feeling proud about their accomplishments, in fact it’s known to promote feminism and a sense of equality which is so important now to tip the balance in our favour.

What I have an issue with is the following –

  • the sense of superiority about the job she did, and her identity with it so complete
  • her sense of guilt and her explanations of conditions under which she forewent family time

So, firstly our identity is not our job or our visiting card. Some others introduce themselves as I’m a ‘housewife’ or a ‘homemaker’. But I do understand this is a problem with most of us. I’m so and so working with HDFC Bank, is how I used to introduce myself a few years ago. Now it is I’m Leena and that’s all. I’m a person as you see me. If you want more information about the work I do, the interests I pursue or my views, do ask and I’ll be happy to share it. 

Secondly, when we start thinking we are irreplaceable, it is a problem. No one in this world is. You’re out of your job and there’ll be someone the very next day/ moment ready for it. So, if she couldn’t be there for some important client meetings as the lawyer, I’m sure someone from her team (armed with adequate information) could have represented her as well. 

Thirdly, the job of saving an innocent black man from a life sentence or the other clients who she represents, as a lawyer sounded like just another one to me. Isn’t the job of a doctor mom as important, a teacher mom who readies the next generation, a mom spending time working as a clerk in an NGO, or a bank (to earn her independence), or a stay at home mom who as a parent has decided to raise confident well equipped children? All these jobs are as important. It’s great to feel a sense of purpose in the job you do, but all jobs have purpose for different individuals.

Finally, even if you’re pursuing your hobby of writing or spending some much needed ‘me’ time with friends or on a job that you describe as ‘purposeful’, and hence foregoing some time with the children – I think it’s absolutely fine. We all need time for the things we deem as important to us – not just a job. There’s no reason for guilt – ultimately, we can raise confident kids only if we are happy & confident ourselves.

Having said that, Women for (reasons of years of social conditioning) feel solely responsible for the well being of their children, that is what definitely needs to change.

The article in question is attached here. Click on the link for a read – NYT article

I have also written this as a response to LindaGHill’s Friday prompt for #SoCS

Would love to hear your take on it