Tuesday, July 5, 2022

When I was on the Verge of Quitting

I am writing this post one year and one month after my last post. I buried writing as a past hobby, or a habit. I buried my urge to write as an excuse of being busy. Honestly, I just couldn’t organize my thoughts and I couldn’t seem to control my ‘choices’, or knew which choices were for me. I know I could never really be a stay-at-home full time mom, not because I do not like being with my children, or value my time with them as much as I value my time at office. It is because, I feel more meaningful when I am able to use the knowledge I have gained with 18 years of education and 16 years of work experience in work and the mundane routine job of cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and cooking takes away so much time but they don’t feel as fulfilling as the jobs you can do at office. But this is not to say that I undervalue the times that so many full-time moms give in rearing their families. 
So, the reason I am writing this post today, after months of scattered thoughts, feeling like I was not doing a good job as a mother is that I just read the book, ‘Lean In’, by Sheryl Sandberg who was COO of Facebook. In her book, she talks about exactly these thoughts that women go through every day, especially as a working woman, or rather a working mother. And the last post I wrote on my blog is also about, ‘Am I good mother?’ Managing home and trying to be present in office became increasingly difficult once I gave birth to my third child. Three children seem like a large number today when so many choose not to marry or not to have children. In a way, I am proud that I dared it and I am still working full time. 
But every day I drop my youngest son to the Creche and leave him there crying, I go through the thoughts of, ‘am I doing the right thing?’ ‘Do I surely not have a choice to take leave and stay home?’ And as I narrated to my friends and colleagues, I could afford to take extraordinary leave, if I didn’t have a loan to pay. And if one person’s salary is enough to raise three kids, pay loan and run a home. So, this and my interest in work has kept me in the job still. But reading the book, ‘Lean In’ helped me cope with the guilt of thinking that I am not able to be there for my children full time and maybe because of them, I am not able to give 100% at my work. And this book has made me believe that the choices we make do not really have to be approved or validated by the societal values which in this case are driven or moulded through generations by the gender stereotypes, which overtime has simmered into our society and cultural settings that it does not seem so. 
And she also talks about how decisions, such as hiring of an employee are determined subconsciously or unconsciously by all these gender stereotypes that people think that leadership is for men, or that a woman cannot take a leadership role and still be a good mother/daughter/wife. And from the recent incident of a job interview I sat for, I thought maybe this played the part. But what is so reassuring is that like she mentions in the book, we don’t have to live with the myth of ‘having it all’. And I agree that, ‘done is better than perfect’ and it is better to  ‘let go of unattainable standards’. 

If you feel like you you have hit the end, reading this book could help you, just as it helped me. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

 Am I a good mother? 

This morning, we had a fuss because my daughter had homework and she remembered only in the morning. When I asked a few times the previous evening if she had any homework, she said that she did not remember. Maybe it was true. But this morning, when she fumbled for her math notebook, putting all the other things of getting ready for school like eating breakfast, dressing up etc. in the 1 hour we had, my husband and I both got angry. 


It was not something that required our help. In fact, if we have to help, we will have to first refer her notes or the textbook. I am probably a person who gets impressed easily. I have never set very high targets for her. I have never pressed that she should be better than others. But I am glad that she seems to catch the lessons that she is taught in her class and she does fine on her own. On the contrary, she does not like me correcting her work. I sometime think that this is not good because it probably means that she would not like being corrected or like being advised, even if they are for her betterment. 


Anyway, the fuss started and you know how it is once it starts. It does not end with a word or two. It continues till it gets so bitter. She cried. She thought she disliked school. She sometimes thinks she could study at home – which in our case is not possible. I explain to her all the good sides of being at school but she has her own pain points – her friends ignore her; Her teachers scold her even if she did not make a mistake; Her classmates make fun of her; Her teachers say that her section is the most naughty or worst and so on. I tell her that if her friends ignore her, she can always be friends with someone else. If her classmates make fun of her, she can ignore them because when they see that it does not impact her, they will stop. In a crowd of 42 students, teacher will not always see who exactly did something, so it is okay to be scolded mistakenly sometimes – or that she probably did something in her teacher’s opinion, even if she thought she did not. Her teachers comparing her class to another is a way of encouraging them to be better because we grew up that way – of being compared to others, and telling us that we are no good. That is the way of inspiring us, of motivating us to be better. You will remember this statement most parents used during our time, which was in the 1980s and 1990s: nan roka khi zai or Dorji ga khi zai (citing the name of the person your parents compared you to, it would go something like, you should eat Dorji’s poop). 


So I dropped her to school. We went later than the usual time but we were not late. When I drop her, I always stand by the fence as she walks down the ladder to her school and watch till she disappears and can see her no more. I did the same this morning but as I watched her this morning, my urge of hugging her was so strong. I wanted to hug her and tell her that it is okay, that I love her. But I told myself that this much of scolding is all right, that it is for her own good, that she will find it in her to see the positive in it and it will not impact her negatively. The dilemma of being parents is not finding that fine balance – should we scold them, or should we not? How should we raise them? How do we make them find the positive from the mix of all the things that they experience? And this is harder when your child is someone with a mind of her own. And all of these then makes me question if at all I am a good mother. And when everything seems to fail, all I can do is pray that it will all turn out well. 


[Dear Dechen, please know that mummy is proud of you for the person you are. You do not have to be extraordinary in the conventional norms. We often forget that 10 is still a child. I am sorry if we made it bit more harder for you today. And remember that we (your teachers and us) are still driven by the way we are brought up and that is why, we are inclined into thinking that scolding, downgrading someone, almost to the point of being scornful is what encourages a child to grow up well. I hope you will be able to grasp that positivity in all the scoldings you receive from mummy and daddy and all the others whose intention is to help you grow up as a resilient and sensible person. 

As you walked to your school this morning,I stood by the fence till your little figure disappeared from my view, tears filling up my eyes, longing to hug you and pamper you and tell you that it is all right. But I was telling myself that these are all for your betterment and praying that you would actually see it that way.]

Monday, December 7, 2020

We should never think we are wiser than our parents

I have not updated my blog for one and half year. That is long. Way too long. I did not intent to update it today. I just lazily checked it because I was reading a friend’s blog and it made me think of my mine. Then I read the first paragraph of the last post, which is about my mother wanting to plant potatoes every year despite the yield being poor. 

And it is this plan of hers, her drive and desire to farm that wanted me to write a post today. So, like every year, last year as well, she won and we planted potatoes. In fact, our effort is minimal. We plant the potatoes. She sows pumpkin seeds, peas, and beans. And that is that – almost. We go twice to dig and weed, and then the third time to harvest. No tending in between. No fertilizer, no manure. So, what we harvest in the end is completely organic and gift of nature (I think) because we put no effort to maximize the output. And even for this travel that we have to make four times to a 10 KM distance, we complain. And we can’t seem to find time. The time that my mother fixes always seems to clash with some sort of program that we have. And even as I write this, I feel guilty that we have always given less priority to what she considered important and we were cloaked in our own ego that we know better and our plans stand above hers. 

My mother says that the land is gold. She is 75 years old now – so she is that many years more matured and has seen more hardship – the times when there were no roads and no electricity, let alone this fluid economy of transacting everything with money and doing almost everything on mobile devices. So, when she says that the land is gold, it means, it only matters whether we have the heart to work or not, and if we do, there is nothing that we can’t get from it. And it proved true last year. 

I heard only yesterday that a kilogram of potato costs Nu. 100. When in history has it cost that much? So, while some others must be paying that much for a kilogram of potato, I am saved because we gave in to my mother and we planted it. And I tell you, I have not bought pumpkin as well, for over six months now and pumpkin is the main ingredient for my two sons. 

Covid-19 gave us a big lesson. You may have money but if you don’t have someone farming, money can’t grow food in your home. With the news of Covid, I saw all my neighbors racking every small corner of unused land to make kitchen garden. And also thanks to my mother, I have a small kitchen garden right in front of where I live – and I get to cook fresh, right-out-of-the-garden vegetables once in a while. 

So, it tells me this: we may have gone to school and our parents could be illiterate, but we should never think that we are more educated or wiser. Experience probably is the best teacher.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

My Mother's Sweet Smile

Being a farmer, my mother has the obsession of staying occupied – all the time. And as a farmer, her concept of land is that it has to be cultivated or else it is wasted. So every year, we fuss over her plan of cultivating potatoes because while she considers it important, we don’t see it that way. And more so because the yield is less than the amount of seed used. But this time, last Saturday when she was making plan of going out in the field to work again, I told her that I would accompany her. This I must say is the result of my being in RIGSS (Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies for one month). We have always tried to reason: we used to tell her that our main occupation isn’t this; that it is a waste of time; we even cited the bad road, the fuel consumption etc. But once she has put her mind into something, she will never give up. We have known her stubbornness and determination all this time, but still, every year, we would oblige to her only after so much fuss.

So this time, I wanted it to be different. I told her that she would not have to try getting help from any one – not from my nephews; not from my in-laws. So on Sunday, two of us went while my husband stayed home with our two children. And I must admit that it was more than worthwhile.
I breathed fresh air of Spring in Thimphu; enjoyed walking barefoot on the soft top soil; I admired wild flowers, and apple blossoms. I thought, ‘nothing matches the beauty that nature gives you’. And as I stood in the middle of the field taking in the scent of the nature, and looked around people working, and also flowers of different colors, I felt like there is nothing more we need in our lives. All we need is to learn how to be content and we are happy and rich enough just as we are, right where we are.
It was also a time of personal intimacy with my mother. I looked at her twice – while we were talking intimately and caught the sweetest smile of her, looking at me, just as a mother looks at her baby, not at a child who she considers adult. This melted my heart and as gratitude engulfed me, tears welled up in my eyes. This mother of mine, who had gone through so much hardship, toiled so hard to bring up seven children, worked so hard to make sure that we did not suffer in debt even when so many farmers in their time gave up; this mother of mine who knew no tiredness, who saw only reward in hard work, and who says, for a farmer, everything is money, I am indebted. I wish I inherited at least 20% of her determination and outlook in life.

To some, she might appear like the most materialistic person. While her body was able, she and my father worked hard to make sure that they were above average in their community; they built a bigger house; cultivated larger landholdings; owned more livestock; took help of neighbors’ children so that we could go to school; and ensured that we did not feel deprived. Looking back, I do not feel that my childhood should have been different. I do not feel deprived that I never saw a TV till I was in class 10, or that I did not know how to flaunt myself or be fashionable like those who came from town. But at the age of 62 when she had to leave all of this behind – everything that she worked hard for, the house, the land, the livestock, and the home where she raised seven children, she could do it without a trace of regret and attachment. So while she works hard to live well, she also has the capacity to let go when it is time.

And when I could stand next to my mother and work with her, talking to her, laughing and smiling, also sharing a meal together, just the two of us in the field between the apple blossoms, I got an opportunity to look back on my life and count my blessings once more. If I had the choice, I want to come back as her daughter, and continue feeling blessed.

Because, this sweet smile, the lesson of hard work, her determination, and the power of self-esteem, I cannot trade them for anything in the world. My children must seem like my world because I am a mother now; but my mother is my world too. And I am a better mother, only because she showed it to me.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Shoes of ‘the’ Man

I vaguely remember reading a saying that the shoes that a man wears shows his personality. And when I challenged to write about the pair of shoes that one of my friends was wearing at an official gathering yesterday afternoon, I did not know that there would be so many articles on shoes and how they are linked to the personalities of the wearers. I typed, ‘shoes show the personality of a man’ on google and it says ‘About 145,000,000 results’.

Anyway, it was by way of casual conversation that we talked about shoes suddenly. This person sat next to me, his legs crossed over one another, his shoes prominently visible at the hem of his Army uniform. My friend (a woman) sitting on the left of me remarked, ‘what kind of shoes are these?’ I must confess that I am not sure what she really meant – and what in or of the shoes really struck her. But I took out my phone and took a picture of them and challenged that I would write about it. And I said it nonchalantly without any thought of what I would write about that can be connected to shoes. And today, I think I would write more about the person wearing them than the shoes themselves.

I looked up around 4 articles on google to check if there are descriptions of personalities linked to shoes similar to the ones that my friend wore and I found two. One of the articles titled, ‘What His Favorite Shoes Say About What Kind of Boyfriend He'll Be’,  says, “he’s a little bit moody, he’s a little bit broody, and he will definitely have a sex playlist that reflects both those traits. You just don’t wear lumberjack-y boots if you don’t actively fantasize about living in a secluded pine forest with nothing but your whisky and a loyal retriever to keep you company. Will he let you into the musty log cabin of his heart? Time will tell. But his escapism is only romantic for like, three months before you want something more.” The second one titled ‘What your Favourite Shoes Say About your Personality’, it says, “Rather than live impulsively, you’re very analytical in your approach to life, and prefer to have a strategy. This way, you’re always prepared for what comes next and you never have to worry about unforeseen obstacles.” “…..He is grounded, very practical, and always has a plan. This person never moves without a plan and is always thinking two or three steps ahead.”

I will not try to analyze either of the articles but I think if I were to describe him, not based on the shoes he wears or wore yesterday but from the one month interaction I had with him, he is ‘in the now’ person. I think by the second week we were together, I heard a few people tell me that he is a person who does not have to worry about anything – like the majority of us have to. And I think by that, they meant, he does not have to worry about not having enough money, or having to support a relative or his own children financially. And that set a barrier for me. I mean, I have this phobia – kind of the unseen force that stops me from interacting naturally with people who I think are affluent and has not seen life the way the like of me has. But I think his personality, his ability to find joy in the present, his naturalness of flowing with circumstance affected me so much that much of the barrier kind of shed off.

He probably never had to worry about money, but being human, he has gone through his own share of hardships. He got divorced in his 20s, and never got to raise his own son. Then he lost his wife in the mid 40s. He talks to you about it and you can feel, see and hear the love they shared – in his eyes and in the tone of his voice. And you begin to see inside of him and not who or what kind of family he comes from. And I think it is also this hardship – losing a loved one immaturely and escaping a near death experience of a gun fire as an Army Officer soon after losing his wife that gave him the will to fight, and also the will to live – with zeal and fire that we do not see every day. It is his ability to forget everything else and immerse himself in the ‘moment’ that gives you shivers. I think it is also this that makes you want to love him, maybe not as a lover, but as a friend who can tell you that it is okay to let your guard down once in a while and let out the innermost part of your heart to find joy in the moment.

And if you are to see him from the way he dresses, including shoes, I think he is immaculate. I think he also takes effort to make himself look good, maybe not because he wants to appear well to impress someone but because it helps him feel good about himself. And I think his habit of smoking, frequently at that, is his only flaw (maybe). It may not be to many others though. But despite that, I think he believes in the law of interdependence strongly. There are times when he explains it more fluently and enthusiastically than a practitioner would. There are also times when he praises himself, more in jest. But he also has the ability to start a conversation with anyone on the first meeting. And yet, he could do it without appearing in the least flirtatious. He also has his own principles of what basic courtesy of human means and how it is important in everyday life, no matter who we meet and where. And if a woman clings onto him beyond his liking, I think he wouldn’t hesitate to let her know that he is not for her. So he is a man all in himself.

When I was on the Verge of Quitting

I am writing this post one year and one month after my last post. I buried writing as a past hobby, or a habit. I buried my urge to write as...