I have a friend.
A woman, a smart, educated woman, a beautiful woman, a kind woman. A sensitive, intelligent, hard working woman. She has two lovely children.
Her children have recently started going to school full time.
She had chosen to stay home to raise them, despite having a PhD in her chosen subject, despite having had a fulfilling career in front of her a decade ago when she had her first born.
Now this woman, this smart, kind, educated woman wants to pick up the threads of her own life once more, between the hours of 8:30 and 2, because she still wants to be around for her children. They remain her first priority.
And so she starts applying for jobs–part time research jobs, teaching jobs.
They’re hard to find, given that she wants part time work. Given that she has been away from the paid workforce for so long.
And so, she decides to get her feet wet by volunteering for a health organization. She gets a call from a prestigious place.
She goes in and asks for her assignment.
For the next few hours or so, she sorts boxes of medicines. She thanks everyone at the end and drives back home in time to pick up her children from school.
On her way home, she fights back tears.
This is what it is going to take to get back to finding her own life. And while she is willing, for the most part to do what it takes, it still rankles a little. That the way ahead is going to be long. It is going to be hard.
Society has little time for stay at home mothers who have been “napping” for a decade or more. Even those with PhDs wanting to re-start their own personal engines are going to have to re-pay their dues.
They are going to have to re-do things in every way. From the beginning.
There is little by way of recognition for the work this woman and millions like her do. Little by way of allowing her to add that decade she spent with her children on her resume with any degree of pride.
Little by way of understanding that being a full time mother is a bloody hard job, especially if done well, with full commitment. Like she and millions of others have done.
And while she waits, while she scrambles to re-collect those strewn threads of her previous life, ‘So what do you do while the kids are at school,’ becomes a dreaded question she doesn’t know how to answer.
She might be deemed unambitious, or worse lazy. Not driven enough.
The world has a long way to go to finding ways to utilize this and other brilliant talented women who have so very much to give, albeit within a non-traditional time setting, perhaps in a non-traditional manner.
She’s not asking for much, really. Not too much money, or promotions or status.
Just a chance to be part of the society at large that she chose to step away from in order to do her best for the past ten years to provide with well brought up, kind and highly productive new members.