Stay at home – A tall task indeed!

“(All) she is, (the immigrant who has come as a wife) is a wife, and a wife is alone for many, many hours. There will come a day when even books are powerless to distract. When the house and its conveniences can no longer completely charm or compensate.”

I haven’t read the book yet but this line from Manju Kapur’s ‘The Immigrant’ (excerpted from a review, so I don’t know the context and this post is simply my interpretation of the line) brought back some bitter-sweet memories for me. I wrote about my first married home sometime back, remember? Notice how I didn’t write much about my experiences from those days? I didn’t want to cloud a feel-good post with my ambivalent feelings from that time.

So there I was, a 23 year old girl and 15 day old bride, traveling alone to a faraway land, thousands of miles away from her family, to spend some time with her husband. 3 months to be precise, which was the duration of extended leave my then employer had very graciously allowed me post-marriage.

The husband was waiting to pick me up at the airport, a huge bunch of flowers in hand, flowers I would give an arm and leg for today but happily ignored in my sleepy and dog-tired state that night. The poor guy must have been puzzled with my non-reaction but was too happy to care perhaps. Dazed but very excited to be together at last, we stopped enroute at his former roomie’s place for a quick dinner before driving home and crashing for the night, oblivious to our surroundings.

The next morning, a bright September Saturday, I woke up to find empty white walls surrounding me. ‘Don’t you worry, I have the furniture stacked up somewhere, we just need to arrange it’, the husband assured me. So we got up and proceeded to do just that. The weekend passed by in a whirlwind of happy activity – furniture was arranged (and re-arranged!), pictures were put up, my bags were unpacked and the kitchen was cleaned and stocked and the first cooking experiment commenced – the most important task in the husband’s book of course!

We spent a romantic few hours relaxing in our beautifully done up home on Sunday night. It was a wonderful time, we held hands and chatted and smiled and teased each other, savoring every moment of being together in our own home – OUR OWN REAL HOME – we laughed, a childlike gleam in our eyes.

And then the husband left for work early next morning. Did I cook breakfast for him that first morning or did I wake up just in time to see him off? I can’t remember. But I do remember the loneliness that set in the moment he left. Not on that first day perhaps or the day after that, but in a few days time I was bored out of my wits!

True, the free time and complete independence felt like a new toy at first. I was thrilled to wake up whenever I pleased and laze around in bed till noon and I was happy to cook Maggi for lunch or skip lunch altogether and polish off a box of cookies instead. I devoured library books at a rate that alarmed the librarian and I cringe at the thought now, but I must have watched every episode of ‘Divorce Court’ and ‘Oprah’ and ‘House Hunters’ in the three months I was home.

And then I discovered, much to my horror, that lazing around can get boring after a while too! I found myself longing to accompany the husband to office one day. (We worked for the same employer even then but I had to stay at home since I didn’t have a work visa for the US.) And I, the happy loner and introvert, started to long for company. I found myself calling up distant relatives in the US and pinging my friends and family at all sorts of crazy hours on the internet.

I took to sitting on our porch smiling at random faces walking by, hoping one of them would stop and chat with me for a while. The prospect of a long afternoon nap or a solitary evening walk enjoying the gorgeous fall scenery around us no longer appealed to me. Much to my disbelief, the charms of books started to wear off too.

I tried nagging the husband, ‘Don’t you know more people in this place? Someone who stays at home? Why don’t you ask around in office?’ ‘I thought you wanted to be left alone to enjoy the peace and quiet during your break?’, the husband grinned, gloating at the prospect of being proved right after all.

So how did this transformation take place? How could a self-confessed lazy bum like me long to go back to work? How did I change from a leave-me-alone-with-my-books person to a lets-go-out-and-make-new-friends one? As a child I envied my mother staying back home when I went to school. Lucky Aai, free to do as she pleases all day, I always thought. I’m not so sure about the lucky part today. Stay-at-home might work well for some folks, but it is not for me, I now realize. I can’t imagine working from home even.

I spent the last few weeks of those three months counting days till I could go back to Pune and resume work again. Back home, I missed the husband of course, but he joined me in Pune a couple of months later. We then stayed in Pune for the next eight months before the husband was asked to travel to the US for work again. This time I was adamant I’d travel on a work visa alone. So we endured some more months of separation before finally making it here, our lovely home for the last two years now. I don’t find time to watch ‘Divorce Court’ these days, but I don’t think I am missing much, am I?

The past two years have been amazing with the two of us working and commuting together, coming home and cooking and cleaning (in some measure!) together, taking long walks, squabbling, hiking and watching late night movies over the weekend together. (Yes, yes, I realize we crowd each other a bit!)

Of course, all this and more was also possible when I was home and had so much time on hand, but a certain spark was missing then. I felt so bored and disoriented being home alone all day that I was in no mood to have fun in the evenings either! And the lack of income and social recognition played havoc with my self esteem too.

We all need social interaction. A little gossip, a short afternoon walk, some laughs and a few anecdotes shared, details of weekend escapades recounted, a cup of coffee shared, a goodnatured hello and a simple smile being sent your way. It’s not as if I talk to people in office througout the day (I am a software programmer after all!) but these little things are enough to spice up my day. I love to dress up for work and imagine the quips I can expect to hear when I choose a shocking pink tee on Friday.

And I hate to admit it, but I like the way the office routine structures my day and jolts me out of my natural state of inaction. (I am the perfect example of Newton’s first law – I like to keep going when in action but only an earthquake could hope to move me on one of my lazy days off!)

Being home and making constructive and enjoyable use of one’s time, on the other hand, requires imagination and initiative. One needs to be self-motivated and have different interests and lots of friends. I truly admire people who can successfully manage to stay home and be active and happy.

Me – the lazy bum that I am – I need to be cajoled and pushed along all the way! Perhaps living in a more cohesive society like India’s might be different but social pressures in India are a different ballgame altogether, one I don’t really care to tackle right now. My most important concern for now is this – would things be different if I stay home to care for my child, which is what I hope to do when the time comes? I sure hope so, for the child’s sake, poor dear! And I know I really need to work on my social skills for that.

For now, though, I am happy to crib about office every Monday morning and look forward to the weekend starting sometime on Wednesday afternoon!

P.S. Any ideas where can I get hold of ‘The Immigrant’ in the US? I couldn’t find it on Amazon or Barnes&Nobles and after Chandni’s post, I am SO eager to read it NOW!

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29 responses to “Stay at home – A tall task indeed!

  1. 🙂 So true…

    For a dynamic person even lazing around needs to be dynamic I guess! Finding work at home these days when we have so many gadgets to take care of the work is a challenge. Like u said, very few can make use of their time effectively and creatively!
    But when u have kids (at least the first few yrs), I think u will pray that you had more than 24 hrs a day 🙂 Most of my friends with kids don’t even have time to feel bored 🙂

  2. Yeah, so right. You know what, I had been toying with the same idea that one needs to interact with people while we go about in our lives. Without an exchange of communication, we will go crazy. I often wonder if I can be a stay-at-home mom, and I have finally found that for me, it is NOT a viable option. Of course when the kids were very small, I did want a break from work, a long break and ironically my work hours then were 9-5. Now my work day starts at 8 am and ends by 1 pm. Lucky me!
    The post is very beautifully written. I always enjoy reading you but this one was special, I must say.

  3. I completely relate to your post…

    I crb about office all the time but I’d rather do this than get bored out of my wits at home!!!

    I’ve finished the book…..its quite alright…..I am sure its available in the US…i’ll check who has the publishing rights there and get back to you!!!

    happy reading!

  4. There are days when I want to give it all up and stay at home. But I know my connection with the outer world is vital to my existence. And happy existence.

  5. I totally agree ….when I got married..i moved to a new city and stayed ay home ..and the first couple of days were so much fun .i didn’t leven ook for a job..but then I got so bored of lazing around that I didn’t do what to do. So, when my husband decided to come back to US again I was totally adamant that I wouldn’t come unless my company sends me here…which fortunately they did and now both of us work out of New Hampshire…

    so there are times when I am so bored to come office ..but i know it is much better to get bored at work..than stay at home and watch all the soaps …

    anyways .this is my first time here ….a friend forwarded your blog link to me …

    Sumana

  6. It is tough to just be at home..Our Moms stayed home cos they had so many chores to keep them occupied…wth so much help and gadgets around we really don`t have much to do..there is only so much you can read,watch t.v. and listen to music..we are social animals and need to interact..

  7. I so agree with you! I was in your state a year back after my graduation, when I couldnt find a job and was home for a couple of months. Those were the worst of my life. I always imagined I would love my time off from work but not a day went by when I didnt cry or get sad out of lonliness and boredom. I realized then that I am not a person who can sit at home all day and enjoy life. I need to work!

    Nice post.

  8. I happened to land on your blog through a sequence of random web-link traversals while waiting for stuff to get done at work.

    This is very well written. Though I obviously don’t relate to anything in the blog, your command over the language is simply terrific!

  9. Oh yes, that’s exactly what I am hoping for Jira. My kid will need to keep me on my toes or I’ll fall asleep. 😉

    Hehehe Manpreet, I for one totally cannot imagine YOU living without social interaction. 🙂 I can see you love to chat! And thanks for the compliment again! 🙂

    Chandni: Wow, you will? Thanks! I tried online but no use…

    Well said, as usual, D! 🙂

    Your situations sounds just like mine Sumana! Glad you got your way this time. 🙂 And you live in NH? Where? Its a beautiful place, we vacationed there last month. Oh, and who’s the friend who forwarded my link to you? I am a curious cat, I am!!!

    Arti: Yeah, and don’t you think our moms did manage to have so much social interaction even staying at home? I wonder how they did that!

    You sound just like me Shilpa… welcome here!

    Thanks Amit. You recognize me, don’t you? Do come back when you next have to wait for stuff at work! 😉

  10. Devaki,
    Its always boring to be at home with no company. That’s why man is called a social animal. But I think you are confusing being at home, with being a stay at home mom. When you don’t have a child, you are essentially cut off from the rest of the world when you stay home. When you become a mom, let me tell you that the “stay at home” label is a misnomer. You do anything but that. There are so many activities that you need to go to – to socialize your kid, as they grow older – for the kids school etc – I sometimes find myself not being physically in the home from 10 am to 6 pm – essentially a whole work day.
    Yes, in an individualistic society how much you socialize depends on you – its not like in a collectivistic society, where you are included socially, whether you like it or not. But I also feel that you are judging the initial 3 months you spent here far too harshly – you were young, you were new to the country, you had no way of commuting – and all that adds to the feeling of isolation.
    Its a whole new ball game after you settle in after a few years and a *completely* different ball game as a mother of a kid.

    Priya.
    p.s. sorry about crowing your space !

  11. Not at all Priya! This was exactly the sort of input I was looking for. Perhaps I was too harsh on myself and the time I spent home. Being able to drive and move around and knowing as many people as I do now will make a difference, I agree. The only part that still scares me is my natural laziness… 😉 but I know I’d want to make the effort for my child. So I really truly hope everything works out for me the way you see it.

    And thanks for sharing your thoughts and please don’t apologize again. Remember all those mini-essays I have written on your space? 😀

  12. I stay at home and like staying at home. I agree about a need for self discipline and a routine, in my case the family leaves for school and work, at a fixed time, maids come in at a not so fixed time, regular friends and family call or come over, in India the car cleaner comes for car keys, maali wants money for some spray, courier, cooking gas supplier, grocery delivery boys, dhobi, a neighbour dropping by to ask if the internet is working,…you are never alone! So I still look forward to a day when I am really left alone.
    So no friends dropping by, no socializing and no children to pick and drop, no boring forced routines, can be a very annoyingly lonely situation.

  13. Hey! What you wrote is so true 🙂 I’m home for a few months now, trying to find some work… but in this country (Romania) it’s sooo hard 😦 erveryone wants a person woth experience, but if no one gives you a chance to learn, how could I have experience?
    Anyway, the stay at home part I hate… I like sleeping in, but the rest is sooo boring… even if I clean the hole house every day, it’s not enough… So I understand how it is when you have to stay at home and laze around…

  14. Have you seen the film “Mitr: My friend” by Revathi? I think it’s a Tamil film. It’s about this very thing.

    I work at home and love it, but I realized early on that I was going to become a crazy hermit unless I forced myself to get out; I got a dog, and now I know everyone in the neighborhood. And I get out 2-3 times a day for short walks. The downside to the dog thing is that I get out 2-3 times a day even in rotten weather! but I’ll take it 🙂

  15. Naah, no use, I checked. 😦 But thanks for the tip Amit!

    Oh yes, its completely different in India IHM, I know. But honestly? I don’t much like the social pressure in India – realized this only after I lived here for a while…

    Hey Estrella, nice to see you here! I understand, hope you find something fun soon.

    Wow, yes, I love the movie Memsaab! I never thought of the similarity but its true. I definitely don’t want to end up that way. But it would be cool to look as great as Shobhana, what say? 😉

  16. Totally relate to your post. I did something similar when I took a short break for a month and joined hubby in UK. Even though I knew it was for a short break, I was bored out of my wits after the 1st week !

    Even now, there are times when I feel, I want to quit my job and take a break for a year, but being a lazy person, I know that I’ll become a big fat slob if I do that. 🙂

  17. hey am going thr. ur posts today n find so much similarity in our lives…23 yrs..marraige..travel to UK..for 2.5 months..being dead bored..nagging. but the twist is i got pregnant by that time..

  18. Hey, nice to *meet* you Tulip… do come again! You got pregnant? Wow! So when was this? Is the lil one here now? And do you blog?

  19. Pingback: Anitcipatory Retirement Blues « Weaving a Web

  20. Yeah, I loved the movie. My life during my stay-at-home phase wasn’t too different from the young Telugu wife’s – except that I read and ate instead of cleaning and watching TV! 😉

  21. Pingback: Anitcipatory Retirement Blues : Weaving A Web

  22. i am little late in responding to ur earlier question…however better late than never right??
    i live in Portsmouth, NH. …this is very beautiful place to stay ..the fall colors are amazing ..but at the same time it gets very cold too 🙂 and about the second one.. i checked with my friend .. i dont think u both know each other…she just landed here and when u spoke about NH in one of ur posts she fwded the link.

  23. Hey, no problem! I usually go on in my comment space as if I am conversing with you all, but I understand not everyone has the time to come back and check my replies. But it sure feels nice when someone does it! Do thank your friend on behalf of me… for forwarding you the link and getting me a new blog friend. 😀

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