I just got back from lunch with a colleague of mine. The lunch was nice but the conversation even better. This is her last week at work and I wanted to treat her to lunch. My way of saying goodbye.
We briefly talked about work but spent a lot of time contemplating about how wonderful and easy life will be if we had domestic help! If we could afford to hire live in maids and Au pairs who did the housework for us. Something I miss having now that I live in the US.
I grew up in a household where we always had help. Someone or the other stayed with us and took care of the daily chores. Some were good, some really bad and few absolutely wonderful. In some ways or maybe in a lot of ways I was spoilt! I didn’t learn the importance of responsibility and accountability until much later and I think I speak for my siblings as well when I say this.
My parents were successful professionals who could afford to have hired help. We didn’t have one, but several including a dedicated driver and a ‘maali’. And because both my grandmothers lived with us, we also had someone for elder care. Life was quite easy for us. We were fed and taken care of pretty well. There was always someone to pick up after us. We were served elaborate meals, our clothes were washed and even ironed, our beds made and our rooms tidied. No worries-life was peachy. The only thing we had to do was do well in school and whatever extra curricular activities we were involved in.
Looking back, I do sometimes envy my childhood and my upbringing. I realize that we were indeed lucky to have parents who flourished and could support their family comfortably than most people. My parents worked hard- they are honest, sincere and diligent folks who really wanted the best for their kids. They wanted to be the best in their respective professions and perhaps managed to balance work and family life as much as they could. Granted, we spent a lot of time with the hired helps but my folks were there whenever we needed them. No matter how busy their day was, at the end of it all, they always wanted to know how we spent ours. They helped us with school work and all the other stuff that comes with it, they advised us on important decisions, guided and showed us the way whenever we were lost. They were not perfect but they were the best we could have.
But somewhere along the way, they failed to teach us a few important lessons. Now, did they do that intentionally? No, not at all. They probably were so intent on giving us the best, they didn’t realize that they may have compromised on certain aspects. Going back to the hired help…what could have happened, if we didn’t have all that help? Could we have fallen apart as a family? Probably not! Could we have learned the importance of taking care of ourselves instead of relying on someone else? Absolutely!
I do miss not having any help now but at the same time I am thankful because it will give me the opportunity as a parent to teach my children the very lessons I missed growing up. I am so glad I lived alone for a couple of years before I got married and moved to the US. Those few years in Delhi as a single tenant made me strong, independent, responsible and practical. They helped me become self –sufficient and taught me accountability. Else, this whole American lifestyle would have been a huge challenge for me.
I do struggle with it, especially now that we have kids and a bigger house. And at times, I do wish I had a someone 24/7 to help me out but in the bigger scheme of things, I think I am better off not having anyone.
In a few years, when the kids get older, I hope they will offer me a hand or two. D’s already started doing some chores around the house (please this is not abuse, OK!). For instance, he knows that he needs to throw his dirty socks in the laundry basket instead of on the floor. He knows where to put his shoes once he takes them off. He will wipe the toilet or the sink after he’s done using them. He and even A now, clean up and put the toys back where they belong. Of course, we have to tell them to do so but they listen. These are pertinent lessons that we, as parents, can teach them and I am positive that they will be valuable to them as they begin to experience life.