Saturday, July 21, 2007

Job Title

I’m a new mom and with this life-changing event came my decision to quit my corporate job. For some reason, I now seem to have a degree of discomfort when people ask me what I do, for a living, that is. When faced with this candid question, I almost always seem to struggle, often times finding myself panicked for lack of an appropriate response, preferably one that I’ve justified and overanalyzed in my head…one that I would consider intelligent and politically correct. I can’t just categorize myself as ‘unemployed’ because that has a different connotation. Neither am I comfortable with the label ‘full time mom’ because in my view, all moms are full time moms! You don’t stop being a mother just because you are out working. The next best bet is for me to categorize myself as a ‘stay-at-home mom’. However, I still find that I can’t seem to utter those words very freely… ‘stay-at-home mom’…for fear that I may be misinterpreted. I would always imagine the other person thinking that I am an unproductive, lazy, good-for-nothing person, who is simply unable to qualify for any challenging job out there, and has therefore, chosen to just stay at home and do the menial day-to-day house chores.

But being a mother and choosing to care for your child full time is anything but menial. I have discovered in the three months that I’ve been with my child that you need to be highly skilled as a mother. Being left with my baby Noah, I often find myself needing to not only multitask, but also needing to invoke my multi-faceted nature to the point of seeming schizophrenic! First of all, as was written in a recent Yahoo news article on mothers, our role includes being a cook, housekeeper and psychologist to name a few, working for approximately 92 hours per week. I would like to add to this list and include the roles of singer, dancer, poet, composer, puppeteer, story-teller, mind-reader/psychic, and to top it all off, you need to be an extremely ambidextrous version of MacGyver as well! 

My daily life comprises carrying Noah around as I dance, sing, hold the milk bottle in one hand, while tapping his hip with the other. This of course has variations. You will also often find me simultaneously feeding both Noah and myself, while still carrying him around, of course. When carrying him is not enough (and it rarely is), this is when I find myself singing various songs to him and most times, composing my own. They may not be candidates for a Grammy award but as long as it entertains or lulls Noah to sleep, that’s all that matters. Anyone who knows me well also knows that I hate dancing. I am just awkward at that. However, with Noah as my only audience, I couldn’t care less. I step, swing and sway to whatever tune is in my head…again with the hope of consoling Noah’s inconsolable cries. These performances sometimes require props such as Noah’s farm animal friends hanging from his crib mobile or his colorful animal friends from his toy arc. All these animals have different voices and varying accents sometimes, thanks to my wild imagination. Every so often, I also find myself reciting my favorite Shakespearean sonnets to my son, with the hope that this will further aid his language development. All of these activities have become part of my day to day life, in addition to all the other household demands such as doing the laundry, cleaning up and preparing meals.

This is when it becomes undeniable that as a parent, you will always feel compelled to go the extra mile to make your child happy. You will always choose to reach deep down and summon your highest self every moment of every day. This is why, as draining as it all is, parenthood, or in this case, motherhood, is still the most rewarding role there is. You contribute to the evolution of both yourself and another human being. If only one can utter all these things that a mother does for her family in one breath, then I’d be comfortable.

Now I realize that there really is nothing wrong with owning the label of ‘stay-at-home mom’ for myself. Teachers, doctors, farmers and all the other professionals out there don’t go into detail when asked what they do. They simply own the status and people know, or at least have some idea as to the value of what they do, of who they are. Most importantly, I now realize that it is really not so much my issue with other people, as it is my issue within myself. I now know how difficult it is to be a MOTHER; how this is indeed the most difficult responsibility and job title one could ever hold. 

I should not need other people to give value to what I do and to who I am now. I should not feel shame for not earning money outside the home. My contribution to society in raising my son to be the best soul he is meant to be is worth more than anything else in this life. It needs no further validation from the outside world. Besides, no corporation would be able to afford adequate compensation for mothers given what we do and are capable of.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Talcott Parsons on American T.V.

I felt devastated this morning as I watched the news. No, it’s not because of the war in Iraq or the continued destruction of the environment. Truthfully (and embarrassingly), it’s because of the latest American Idol results.

I was absolutely appalled when I heard that Sanjaya Malakar is still in the race and that Brandon Robinson was booted instead! It continues to puzzle me how this kid manages to stay on for weeks now. Objectively speaking, I just don’t think he has any star quality and most importantly, he does not have the vocal prowess at all. Simon Cowell put it so accurately when he said a few weeks ago that Sanjaya sings as if he’s just in a school program. His voice is weak, coupled with an awkward stage presence.

So what exactly does he have that makes him stay on? I wish I could rationalize it all by believing that the American public vote for him because they simply want to know what next week’s hairstyle would be. Or perhaps they want to know what shape earrings he would wear next? A simpler explanation would be that he just has millions of friends and family members who barrage the American Idol lines with their votes. Family votes anyway, are, in every respect, obligatory, and are rarely expected to be rational. I am very much reminded of Talcott Parsons’ (Sociologist) Pattern Variables. In this theory, Parsons highlights the ways in which social actors orient themselves given certain situations, the underlying assumption being that in traditional milieus, what would pervade would be an orientation towards Particularism (instead of Universalism), Affectivity (instead of Affective-Neutrality), Ascription (rather than Achievement), Diffuseness (more than Specificity), and orientation towards the Expressive (rather than the Instrumental). The interesting point is that people have always thought of America as a modern, rational society. Voting behavior of the public on this show, however, points to the opposite. People may be voting based on appearances and emotions, rather than real talent. Sanjaya may just be capitalizing on his ‘nice guy’ appearances, his ‘gentle boy’ image, appealing to people’s emotions, rather than their ears and brains.

All this, however, may be an over analysis on my part. I may be over-intellectualizing the whole tragedy (yes, it is a tragedy, but a funny one, especially to non-Americans like me!) and I would like to apologize to Parsons if my application of his theory seemed inappropriate. I suppose, my own theory is in order. Perhaps the only reason this kid is still in the race is because of the general public’s boredom and cruel sense of humor. Perhaps people vote for Sanjaya because of their “gaper’s mentality”…They simply can’t resist the temptation to find out what the next disaster will be, what song he will murder next, what will cause them to spasm again as they cringe in their seats. Let’s face it. As bitter a pill this is for us to swallow, the truth is that most people do have an insatiable thirst for tragedies. As long as we can distance ourselves from it, we crave drama, embarrassments, heartaches, failures. People are just too bored…too bored that anything becomes entertainment….even Sanjaya Malakar.