Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Stress is a function of the quality of life.

So the new job started this week and along with that the daily madness of waking up, getting everything from breakfast, lunch and dinner ready before I leave so I can have a few moments of peace when I come back, drop off and pick up duties etc.

But amazingly, I am actually enjoying all of this. I spent the last two or so years in a miserable job and my first break from the misery came last summer when I went to work with a group of people from my past who helped me regain my faith in people. I will take this moment to send a shout out to my manager- no names but he is one of the best people I have worked for in a while. I cannot thank him enough for being the kind of manager he is.

I will not go into the details of the nightmare I lived through for two years before I was able to break out of it, it will suffice to say that I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy and another day there would have driven me nuts.

My two years of hell along with pregnancy and postnatal hormones had all but drained me of my last drop of hope but the hopeless optimist that I am, even through all of that, I still held on to the last sliver of hope. I had a lot to be happy about during that time though. We had a new baby, Kishen got his MBA, Vivek was growing up to be a really smart kid, my sisters had kids around the same time, but although I enjoyed the moments, I could never truly feel the happiness of the moments and events. I felt like I was in a dark box, experiencing the happiness through a small window in the box. The stress of dealing with hell 8 hours a day took up my last ounce of energy and I didn’t seem to have any left to enjoy the more important things in life. I was more than obsessed with doing better, I was consumed by it. Then I realized, I was not the problem, and that was when I decided; it was time to get out of the situation.

I was struggling to find work life balance but until I got out of there I didn’t realize that there is no need to look for that balance. Work and Life are like two sides of the same coin. One does not have any validity without the other. Work is a part of your life and if stop chasing balance, life will find it for you.

So, I was elated when I got an opportunity to get out of there. I would have jumped at the first opportunity that came my way and thankfully it turned out to be at a place I loved with people I knew. I took it and that was the end of my nightmare.

It took a while for the horror to go away though. For the first few weeks, I kept feeling I was living in a dream and any moment I would wake up and realize it was all a dream. Then slowly but surely, like a tiny ray of sunshine breaking through a dark cloud cover to bring light and warmth, the realization that it was over and this was reality started to sink in.

The quality of my life was at an all time low for two years and no matter how many positive experiences I had, I stressed about everything. I wasn’t happy during a major part of the day and it messed up everything. I stressed about sleeping at night, waking up in the morning, getting ready for work, getting the kids ready, eating food, not eating food, you name it, I stressed about it.

Getting away from there was like getting CPR after being under water for a really long time. I thought I would never be able to breathe again. Thankfully I was wrong. I started breathing again. The new place worked wonders. I was able to enjoy the small things in life one more time. It took me about three months to realize that the nightmare was over but when I did, I looked at life from a new perspective.

My positive experiences resulted in a better quality of life for me and voila, the stress was gone. It’s like it was never there. It seems like a distant memory now. Its funny how our brain always brings positive experiences to the forefront and stashes away the negative ones to a far corner of memory. It was a life lesson for me. I never thought I would become skeptical but now I believe skepticism is the brain’s defense mechanism. I am not skeptical (yet) but I have learnt to take a deeper look at things.

The last few months have taken me back to the positive experiences of my past and I have arrived at a junction of the past where the future looks really good. I know it sounds crazy but it’s the truth of my life. Positive experiences of the past + super future outlook make for the best quality of life and a good quality life makes for low stress no matter how hard you are working ☺

Here’s to the positive experiences in life- may we have more of them with a sprinkling of not so good to remind us how good we have it ☺

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Staying at Home

So 2010 December saw my contracting career come to an end. It wasn’t entirely unexpected but still I was faced with looking for a job yet again so I decided to take a break while I looked for a job. My defense was: I haven’t taken a break since my older son was born and I need a break right now. I also wanted to spend some “quality” time with the baby so here I was, in the middle of December, looking forward to some time off in early 2011.

Well, the first thing we talked about was- you guessed it: finances. After long deliberation (by dear husband (DH)- I don’t like to be bothered by frivolities like money) it was decided that I could take some time off. So now the question was how long. DH suggested 6 months. It sounded too good to be true- do I dare dream about spending lazy afternoons watching movies, playing with the baby, going for walks, taking the kids to the park or the mall (hey, I am allowed to be selfish). And then I thought about what would really happen- cooking every day, pickup and drop off duty for the older kid, no more housekeeping services etc. You get the picture so I decided I would sacrifice my 6 months of laziness and settle for about a month or so while I looked for a job. I planned on continuing the nanny service for the baby so I could (ahem) look for a job. After all, how could I look for a job without help at home? I didn’t want to lose the nanny I had either so we decided to continue with her. The best part was I found a before my contract ended and I could still get my 3-4 weeks off. I was ecstatic and was dreaming about my days spent at a spa or browsing books at Barnes and Noble, catching up on technical skills, playing with my new laptops, coming home to play with the baby, try new recipes and not worry about housework.

As luck would have it, our nanny found a better position and decided to leave!!!!!!!! Sudden crash to reality but no worries, I could do this. How difficult could it be to take care of the house and the kids? I had done it in the past and I could do it again for as long as it took. So, I put on my housewife hat for three weeks and planned out lots of things to do- clean out closets, try recipes, read to the kids every day, workout etc. etc. The first week was really good mostly because I still had the nanny so I was free to do what I wanted. I got a lot of things in order- inside and outside the house and I couldn’t stop wondering why I hadn’t taken time off sooner. I had some cousins visiting, it was the end of the year so I had parties to look forward to- it was just perfect. The year ended on a really good note and 2011 started on a great note. I was looking forward to my new job and I had 3 weeks to spend at home before I started working again.

The first Monday in January was good. The nanny came for one last day while I coped with dropping Vivek off and taking care of some last minute stuff and just generally getting used to the idea of not having any help around the house. It was good. I thought I would be freaking out by the end of Monday but I was calm and actually looking forward to the rest of my “vacation”. The next couple of days were tiring to say the least. I had to wake up in the morning, get Vivek ready for school, make sure he ate some breakfast and deal with Nakul trying to trip me up while I ran around like a one of those harried moms on TV. Then came the part where I put them both in the car, drive to Vivek’s school, drop him off with Nakul screaming to get out of his car seat and follow his brother. Back at home, it was breakfast time for Nakul, followed by bath time and then cook lunch for him while he tried to make me play with him. Needless to say I was TIRED by lunch time. Thankfully Nakul took a loooooooong nap after lunch which gave me a chance to take a shower and relax for 5 minutes before getting started on dinner for both kids. To add to all of this drama, Nakul developed a really bad cold and gave it to me too. So, the first couple of days of ‘blissfully’ staying at home were not so blissful. I had pictured being able to watch a movie, work on my new MAC, brush up on some technical knowledge, write more blogs, take Nakul out for walks, try out some new recipes but my vision was shattered with a loud crack!

By the time Wednesday rolled around, I had a better handle on the situation or so I thought. I was able to get Vivek ready and off to school in a decent time. I optimized cooking time by combining lunch and dinner preparations together. I had the kids ready and cooking duties done by the time I dropped Vivek and got back home. I was tired by 9:00 am but that is beside the point . When I picked up Kishen on Wednesday night, I was hoping for some relief but he was jetlagged and sick as a dog so the entire week saw me working harder than I had in the past year!
I had a renewed respect for Moms/Dads who stay at home and take care of the kids and housework. I don’t know how they manage to keep their sanity with so much to do all the time. By the end of my first week off, I was ready to go back to work and hire a housekeeper to do all of the housework for me. I guess I have been spoilt by the availability of a Nanny at all time for the last year or so. It isn’t cheap but compared to the mountain of work that needs to be done, I will take it any day.

It hasn’t been all bad really. I did get to spend more time with Nakul and Vivek and even with all the housework, I am still relaxed. I know a lot of women who have two kids, full time jobs and no help at home and they are doing great. Call me lazy or anything else you want but I need a housekeeper and I need her fast!!!