While Vicky's not the first nor even the best to be doing this, the fact remains he's still quite a rarity in our social circles. Actually, I cannot think of another father I know who works from home while managing a child on his own, while his wife works in an office all day.
He (and Rahul and I) have variously been pitied, stared and laughed at. I don't understand these reactions and I'm not amused. Should I be? It was just the other day that it struck me that we only know one other couple who are bringing up their child on their own i.e. they do everything for the child themselves and have always done so. Everybody else we know have ayahs. Now, I myself had an ayah as a kid, each of us Roy grandchildren did, and I assumed I would want one too, when I had children. Then I discovered that I was one of those jealous control freaks that mothers occasionally turn out to be and that no ayah had a hope of measuring up to my standards. So, OK, we manage without. It reassured me that Vicky didn't want an ayah either, although we got a good one last year, if only because we as a family like our privacy in our own home.
I wondered if the decision was still valid all of last month as we struggled to make sense of work timings, hospital visit hours and an increasingly insecure and clingy little boy. But you know, the basic sentiment remains the same -- if my son neeeds his parents, I don't want a maid soothing him, be she never so clean and pleasant and acceptable. If he can't have us, he'll have his grandparents. Or we will move heaven and earth to somehow work out a way to be with him. It's the least we could do, given the stress we put him under. It's also a personal sentiment, one that Vicky and I restrict to ourselves. Most of our friends use ayahs and it's not an issue with us.
Anyway, so I just finished reading the Burma Chronicles and I found myself really appreciating Delisle's annoyance at having his profession -- drawing comics -- seen merely as a diverting hobby. Now, Vicky as a graphic designer has comparitively a more conventional profession but as a work from home father he needs to structure his time very differently from the 'normal' workday his clients follow. He needs to take time out to feed, bathe and play with his son. He needs a little time off now and then to recover from a toddler in the house. Little bits of time, you understand, that I in an office give myself from time to time. When I wander off to read the newspapers and clear my head. My colleagues go for smoking breaks. People wander around chatting of random things. You know what I mean.
When I worked from home or even when I was a part-timer at Call Cutta all of last year, it was not uncommon for people trying to call me to hear me tell them that I'd call them back in a bit because I was busy with the household. My callers, people from both genders and all ages, accepted this in the spirit it was meant and usually chuckled at my son's misdeeds and asked after him when I returned the call at last. When Vicky makes the same request for time though, many people consider it unprofessional.
It's discrimination, whichever way you look at it. Men make more and pay more.