Sunday, September 19, 2010

Can Women Have it All?

Modern Indian women have it all. Or so you would think. They have a multitude of career doors opening for them like never before; they have a slowly but surely liberalizing societal system, which doesn’t frown upon love or inter-caste marriages with as much furrows as it did before – so they can choose the man of their dreams; they have an extended family to fall back on in case of help (parents, in laws, or maybe slightly more extended families) despite opting to go nuclear in some cases; they have agencies (some reliable and some maybe not) to help them get all sorts of supplementary help through cooks, drivers, maids, part-time full time hired help and etc, and mushrooming day care centers. With such a support system, you would think Indian women indeed have it all.

And yet, over the years I have seen so many discontented women, broken dreams, guilt-ridden mothers, stressed-and-depressed career women and I’ve wondered where lay the problem. I’ve known successful career women sick to the pits about a bawling baby in a maid’s arms back at home. I’ve known women who have abandoned lucrative careers for the sake of their children, and feeling guilty about “just sitting at home”. I’ve known women in their late thirties spending thousands in fertility clinics and lamenting the fact that they didn’t stop their career juggernaut to have babies, or were too scared to take on the responsibilities. I’ve known mothers struggling with freelance careers in the hope of having it all, but unsatisfied at having ‘nothing’. And I’ve known women who seem to have it all – a fantastic career, wonderful children, and a lovely home, and are so stressed by it all, that given an option, they would take a completely different path!

So where is the problem?

I think it lies in choices and more importantly in compromises. Women while indulging in their dreams forget that they have to make compromises, right from the time they enter into a relationship to when they get married and have children. And they forget that they have to make hard choices, keeping in mind these compromises and most important of all to be happy or teach oneself to be happy with their choices -- compromise-ridden as they might be -- and whether their own or sometimes meted out to them. And above all, not to fret over the ‘what could’ve beens’ because in reality there are no such things, or compare yourselves to other women, because every women and every situation is different.

As to the question if women can have it all, maybe Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce answered it best with, “You can have it all, but you can't have it all at the same time."

What has been your experience? Do you think women can have it all?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Budget In a Marriage

Budgeting, like dieting is something that all of us definitely want to do, because we like the result of it, and also know that it is good for us, but somehow can’t really get down to it, as we get tempted and sidetracked by many other attractions or are simply lazy. But believe me when I say that budgeting is really key to financial health, financial success and financial well-being. And when you get down to it, you’ll find that it is not all that difficult or mind-numbing. And the beauty of it lies in the fact that you jointly get to decide what you want to do with your financial resources and achieve your dreams.

Paper, pen and calculator

First things first. Urge your partner to find time and sit down with pen, paper and calculator and get to work. If you prefer something fancier, you could try out an excel sheet or even perhaps the many budgeting software options on the net. But either way, get down to it. Make the broad categories of fixed household expenses and the odd ones that keep occurring. If you get into too much detail, you might find yourself bogged down by the book-keeping, and if you make too broad categories you might find your money going down a blackhole. So make sure that you find some sort of balance, and don’t forget the smaller stuff, because at the end of the tally, they might be the real culprit for some gaping mismatch in numbers! And if you harbor big dreams -- whether it is building / buying your dream house, going on a dream vacation or the need to spend on an expensive hobby, factor it in and work backwards to see how you can achieve it.
Whether you want to keep a joint account or separate account for your expenses is left to you, but make it clear about who is going to chip in how much and how you really want to structure your financial resources. For this, communication and trust are vital.

Communicate and trust

During all this exercise, it’s vital to keep communication channels open and to trust your better half that he/she is keeping the end of the bargain to maintain the budget. If, on a shopping stint you feel like splurging on something expensive, before you swipe that card, make sure you call your spouse and tell him / her about it, so you can make a joint decision, instead of regretting the impulse later or getting into arguments. If at some point you feel that your wife is spending more for household expenses than a previous month, instead of doubting or distrusting, ask her why.Through this, you will be faithful to your budget as well as build on a relationship rooted in trust. And if you find that your spouse is getting wayward, help him / her stick to it.

Help each other to stick to it

It’s thrilling when we embark on something, especially with a partner, but six months down the line, you might find that it’s not that exciting anymore. It’s the same with a budget, especially ones that come with hard choices. And ever so often, you might find yourself throwing up your hands and saying, “It’s not worth all the trouble,” or just go with your feelings at that point of time. This is when it’s crucial that you support each other and resolve to stick by your plans and commitment.

Like many things in a marriage, budgeting plays an important role that will help you in more ways than you can imagine. It will help to build, and work on trust, open communication, partnership and joint responsibility.

And through this, above all, you’ll be financially secure!

Share your savings story with us