Mumbai: Pooja Bedi and Suneeta Rao tell us that homemaking is way tougher and far more satisfying than you make think
I`ve Always Been a Bit of a Madame
I`ve always been a bit of a "madam". At least, that`s what my enlightened elder sisters tell me—more often than I care to hear it. I was the one with the long painted nails, the frizzy hair and the hectic schedule—rehearsals, shows, recordings—running in and out of the house, with barely enough time to cuddle their respective little wonders whenever they visited. But when I did get the time, I actually did everything for their babies—diapers, bedtime rituals, walks in the park. But that was because they were `theirs` not `mine`!
Another thing I kept hearing was "Oh, but you`re a natural! You`ll make a fabulous home! You`d be a fantastic mum and a great wife!" And if I showed even the slightest hesitation at the thought of settling down, offering the lack-of-time my profession entailed as an excuse, they would say, "Oh, but you`ll have staff!" And so on.
Little did I know, that not so many years later, I was going to be darting around "Mom and Me" shops, discussing staff overhauls and salaries, waiting at home nervously for the gas cylinder to be delivered before the weekend, and going berserk calling the electrician, plumber and carpenter, alternately, hoping at least one of them would either answer my call or show up at my doorstep before I lost my head completely! But yes. I did it.
And I am still doing it. Every day. Every moment. Living, loving and hating it, but not regretting a single thing. With every good intention that backfires, a hundred rewards come flooding in. Some hardly noticeable and some hugely heartwarming— like the out-of-the-blue hug from my daughter, or a comment from my cook marvelling at how patient I am with my child, or a bouquet of flowers from my husband simply because he was in a great mood and happy to be home… sounds awfully soppy I know, but that`s me.
I am a reluctant cook and can only do it if I am happy. So yes, I do have staff. I cook when I want to. I do my child`s bed and bath routine when I want to. I go out if I want to. Knowing I will come back to a home I have made with the help of my partner—with all the trials and tribulations that go with it, be it differences of opinion on the choice of furniture, or decisions about electronic gadgets, a new wardrobe or a chest of drawers.
But when someone comes over, takes one look at the living room and says, "How well you have done this up", or "It always feels so nice to come to your home", I think back on my sisters` comments and realise they were right.
I now have a place I can call my own, where I can come back after a hard day`s work or a long holiday, touch my bare feet to the familiar floor and know where everything is with my eyes closed. A place where my loved ones live, grow and flourish—individually and together. That`s what I call home. And I have made it. Yes, Me. Madam Homemaker.
Suneeta Rao, Homemaker and Musician
And They Say Being a Housewife is Boring?
It doesn`t matter if I sleep at 4 am. My alarm will still go off every morning at 7:00 am. It`s said a man`s work is from sun to sun but a housewife`s work is never done. Once I get out of my bed, I`m back on the merry-go-round of life that just keeps going faster and faster; it`s impossible to slow it down or jump off. The schedule stays the same—clean the house, do the laundry, walk the dogs, cook, pack tiffins, supervise the kids` routines, grocery shopping... the list goes on. No matter how many times you cross things off the list there`s always more to add, and the list re-emerges day after day. And they say being a housewife is boring? Sure it can reek of monotony, but as is said, if you`re going to do it, make it exciting and do it well.
Hence, I think of myself as a Domestic Goddess with 10 arms for all the required multitasking, empowered with the ability to make the ordinary, extraordinary. Naturally, my primary mission as Domestic Goddess is to make sure of a heavenly home environment.
For me, the great Indian kitchen, an integral component of family life, is not about putting food on the table, it`s about making sure no dish is repeated during the week, that the cuisine keeps changing and the colour palate is not monotonous.
A red gravy, a yellow dal, some greens and a white raita makes a good visual on an impeccably laid-out table replete with beautiful table mats, crockery and cutlery. Napkin folding techniques, cooking courses in every cuisine, even vegetable carving classes to ensure a fantastic dining table visual; I`ve done `em all! With élan!
A neat, clean, fluidly functioning, aesthetic home are all obvious expectations from a housewife, but to make sure it always smells great, is filled with positive energy, and resonates with the sound of laughter are, for a Domestic Goddess, integral to ethereal living. People who live in my home or visit my home must be greeted with smiles, hospitality, warmth, hugs and sunshine of the soul.
The difference between a housewife and a Domestic Goddess lies in multitasking with the right attitude. I feel sorry for the man of the house who sets off every day to a boring desk job and a snappy boss. A housewife is her own boss and makes her own routines. I revel in that freedom, so I don`t see a visit to the supermarket as a chore, I see it as a delightful outing to zoom up and down aisles with my chariot, picking out our favourite edibles and discovering new ones whilst at it.
I don`t freak out if my staff want to go on leave, I wave my magic wand and make their wishes come true, because I can. The same way I can cook up anyone`s favourite dish or sneak a much loved candy bar onto a bed pillow to elicit a squeal of delight. I prioritize to achieve balance because being a housewife is to multitask the roles of wife, memsaab, mom, friend, pet owner, sous-chef and interior decorator; it`s actually a lot of fun. I consciously remind myself that life is a rainbow of experiences and the choice to make it a distorted, colourless, dull one, v/s a bright, happy and breathtaking one, lies with me.
As with every housewife who is a mother, kids are always the priority and being their counsellor, adviser, disciplinarian, and nurturer is serious business. Bonding time, oodles of cuddling and kissing, swimming and playing together, ensuring they are happy, healthy, sporty, studious, growing up to be respectful, resilient, capable, loving and kind human beings is my responsibility. For me, being a housewife is not about getting the job done, it`s about making it matter. I don`t want to pass the day, I want to live the day.
And I also realise that "I" matter.
Elaine Heffner once said, "Women do not have to sacrifice personhood if they are mothers. They do not have to sacrifice motherhood in order to be persons. Liberation was meant to expand women`s opportunities, not to limit them. And the self-esteem that has been found in new pursuits can also be found in mothering"... and I`d like to add `in being a housewife too!`
Pooja Bedi, Homemaker and Hostess Extraordinaire