Madhumitha Ramanathan









By Madhumitha Ramanathan

The Home Manager

There is a joke that floats around that when an Indian woman walks up to her manager with her wedding invitation, the manager understands it to be a resignation letter. If her resignation is not immediate after her marriage, then it’s just a matter of time before she resigns in the name of maternity. The birth of a child marks the birth of a mother: the very essence of womankind. Irreplaceable is her natural instincts to understand what her baby needs at any given point of time. Therefore, driven by her instincts, she automatically takes up the responsibility to nurture the child, and give it her all.

Being a caregiver at heart, her natural instincts lead her to embrace every responsibility that the ignorant society piles onto her shoulders. She caters to her child’s needs, in addition to being the perfect daughter-in-law and taking care of the household and her ageing in-laws, along with managing other ancillary administrative tasks associated with the running of the house, such as bills, groceries, laundry, etc. Finally, to ensure that she is never unoccupied, she also cooks all the three meals of the day.

The home-maker, better known as a ‘house-wife’, starts her day at 5am in the morning. She usually wakes up with a headache from a disturbed sleep, as she had to wake up several times during the night to attend to her ailing mother-in-law. Popping a painkiller, she gets to work immediately making breakfast for her family, and packing lunch for her kids and husband. She gets her kids ready for school and most importantly the bigger kid, her husband, ready for work! She then quickly takes a bite of her breakfast, simultaneously cleaning the table and the kitchen. The doorbell rings and there walks in the maid to do the sweeping, mopping and cleaning of utensils. As she listens to the maid’s gibberish she sets the bedroom and gets ready for her bath. Out of the shower in five minutes she is at the prayer (commonly called ‘Pooja’) room performing the traditional rituals, praying for her family’s safety and well-being. Moments after that it’s time to help her parents-in-law with their morning medication. Just then the doorbell rings and she receives a parcel. In that split second, the dog finds the opportunity to escape out of the gate left ajar by the delivery man. Now she is on the streets chasing the dog to bring it back home. Having successfully returned back home with the dog and gasping for breath she hears the telephone ring. She answers it to learn that a relative will be at her doorstep in about 10 minutes to visit her family. Not wasting anytime she gets into action to prepare some snacks and coffee for the guests when the maid calls her to show a water pipeline leak. Now, she needs to find the plumber! She makes a quick call and negotiates successfully for him to attend to her house immediately. Meanwhile the guests arrive and she welcomes them with a bright smile showing no signs of chaos and reflecting a perfectly calm composure.

The guests leave and its lunch time. She serves her parents-in-law, the dog and then sees her maid off instructing her to come in early the next day as she is expecting her sister-in-law to be visiting to stay with them for the next week. Just when she sits for lunch, the doorbell rings again, it’s the gardener complaining that it’s time for all the coconuts in the tree to be plucked as they are drying up and some have begun to fall off the trees. She takes a quick look and instructs him to pluck all the coconuts. Whilst he is at his job she finishes her hurried lunch. She then gets to supervise the number of coconuts plucked, store them neatly in sacks and then monitors the entire garden to be cleaned. In the middle of this the telephone rings incessantly every fifteen minutes, with callers ranging from her husband calling to mention that some more salt would have added better taste to his lunch to salesmen offering a bank loan that she does not need.

Its tea time and as she serves tea for her parents-in-law and the gardener. The doorbell rings and her kids are back from school. Greeting the kids, she now feeds them listening to all their school activities and spends the next couple of hours helping her kids complete their home-work.

After their studies are done, she allows her kids to play and gets into finishing the laundry and getting the next day’s school uniforms and clothes ready. The doorbell rings again and this time it’s the boy from the ‘Kirana’ (local grocery shop) delivering all the groceries that she had ordered yesterday. She checks each of the items and arranges them in the kitchen and store room accordingly. Its late evening and her husband returns from work. She makes the bed, serves dinner and helps her parents-in-law with their medication. Meanwhile, her husband is very tired and heads off to watch the prime time news and relax. The lady of the house now wrapping up her day cleans the dining table and the kitchen.

After all the day’s toil and running around, she wants to de-stress and unwind. She wants to switch off her mind completely and a 30-minute soap opera helps her with this. However, the husband has to make apparently “the most important” conversation only within those 30-minutes. If she asks for some time to discuss later, she is mocked at for not watching the news, not gaining knowledge of current affairs and is stereotyped as “house-wives do nothing at home but watch soap operas all day.”  This very stereotyping is transformed into the corporate world where a home-maker’s job is not considered as experience. When she is in a position of her life where her responsibilities have reduced and the kids have become independent, she is unable to join the workforce. Corporates perceive her as someone who lacks sufficient skill-sets and experience.

Where else can you find a person with so many transferrable skills that could be applied to any industry? She is the most committed person with years of experience in a full time job with no perks, no sick-leaves, no vacations, no salary, and most importantly, a thankless job. In spite of lack of incentives, the work is carried out with utmost sincerity and dedication. She performs all her tasks with the greatest precision meeting her daily deadlines and has excellent organization skills. She is proactive and makes contingency plans with the right amount of monthly stock and a given budget. She is a perfect multi-tasker and is a great risk manager being able to handle all the uncertainties that come her way. She is good at negotiating and knows how to get her job done on priority. No one else is a better people manager than her, being able to train and coach a house helper (maid, cook, gardener, driver). There is constant supervision and monitoring required because every house has a different style of work and there is some undoing and training that every new house helper needs. The attrition rate among maids, gardeners, drivers being really high, there she is the HR manager trying to find an honest, dedicated and hardworking helper for her house. As the king-pin of the family the pressure she handles is immense and still she is able to manage all the work ignoring the stress. She is even fully equipped in handling the ‘corporate politics’, after all she runs the household perfectly fine amongst all the joint family’s and extended relative’s politics. Therefore, the house-wife is a master with all the skills sets of time management, pressure management, risk management, people management, recruiting, supervising and monitoring, strategic planning and customer service.

Could anyone ask for a better management teacher? With 30 years of delivering her duty, managing a house with a garden having 7 coconut trees and 2 mango trees, 5 dogs, parents-in-law, daughter, husband and relatives coming over to stay every other month, my mother is a management textbook to learn from but funnily & ironically, I still chose to do an MBA!

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  • Aditya Roy

    Hi Madhumitha,

    Firstly, your blog posts are very insightful for a candidate from my background, who is looking to apply for the Oxford MBA course. I financial research Industry working in Bangalore. I am planning to apply for Summer 2017 batch and towards this aspiration, I have several question on which I would really like to get the perspective of an alumni.

    It would be really helpful if you can share your contact information, on which I can mail you more details about my profile, career goals and my questions.

    I understand that you would be extremely busy with your professional and personal life, however, I would really appreciate any help or inputs in this direction.