I would like to be a great cook. One that can turn anything into a delicious meal. But I don’t think I have a great passion about it. I do get excited to try out some new recipes of my favorite meals, but I don’t posses the eagerness to learn or experiment new things especially when it comes to food that I am not really interested in. I also easily get discouraged by complicated recipes and techniques.
A few months ago, my husband and I agreed that we would have lighter and healthier dinner, which means more vegetables, some protein, and less carbohydrate. Okay, this was actually his preference, but I was just too lazy to prepare for two different menus every night (see? Lack-of-passion alert!) and considering how rarely I ate vegetable, I decided to go along with it as well. Turned out, preparing salad requires a lot less time than cooking my usual dishes. Less work, how nice. So from that point onward, we had salad every night except for some occasions when we order in instead.
One day my husband suggested that I could try on different kind of salad, such as pecel or gado-gado. I have zero interest in pecel, but gado-gado is something that I could
tolerate enjoy once in a while. So a few days after, I looked up the recipe on the Internet and decided to try on the first one I found. If you ever try to make one, you know that the real challenge is in making the sauce (or dressing?). I did it though, I made a bowl of peanut sauce or something that resembled it. Well, I wouldn’t have said that it was a success, but hey, it was edible and it tasted good if you could ignore the slight over the top acidity. Sure it looked doubtful (I might or might not leave out one or two ingredients), but I thought it was okay. My husband said it was okay… except for being too acerbic. Whatever, I thought, he wanted gado-gado and he got one (sort of). I should’ve got a praise for my effort at least, in my opinion.
Then he asked how many recipe I read. One, I said, but it was from a reputable cooking website. He opened his mouth (and I just knew that I would’ve loved what come next) and told me that I should’ve looked at more than one recipe so I could get the idea what were and weren’t essentials. Basically, he suggested that I did more research before trying to make a new dish. So I told him that I wasn’t really passionate about cooking (especially the ones that doesn’t involve my favorite ingredients) and naturally I didn’t think about doing a thorough research. To which he responded with something like: “but once you decided to take a job, no matter whether you like it or now, you should do your best to get the work well done”. The “job” here referred to making gado-gado, if anyone wondering.
I wish I could say that I had taken the advise wisely then reflected on my action and looked for a way to make an improvement, but that would’ve been a lie. Because what happened next was I degraded to my 15-year-old-self and served him my patented silent treatment and refused to talk to him for about a half an hour (not that he seemed to notice though). Then went on a foul mood for the entire night.
However, after a couple of days, I started to see that there was some (well, okay, a lot of) truth in what he said, which was: I didn’t do my role in the family professionally.
Before we continue, let me tell you a short story when I was 8 or 9. I was in a car with my father and the radio was on. There was an advertisement that mentioned a word that tickled my curiosity: ‘profesional muda’. I asked my father, what did ‘professional’ mean? I think my father didn’t hear the ad so he didn’t catch the context. He thought I was asking about “professional” as in an adjective instead of “professional” as in a noun. I didn’t suspect this back then, of course, so his answer surprised me. He said, professional were those who did things that they didn’t like because it was their job. I remember thinking, who in the world would would’ve wanted to be a professional?
Okay, there is a good chance my memory didn’t serve that well. However, when I thought back to that particular remark, I dare say that what my father meant was being professional meant that you were willing to do anything necessary to get the job done, happy or not.
There are actually several definitions of professional or being professional. One of a few that are offered by Miriam-Webster is ‘engaged in by persons receiving financial return’. Case in point: ‘professional footballer’. If you play football every day without being paid, then by this definition you are not a professional yet. However, there are other definitions that do not mention any monetary gain. And interestingly, those are the ones that came up more during my little research.
Miriam-Webster’s other alternative is ‘characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession‘. Other definitions that I found are: ‘having the qualities that you connect with trained and skilled people, such as effectiveness, skill, organization, and seriousness of manner‘, ‘person who has achieved an acclaimed level of proficiency ia calling or trade‘,etc. Let’s not get you bored by these definitions. You can always ask Google or read this article if you want to explore more.
Anyway, ‘being professional’ that I refer in my post here is the one that corresponds with character(s) instead of financial gain. All four paragraphs above led to this little statement. Sorry.
Okay, so, where were we? *scroll up*
Oh, right. I realized that I didn’t do my role or jobs in the household professionally. I like taking care of my family (or at least, I like the thought of taking care of them) and there are several things that I love to do, like taking and picking up my son to school. There are also other things that I like to do, like making up bed (weird, I know). And of course, there are things that I rather not to do, like preparing meals I don’t really care about, cleaning up the storage room, ironing, and the list goes on. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize before (after almost 5 years of marriage. I am slow sometimes.), just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean I can do it carelessly, which is kind of that I did with the gado-gado incident (ooh, doesn’t it add a flare of drama?). What happened was I only thought about getting this done instead of getting this done wonderfully. I’d have liked to get it done wonderfully, but I didn’t want to the extra effort. Then after it was done, I was hoping to get a glorious praise for… my effort (not the result, mind you).
That got me thinking, why did I do that? I think, I saw myself as doing my family a favor for taking care of them instead of owning it as my responsibilities. Had I assumed it as my responsibility, I wouldn’t have expected anything in return for my effort because it was given. Had I assumed it as my responsibility, I wouldn’t have felt generous for spending time looking for recipes, it was given. Had I assumed it as my responsibility, I (wish) would have taken the job more professionally.
I find that thinking my role at home as a professional job doesn’t make me feel pressured. Instead, it puts things in a new perspective, that is I have to put more, or at the very least equal, effort at home as I do at work. It doesn’t mean I have to do everything alone. Just like a small business, exactly like Wangsa Jelita actually, there are 2 Co-CEOs (or CEO and COO/CFO/C-whatever you want) at home: the husband and the wife. Each person has their own responsibilities, some are shared, others not. In Wangsa Jelita I am solely responsible for Finance, Human Resource, and Production & Supply Chain. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t ask for Nadya’s, my partner, advice every day in the week or ask her to help me to get a job done or start a project based on her idea. That just means that I am the one responsible to look over the grand scheme of those particular divisions.
And let’s not forgetting that we can always hire people to help us or outsource the jobs to other firms. Just like we can hire professional helper or nanny at home or choose to, for instance, paying a catering service to provide meals for the family or a daycare to look after our children..
Believe it or not, a standard company divisions is actually applicable at home as well. A family needs a money-maker(s) (Sales), someone who manages the money and expenses (Finance), someone who manages what, when, and where to buy groceries and other things (Supply Chain), someone who makes sure the family is not left out of the social circle and always presentable (PR), someone who plans events and vacations (HR), someone who closely monitor the everyone’s need (HR), someone who plan and oversee the education of the children (HR), someone who makes sure a smooth day-in and day-out (Operations), etc. If you think it’s easy, ask every start-up founder how easy it is for them to run their companies. This is not a job that could be done (well) with only half the effort.
I am ashamed that until recently I didn’t see homemaking as something that I need to do professionally. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg mentioned that “society has long undervalued the contributions of those who work without salary”. Even though by many definitions, professional is more about character and work ethic. One can have a title of a financial analyst, for example, and get paid for it. But if one doesn’t submit one’s report or any work for that matter, should he/she still be considered as a professional?
In the end, I think, it doesn’t really matter whether you get paid or not, whether the title is manager or homemaker, as long as you have accepted a role/work, you have to take your responsibility seriously and do your job professionally.