Everyone’s penning down their thoughts on the current unprecedented crises. PS: If I was to earn a penny, every time someone used the word ‘unprecedented’ I would be a millionaire. There have been a lot of lessons personally and professionally. I introspect about what all I may do differently going ahead, and discuss with my friends and family the realisations we’re all having about human needs—essentials and frills.
Professionally too, so much has evolved, transformed and adapted. Some leaders have crumbled, while some who had the grit, empathy, care, focus and agility have survived, holding their employees’ hands and hopes tightly.
What we haven’t thought or discussed enough is the influence our ‘lockdown partners’ are having on us. Some of us are alone, some with parents, some with friends and some even with strangers in quarantine. Personally as well, the one lesson I haven’t pondered much over, before today, is the one I got from my partner in this lockdown—my husband.
While I have ended up spending time with many different family members during this time (due to us dividing our time between our home and our parents’ homes), my experience of sharing this with my husband stands out as the most prominent. Maybe also because we are in a long-distance marriage and this time together has been very valuable.
Through this time, I have experienced an increased respect and admiration for him. I was beginning to think that living together just simply suits us. Which it does. But now, I feel there is more to it. Somethings more that have been showcased in this duration and situation. What all is that?
1. Not taking it personally
Being a businessman in the midst of multiple ventures, I expected him to be agile and solution-oriented about it, but with hints of despair and discouragement. After all, it is natural for one to be disappointed when the course of one’s venture changes 360 degrees. But there has not been a day, where I heard him complain about the business implication, adjustment required, or his dream being put on pause.
Lesson learnt: When some occurrence is out of one’s locus of control, focus cannot be put into why it happened or when it’ll end; focus needs to be on solutions and next steps. You’ll all agree with me, you have so much more than many others who have been affected by this crisis. Leveraging that ‘so much more’ to recover the loss is what I learnt.
2. Managing multiple lives
This lockdown has required my husband to take charge of multiple family members—either emotionally or even physical health wise. Our family has a diverse variety of people—tough minds, more sensitive souls, open-minded members, some fixed, some young and some old—and just diverse personalities. And our context was such that my husband had to play the role of the front-runner cum coordinator, managing each family member’s needs, demands, issues, complaints and cravings. He didn’t get it easy. But he customised strategies to each personality, and got the job done.
Lesson learnt: Multiple people, in teams or beyond, can be managed calmly, without any outburst by ensuring one doesn’t take the pressure to agree with everyone, but instead agreeing to disagree and moving on. And also by customising your tactics to each person you interact with.
3. Unaffected by gender roles
A stance I have rightfully demanded, and fortunately have always been aligned on with my husband is that of equality in gender roles. While he’s never disappointed me on this front, it was this period that made me realise his true comfort with it. It’s too simplistic to say that I do a job, and he helps with the housework. It’s simplistic because he doesn’t ‘help’ with the housework and I don’t ‘help’ us earn money. We both own each of these roles. We both earn, and we both do the housework.
He has been a great partner in striking down gender stereotypes that may add a lot more pressure, burden and expectations on one partner. Especially during such a time as this lockdown. Since he doesn’t usually live with me, I end up doing a lot of the home management. However during this time, without even being requested or taught, he managed everything, from groceries to cleaning, from taking care of plants to cooking, from managing our house didi to coordinating all utility vendors. I never felt that he’s doing me a favour. And when I spend time playing the role that the man of the house usually does, I don’t sense just the ‘obligatory’ appreciation or praise. But I sense a calm pride, and a secure comfort.
Lesson learnt: We can empower our partners by truly sharing the load, and breaking the shackles of roles and expectations we have been told of traditionally. You want your partner to be truly happy? Let them be them, and support them in being them. Wholly and completely.
4. Mental agility and seeking solutions
Being a business junkie, at a certain point of time, my husband deals with at least three to four business ventures at different stages. I observed a surprising and an interesting increase in my husband’s comfort with quickly delivering on things demanded on them, swiftly moving between to-dos and also very smartly and flexibly creating his work-time and family-time. He didn’t over structure his day traditionally, for 9 am-5 pm to mean work time and then relaxation post that. He just listened to his mind, body and energy. He somehow balanced his peak hours along with his sleep cycle and family time. And it seamlessly seemed to work.
Lesson learnt: It made me think, is our traditional definition of productivity actually the ideal one? Why do we break the day into structured buckets (as much as I love that! I’m type A personality!)? And does that stop us from becoming mentally agile and moving between unrelated topics, and yet delivering on goals?
He said to me in the initial part of the lockdown: “Either I can sit idle or I can do something powerful with my time.” I felt proud of him as I liked his commitment to using the time well. I assumed he would read, do courses, focus on fitness, watch interesting shows, think about the next wave of his businesses—like a regular person would do. But no, he meant something totally different. He has shown more curiosity than usual at this time. He has so many questions on his mind, to which he doesn’t Google answers. Instead he searches for them in action, he observes people solve them, he speaks to at least a dozen people to learn more about a topic, he comes up with beta tests to prove some sort of a hypothesis.
Lesson learnt: I initially thought this is a bit excessive! I mean I barely manage my job, social life, home, and books. But today I can say, my husband has learnt and mentally grown more in this lockdown than I
may have ever let myself in my life. I have seen not just a knowledge leap, but a character leap.
6. My favourite pick-me-up
Compared to him, my life is very structured. I know all my next moves, I know exactly how each day looks the moment I wake up, I know solutions to problems that have not even happened. Despite all this structure and plans, such a personality usually comes with high anxiety. During this lockdown, I’ve had tense moments, mood swings and bouts of anxiety. And during this time, my husband has played a very powerful role in bringing me out of it.
Not by dismissing my fears and worries, but by empathising with me and hearing me out. If I was him, I would have shaken me up and told me to get a grip. But not him, he made me feel that it is okay to feel a certain way, and worked with me to help me not make my fears a roadblock—to my mind, life and my emotions. He did this every time I needed this, which was many times. Without being asked to; he just knew when it was required. I can’t word the lesson I learnt on this front, I still have a long way to go to truly listen that actively, and care that empathetically.
I promise he hasn’t bribed me to pen this down. Don’t we all talk about our learning and lessons—some professionally, some philosophically? So why not share what our nearest and dearest teach us? We take those blessings for granted.