I had an interesting conversation earlier today, with a young friend who can be called my mentee. He is a Sales Representative, the son of a colleague of mine who too was a Sales Representative when both of us used to travel the same beat. Unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago and I have been a kind of surrogate father to the youngster since then.
My young friend (MYF) was complaining of the pressures of his job and how his family life was getting into choppy waters because of that. He wanted to know if I could help him get another job where he would not have to travel as much as he is doing now.
His father and I used to travel for 21 to 25 days at a time working markets that would stay open on Sundays. In India, that was almost all markets! We would finish our tour, come to the head quarters, complete our office work and take off for the next few days depending on how many holidays that we had worked. This end of the tour rest enabled us to catch up with all our domestic work and family and social obligations. That was also the time when we squared up our monthly accounts, paid the bills and got our wardrobe ready for the next tour.
There were not many places with hotels and we had to stay in Railway Retiring Rooms or waiting rooms. Mostly, we traveled by night to avoid staying in hotels any way. Our travel was mostly by train and from the base station, we would catch buses or whatever mode of transport available and visit satellite towns.
You have now got a rough picture of the kind of life that we led.
Our wives ran our homes and looked after our children, their education, and kept the home fires burning as it were. Telephones were difficult to come by and most of us including my friend and I did not have one at home. We depended on the Indian Postal Service to keep in touch with our families and headquarters.
MYF, on the other hand never has to be out of his head quarters for more than a maximum of two nights a week. He however leaves early in the morning and returns home late in the evening.
I explained to him that a Salesman’s life meant traveling and reminded him of his father’s long absences till he got promoted into Management. Even after that he would be away from home for a few days at a time and till he retired, he never stopped traveling. MYF heard me out and came out with a startling thought. He said that perhaps he was born at the wrong time and he should have been a Sales Representative along with me during my younger days!
On probing, the frustration of the youngster became clear. Unlike his mother who used to accept the long absences of her husband, his young wife wanted more time spent with her, taking her to films, going out for dinner, socializing etc, like her friends were doing with their husbands. MYF thoroughly enjoys his job and all that it entails, but is unable to balance the demands of his career with the expectations of his young wife. He is in constant touch with her by mobile phone, they have a land line connection at home too and there are other diversions like television, DVD player, Stereo system, etc plus other modern conveniences that his mother never had till a few years ago, such as washing machine, micro-wave oven etc. Despite all these things that he has got at home, his wife is not satisfied and he is lost.
He came to me for advise about whether he should settle for a divorce, if he did not succeed in getting an other job which would enable him to be at home for longer periods. I shall of course inform my readers as to the advise that I gave in a future post, but in the meanwhile, what would you have advised, had you been in my place?