In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to offer an ode to the most important woman in my life, my Amma.
As a homemaker, my Amma is constantly on her feet, 24/7/365. To gain more insight into everything she has to do, I recently sat down with her and simply asked her, “What’s your schedule every day?”
She stared blankly, and after a couple of seconds, responded, “I don’t know.”
I asked her again, phrased differently, “What do you do every day?”
She stared blankly again and simply said, “Just sit around. I don’t do much. It’s not like I have a job.”
My Amma never gives herself enough credit. I knew sitting down with her and asking her to talk about herself wasn’t going to help me write this narrative. But I don’t usually see my Amma in action, given the fact that for most of the day, I am in school or away from home. The only information I have managed to accumulate has been from asking throughout the years, “How was your day today, Amma?”
All of my Amma’s days are busy, and I can intensely recall the busyness that filled her days from 2011-2012 when my father’s parents stayed with us. So, to the best of my ability, I will attempt to convey everything my Amma did in a day in those years.
6:00 a.m.: She would wake up and get ready for the day.
6:30 a.m.: She would do pooja, the Hindu act of saying prayers. My Amma always made sure to pray for our health and happiness. My grandmother would also be awake during this time, doing pooja of her own. My Amma made sure my grandmother had everything she needed.
7:00 a.m.: She would make lunch for my younger brother, my father and me. My brother and I never woke up in time to make it to the bus stop, let alone make and pack our own lunches.
7:15 a.m.: She would wake my brother and me up for school. We always slept through our alarm clocks, so our Amma was the only reliable alarm we had. Soon after, she would pick out our outfits. I don’t know how to dress now, so you can imagine how rough it was when I would attempt to pick out my own outfits between the ages of 10 and 12. My Amma was, and very much still is, my stylist, making sure I don’t look like a clown every day.
7:45 a.m.: She would make sure we were ready to take on the day. Amma would braid my hair every morning. I was awful at doing my own hair. In fact, I didn’t even know how to braid my own hair until my freshman year of high school, so I relied on my Amma to do my hair for me every single morning. As she brushed out all of its tangles and knots, slathering the infamous Parachute coconut oil along the way, she would ask us if we put our homework in our bags and ensure we had our water bottles. She would check to see if we picked up our lunchboxes she made from the kitchen counter and if we wanted to eat something before we left for the bus. Finally, she would take a breath for herself as the bus entered our neighborhood, and my brother and I would give our hugs and kisses and make our way to school. This was her only break before moving on to her next set of tasks for the day. It’s funny — this would be the moment I considered the beginning of my day. Meanwhile, my Amma would have been up and moving for almost 2 hours at this point.
8:00 a.m.: She would finish preparing a pot of coffee. My father would be up and getting ready for work at this point, so now my Amma made sure he would be ready to take on his day. This is also when my Amma had to think about what to make for lunch for herself and my grandparents. On top of being vegetarian, my grandparents do not eat eggs, onions or garlic. And no, not even onion powder or garlic powder. My Amma had to be creative to find something new to make for them each day.
8:30 a.m.: She would make sure my father has his water bottles, his coffee, his ID, his phone, his wallet and his keys. After he leaves, my Amma could finally take another breather. Immediately after she exhaled, she would need to start making lunch.
9:00 a.m.: She would make lunch for herself and my grandparents while making sure my grandparents are comfortable, not too cold and all-around feeling well.
10:00 a.m.: She would set the table with water, napkins and a placemat. My Amma’s pet peeve is when her tablecloths get messy.
10:30 a.m.: She would sit down with my grandparents as they eat lunch, making sure they have everything they need. My Amma would usually wait until after they were done eating to eat herself, so she could accommodate any of their needs as they ate.
11:00 a.m.: She would eat and talk to her sister who lives in India. My Amma is the oldest of four in her family, so while taking care of our household here in the States, she always made sure things were also okay back home in India. By now my grandparents would be taking a nap, so my Amma wouldn’t have to check in with them as much.
12:00 p.m.: She would pay off the bills, clean the house and schedule any doctor appointments for us. Sometimes as a treat, she would scroll social media or go to the mall. Though even when she went to the mall, my Amma would never buy things for herself first; instead, she would always try to buy items for the rest of us. (After all, she really is my stylist).
3:00 p.m.: She would be home. My Amma had to make sure she was home by the time my brother and I returned from school, which was also around the time my grandparents would be awake again. She would listen to stories about how our days were and make us an after-school snack.
4:00 p.m.: She would start thinking about dinner since everyone in our household ate at different times. My grandparents liked to eat dinner while watching their favorite shows. They always had 4 shows lined up back-to-back. From 7:00-9:00 p.m., the TV would be turned up to the maximum volume blasting South Indian serials, and this is when they would eat. My brother and I hated the serials my grandparents watched, so we preferred to eat after they were done watching, around 9:00 p.m. My father preferred to eat after my brother and I were done eating since he would be busy with work and other tasks until then, so my parents would eat together around 10:00 p.m. To complicate the matter more for my Amma, we all ate different things. What my grandparents ate didn’t appeal to my brother and me. And the things my brother and I wanted didn’t appetize my parents. So Amma had to think about what to make, how much to make of it and when to start making it, for three different dinners each day.
5:00 p.m.: She would start cooking.
5:30 p.m.: She would still be cooking.
6:00 PM: She would finally finish cooking.
6:30 p.m.: She would do evening pooja. My Amma passionately made sure we were happy and healthy. Once again, my grandmother would be doing pooja of her own, so my Amma also made sure she had everything she needed.
7:00 p.m.: She would set the table, making sure my grandparents had everything they needed. Water, napkins, placemats and now, the TV remote.
9:00 p.m.: She would set the table, making sure my brother and I had everything we needed. Water, napkins, placemats and the TV remote.
10:00 p.m.: She would set the table, making sure my father and herself had everything they needed. Water, napkins, placemats and the TV remote.
11:00 p.m.: She would do the dishes. My Amma’s number one pet peeve — to this day — is when we leave dishes around the house. My Amma would walk into every single room in the house making sure she picked up every bowl, plate, cup, spoon, knife and fork to put in the sink and dishwasher. The last thing she needed was someone to come to the sink with a dirty dish after she had just finished rinsing her last plate to load into the dishwasher. Full disclosure, it was always me with that last lonely bowl or plate to throw into the sink.
12:00 a.m.: Usually, we were all expected to go to sleep, but, of course, my brother and I never listened to the rules. So my Amma had to make sure we did our homework, make sure we were asleep and make sure we were feeling good.
12:30 a.m.: Amma would finally go to sleep. Ready to start the day all over again in less than 6 hours.
This is a very rough outline of Amma’s schedule, not meaning she would do less than this, but rather on occasion, she would do much more. Some days, I would have volleyball games she would make time to come to. Other days, I would have vocal lessons my Amma would have to drive me to and pick me up from. Some days my brother had a school project due the next morning and would ask to go to Meijer at 10:00 p.m. to pick up supplies. Amma would always be flexible with us, that was the nature of her job as a homemaker.
Watching my Amma work her ass off every day has shaped me into the person I am today. Her work requires flexibility, patience, compassion, eloquence, determination, organization and so much more. Though I don’t know that I can ever live up to my Amma’s work ethic, I’d be pretty lucky if I had even just 10% of it.
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