By | Hema Ravichandar | Strategic HR Advisory, former CHRO Infosys Ltd
It was while putting together a database of personal contacts that the issue emerged. As I attempted to fill in the rather traditionally titled “spouse” column (no, not the Significant Other), the surnames started assuming gargantuan proportions. And if one does not know the spouse’s first name, the problem becomes even more profound. So Mrs/Ms Jane Doe and Mr—Doe? Or vice versa? Well, no, because so many young women professionals these days just don’t choose to change their surname after they marry, even though they may change their Facebook status in a jiffy.
“It’s so difficult. My passport and company records are all in my maiden name. Why should I change my surname and go through the hassle just because I got married?” said one young woman to me. “Anyway, I have changed my surname on all my social media handles. So there!” So if one wants to mind one’s Ps and Qs or, in this case, surnames—his and hers—and not ruffle feathers, then ask for them and diarize them separately. An interesting variant is, of course, the joint surname that both partners adopt after tying the knot; think Anklesaria Aiyer or the Aamir Khan–Kiran Rao offspring, Azad Rao Khan.
Working marriages are now also about planned and pushed-back parenthood. A friend once told me, “Hema, in our times, girls did their 10th, 12th, bachelor’s, master’s, marriage, first child and second child in one fell swoop. Look at the gap between the bachelor’s and master’s now.” In fact, some of the most successful career supermoms have followed the old mantra: focused on motherhood to the exclusion of all else for the first 10 years of marriage and then had a laser focus on the career ladder. And it has stood them in good stead.
The great divide: his, hers and theirs
Categorization this way is the name of the game—whether it is accounts, investments, interests, friends, responsibilities or even holidays. Accounts and investments that have started out as individual may move when married in an either-and scenario to joint/separate. “This is my investment from my earnings. Solely mine. Which I can call my own. We have many joint holdings, but this is mine,” said a young lady. With this also comes the responsibility of expense allocation, both for immediate family needs and the extended family requirements. And in a rather poignant twist, someone with a rocky marriage told me how she worried because her husband was interested in cashing out on her sole investment to fund a daughter’s education rather than dipping into his funds.
Holidays, yes, holidays, yours, mine and ours, seem quite the thing now. Also escape hatches. At the happening Toto’s in Mumbai the other day, the number of girls- or guys-only tables were certainly on the high side. The Thursday or Friday night stag or the feminine pyjama parties also seem quite in vogue. And then, of course, as many NRIs have wisely found, when couples are far away from parents and annual vacation days are like gold dust, holidays in his and her homes. “We spend time individually with our respective parents and a small overlap jointly with both.”
You, dear reader, have probably seen many more interesting contours of the working marriage. And certainly there are many. Because as Amy Bloom, an award-winning novelist and short-story writer, said: “Marriage is not a ritual or an end. It is a long, intricate, intimate dance together and nothing matters more than your sense of balance and your choice of partner.” But this person, God knows who, did get it right when saying, “Marriages may be made in heaven but they sure have to be managed right here on earth”—especially if they have to be in working order.