Being Women

A Mother’s Fight Against Bias: A True Story

The story explores the destructive power of jealousy within volunteer groups. Its throws light on how a child's success brings the conflict between genuine altruism and self-serving agendas into the open.

Let me call myself Maaya for now as I relate my workplace experience.

Workplace biases are rife, and no one has been spared this low-down tactic in any industry, occupation, or, let’s say, even in a group that comes together as volunteers.

Finding my place

Back in those days, I was a young mother who had just enrolled her child in Primary One, and on the orientation day, a lady approached me, saying that she was from a ‘Parent Volunteer Group’ and, after a flowery introduction of what they do, led me to a booth where a group of ladies were already enlisting new and interested parents into volunteering.

I was a stay-at-home mom at the time, and the school was just a stone’s throw away from my apartment, so I willingly committed chunks of my time to most of the activities for the duration that my child would be in school.

That included mentoring groups of weaker students in English at all levels of classes, where I had to monitor their phonetics as well.

It turned out that only 3–4 of us had registered for this particular activity, with me going on every weekday for the morning and afternoon slots. I enjoyed giving my time and contributing in whatever way I could. Others came in erratically, but all said and done, it was a volunteer job.

Building Bonds

Time went by, and I became popular with the students who would call out my name from afar too if they spotted me in corridors or during their recess, much to the surprise of the teachers and the group of volunteer parents who would hang around in the school canteen after an activity. (That’s the only place volunteers were allowed access to after finishing their assignment.)

The school also organised various activities on festive days or fund-raising days, where the kids would always frequent my stalls or groups around me. I had a deep chemistry with the lower primary kids as my child was in the same age group and a gregarious camaraderie with the higher primary kids, as is my inherent nature to make quick connections. It was a mixed-cohort school of teachers and children.

The teachers were happy with my work and the assistance I rendered them. And most were happy when I was assigned to them. I could sense their faces brightening when ‘Miss Maaya’ walked into the activity area or their classroom.

Shift in dynamics

In the meantime, my child surprised everyone, including me and my husband, by doing exceptionally well right from her first year in primary. Gathering accolades and recognitions on the annual day was no mean feat, with stiff competition and a tiresome syllabus.

After getting placed in a ‘faster-paced’ class, much to the chagrin of my so-called ‘ support group’, they slowly started distancing themselves from me and giving me cold vibes as their children were in the ‘relaxed-paced’ classes.

Meanwhile, my child went from strength to strength solely on merit without tuition, and we were extremely proud of the hard work and efforts that had reaped these good rewards.

The Revelation leading to exclusion

Things came to such a head that the green-eyed monster surfaced among the ladies who were a part of the long-standing Executive Committee when the Principal of our school placed me into their safely guarded hierarchy.

The once-oh-so-sweet talkers soon started darting dirty looks in my direction or, on another extreme, started looking through me, smirking or resorting to passive-aggressive behaviour and words laced with backhanded compliments.

To cut a long story short, there were various instances where I was singled out from a group gathering or even something as trivial as a group picture. It may sound petty and immature, but these things hit hard when no one comes looking for you if they don’t see you around during a photo shoot and you realise they were waiting for you to leave or take a restroom break when they went ahead with their clique and splashed those pics on social media to rub it in. It most certainly was not an honest oversight.

Small matters piled up into bigger ones, and soon it became a staggering mountain of dirty politics. They left no stone unturned to make me feel unwelcome; all these tactics were engineered to make me leave on my own accord.

And let me tell you all that:

Neither we were in a paid job nor a corporate setting.

We were not in the running for a designated position either!

There was nothing to gain, nothing to lose…

My regret

But? I lost a lot of things!

My sanity

My peace of mind

My trust

My self-esteem…

Was it worth it? Did my altruism deserve this treatment?

The Face-off

I decided to put my foot down on this atrocious behaviour. I emailed the school about the goings-on, messaged the lady who enrolled me into the group with stinging and scathing feedback, and without waiting for her to reply, stormed down to the school, slammed the badge they gave me on the admin’s counter, and walked out with my head held high without a backward glance!

Later, I came to know that the ladies got a severe dressing down from the school management. But I didn’t give a hoot.

My only regret and heartbreak was to see my child shed uncontrollable tears for quite a while before calming down when I came home and broke the news about me quitting the school group.

That was a completely wrecked moment for me to see the tears streaming down those cheeks—more than the bias I faced. The repercussions had unfortunately extended into the family, and I could never, ever forgive them for that!

Prioritizing Family

I didn’t give in, give up overnight like an escapist, or run away from the covert bullies.

My self-respect was more valuable than sticking around to prove a point to an organisation whose sole mission was only to chase me away so that they could bathe in the limelight.

Nothing and no one else except my family should take up an inch of space in my time, life, and energy, least of all the people who didn’t have any sense of civility, upbringing, or professional ethics.

I chose to dedicate the rest of my support’ to my only priority—my child, who would appear for the ‘primary graduation exam’ the year after.

Poetic justice

On graduation day, mom and her child walked proudly onto the stage like they always did every year, but this time amid a sea of roaring applause!

To stand tall alongside my award-winning star, who held up the trophy high in the air for all to see for an Excellence in Performance in the Board Exam, along with a report card flashing a high-ranking score and making it into the coveted high school of our first preference, was the cherry on top.

It was our happy ending right in front of the perpetrators, who were flanking the first row in the auditorium reserved for the Executive Committee. It was poetic justice!


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