[Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, Sharmila Tagore delivered a thought-provoking lecture at the India International Center in New Delhi. The full text of her lecture is accessible on this Outlook page – Popular Stereotyping. Triggered by the line “the more things change, the more they remain the same”, my dear wife shared her thoughts via a Facebook note. I’m reproducing her note in this blog with her permission.]
The average urban/modern Indian woman (whichever part of the world she maybe in) is far from independent. In fact, she is dependent on a slew of service-care-providers (part-time and full-time maids, drivers, cooks, tutors, parents, aunts, in-laws, neighbours, baby-sitters, day-care centres, activity classes, holiday camps) to keep the home-front functioning while she goes to the office – with minimal disturbance to the man-of-the-house who continues to live his (mostly) self-serving existence. This aside from dealing with relatives, doctors and teachers & other school-related stuff…doctors get a special mention because the more care-providers a child comes in contact with, the higher the frequency of health problems. Relatives and teachers management is an art form onto itself. Did I mention she is also the philosophical/spiritual “life-coach” for the little ones?
My personal choice to back-burner my career and be a stay-at-home mom (after having done the on-again-off-again full-time-office-going-career and kids-in-the-daycare routine in US) was to side-step the dual ordeal of managing multiple service-providers & office-politics as well as providing my kids with a more “stable and secure” (as in consistent and reliable) care during their formative years.
My choice comes with regrets (since I have never bought into the whole no-regrets cliche) but to use another cliche, the kids are worth it. The drop in financial gain (although not completely lost since I do free-lance writing to keep some semblance of a professional life) is an irritant…and being perceived as a lesser-than-with-it-smart person because the bulk of my current life is focused on the kids is annoying. False modesty aside, I am more informed-and-analytical-in-making-daily-life-decisions than most of the office-going crowd (men or women). So when the cutest-little-obnoxious-fellows think I should get the Nobel prize for being the bestest mom and urge me to start a business of my own (because they think I can do it all), I smile and tell them someday…
(from the article) Traditionally, we as a nation…view a woman either as devi (goddess) or as property of man but never as an equal. Only when we give the twin pillars of human life, care-giving and bread-winning equal value will men and women attain parity at work and at home. The term ‘working mothers’ needs to be complemented with ‘working dads’. The rigid lines demarcating the perceived roles of a man and a woman in society need to be merged and muted. Today, there is a huge resistance and unwillingness on the part of the man to get involved in what they perceive are domestic issues.
Time and again, our films underline the supremacy of man. Modernity is reduced to a matter of packaging. A modern woman is defined by her westernized attire. She looks modern but when it comes to making informed choices, she chooses the conventional.
Commenter SS also had this to say..
Unfortunately full time careers were made with men in mind. Breadearners need to work while caregivers mind the home and take care of the sundry. Hence the system sucks for a working woman with full time job. The only way to have a fulfilling life for a woman seems to be having a part-time job so that one can fit your life with your job!
And commenter UM added..
And, the moment a woman takes a break from her office-going career, she is undervalued at work because she has different priorities.
Related post (also from my wife): Treat us as human beings, not goddesses.