My mother is a gynaecologist and my father a BITS Pilani graduate who went on to do exceptionally well in his career. My sister and I were brought up to believe that one should always have one’s education and career to fall back on, whatever course life takes.
So, equipped with my degree in BA English Honours from a reputed college in Delhi University and an MBA as an add-on, I joined the workforce. I had stars in my eyes that I would carve a niche for myself at work and make my parents proud. But Cupid struck and at 24, I was married, with no clue where life was headed.
Thanks to my whirlwind romance, I had no clue what my husband’s expectations of me were as a wife, daughter-in-law and a future mother. Did he expect me to change my name after marriage? Would we settle in India or go abroad? What would happen to my career after our kids were born?
No prizes for guessing then that major discord was waiting to happen in our marriage. Trivial issues gradually started leading to irrefutable differences. And then my daughter was born. My parents were working in Dubai and my in-laws weren’t exactly enthusiastic about helping me bring my daughter up.
All that my upbringing taught me about education and a career were brushed aside and I quit my job. I assumed the role of a full-time homemaker. The entire family chorused and cheered my sacrifice at the altar of marital happiness, because it was considered noble that the woman of the house put aside her dreams for her child, house and husband.
The irony, however, is that I am being pushed by the same family into raising my now 8-year-old daughter to study hard so that she has a stable future to look forward to. It leaves me wondering if this hard work and education are worth it, if she has to eventually prioritise her in-laws, husband, family and child when she gets married.
If, in our society, no professionally successful woman is considered a success if her husband hasn’t given her a certificate of appreciation, if her house is not spick and span, if her kids are not top performers and if her in-laws are not happy with her, then wouldn’t it be better if I train my daughter in the art of housekeeping and let her enjoy her childhood, rather than have academic aspirations for her?
After having given up my true identity in my 11 years of marriage, I now wonder if I was right in wasting my time, energy and mind in pushing through my husband's professional career. I managed to get back to flexi-time work after my daughter turned 2, to revive my dreams. But it’s still a job where I have to juggle work, home and my daughter in equal measure. I was a school topper, extremely good in extracurricular activities and even if I had made half the effort in resurrecting myself and living my dreams unconditionally, I believe I would have outshone my husband.
(As told to Kavya Bhargava)