In our society, it is not unusual for a woman to wake up at dawn and cook for the family, whilst she skips her own breakfast to make it to work on time. It is not unusual to see a woman chop and peel vegetables on her way back from work whilst wriggling herself in the fourth seat of the Mumbai local train, where she can barely even sit. It is not unusual even today, for a woman to eat leftovers after the family has finished a hearty meal.
In a time when women have more opportunities than their mothers have had, it is still not considered unusual for the woman to take care of child-rearing duties whilst putting her successful career on the backburner once a child arrives. Nor is it unusual for a woman to take up a job that is less equivalent to her talent because her husband has had to shift cities for a promotion. In most homes, it is still the woman who takes responsibility to attend to the sick and elderly in the family despite a tired day at work. And all this, because, from our everyday never-ending ‘to do’ lists to the pressure the media puts on us to be the ‘perfect woman’, we rush around trying to do more, be more, give more.
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Early last year, Sanctuary Spa from UK released a beautiful video with advice from women who share the importance of stepping back every now and then and appreciating life’s precious moments. The film according to them was created after asking women in UK about their lifestyle and nearly half of them said they were feeling moderately or extremely stressed. A shocking 40% revealed that they felt like they were about to burn out.
How different is the scenario back home? Nielsen conducted a survey in India which revealed that Indian women are the most stressed out in the world. 87% of our women felt stressed out most of the time and 82% women have had no time to relax; with respondents sharing the difficulty of juggling multiple roles at home and work. Why? Because society expects women to work relentlessly without a break and women have gracefully accepted it as their mantle, sometimes even secretly taking pride in it, no matter how much it is killing them from within.
“I was content trying out new, exotic dishes, inviting people over, attending to ‘wifely’ duties that were part of my husband’s professional requirements, and even bent over backwards to please my in-laws, always unsuccessfully. The best part was that no one asked me to do this, not even my husband,” revealed one wife to Moupia Basu, in her piece‘Losing my identity’, which speaks of the pressure women create on themselves to be a superwoman minus the cape, to everyone around them.
When will we learn to acknowledge that it’s not humanly possible to prioritise in-laws, husband, family and children in equal measure along with a career? When will we step back and ease in our roles as wives, daughters-in-law, mothers, cooks, hostesses and homemakers? When will we learn to slow down and breathe, without thinking of the next chore to finish? When will we understand that family expectations and social mores will always remain rooted in tradition and that if expectations from women have to change, women will have to contribute in bringing about that change!
Let’s stop accepting double shifts, all the time, at work as well as on the home front. Let’s allow the husband to manage kids once he is home. Kids don’t always need to be star performers, they will eventually find their feet. Let’s allow them to! Let’s take short respites from childcare, housekeeping and hospitality duties in the family. Let’s not feel the pressure of pleasing in-laws with our flawless handling of domestic chores and responsibilities. Let’s stop feeling guilty for everyone around us and allow our homes, heads and hearts to be messy at times. It will sort out with time; like everything else always does!
Related reading: Living with criticism from the in-laws
If it’s about ‘being’ and not doing, like they say in the video, let’s start with cherishing ‘being’ a woman in the first place. Let’s not allow ourselves to wither under pressure and get burnt out, for we all know, there will never be another one like us!
Divya Nair Hinge
From the Editor’s Desk, Bonobology