I was speaking to a friend the other day. It was one of those, so-what’s-new, kind of talks – the usual uplifting girlie chats about inane details of life. We spoke about myriad issues that affect our lives – the distressing dearth of maids; the vast challenges of bringing up kids; the worst fears about their future; the common frustrations with the inflexibilities of our aging parents – of their tiresome resolves remain independent and reject our well-meaning suggestions, despite an assortment of medical ailments, ranging from dementia to crippling knee issues; the alarming inclemency of the weather; deep laments of what the world has come to, and needless to add, the inadequacies of mothers-in-law and imperfections of the husband.
To this last point, unsurprisingly, she had a lot to add. After talking about some frustrations she faced with him, she told me about how he’s “really become good with the kids”, and has, unlike a few years ago “become very involved with them”, which, she beamed, was “laudable”. What, I asked in half-jest, was exactly so commendable about a father being involved with his own children? “He makes them do their homework”, she proudly replied, while confessing that “I don’t even know what their homework is at times”, her tone tinged with guilt.
It made me think. Women are masters at self-deprecation. I know this friend as someone who gave up a big part of her life to be with her children. She quit work to plunge, wholeheartedly, into domesticity, and looked after the kids to the best of her ability. But I never heard anyone pat her on the back for “being great with the kids” – because the mind-set is that women tend to children, while men work. But my point is not about roles -every family sets these depending on their own situation and that’s ok. There are two points here that I am raising – one about what a woman gives up to assume that role – she’s usually the one to quit work and put her professional aspirations on the back burner. And two, that because the man is supposed to work outside the home, anything that he does inside makes his efforts praiseworthy. But, the same does not apply to women. If a woman works, which my friend in question now does, she still does all the home stuff and that’s taken as natural – as how it is meant to be. The home is still a woman’s domain, even if she’s getting out of it and working.
And my friend is not alone in thinking this way. I know many women who work and still shoulder all the responsibilities at home. If the man chips in, his actions are commended, if he does not, well that’s understood.
Women, more than men, need to get out of this mind-set. Children are the responsibility of both the parents, so why should one parent have to tend to them, all the time? Even if the man works and the woman does not (out of the house I mean), does that mean that he is absolved of all domestic responsibility? No, it does not. It is a woman who enables him to leave home and work; she holds fort while he can focus on work.
They are a team that works towards a common goal. And being in a team means supporting the other. That’s part of the game.