"A woman’s life is more than marriage and children" - heard this dialogue in a movie(Miss Potter) on TV. This is in such direct contrast to what we have been taught or heard since childhood(especially in India) that the gears of my brain started spinning. I remember my grandmother telling me once that her parents had drilled into her that "baiche aayushya mhanje phakta chool aani mool"(A woman's life is all about the stove and her children.) But my grandmother was made of sterner stuff. Inpsite of being married off at the age of 15 and having had her first child(my mother) at the tender age of 17, she completed her studies and eventually got her graduate degree in BA. By God's grace, she was blessed with 5 daughters(and no sons), most of whom have had a career alongwith their married life. Having a father who believed that his daughter should walk the same line as his son helped me become the independent woman that I am today.
But I see many of my peers, who worked hard during school and college and started off with promising careers, succumbing to this school of thought either wilfully, or in some cases, against their will. Somewhere along the line their ambition got stifled in the domestic drudgery. Or in some cases, a break in the career ended up being the end of it out of sheer inertia. Or perhaps, current financial stability lulled them into a false sense of security. Of course, work is not just about the money it brings at the end of the month. It is about making judicious use of the valuable education each of us underwent. It is about having a life apart from taking care of our husbands, children and home. It is about having an identity and a sense of purpose. It is about having that extra bit of income we can call our own, which we don't feel guilty about spending on frivolous things such as expensive accessories, lavish gifts for family, cosmetic products to maintain our youthful looks or spending a couple of hours a month pampering ourselves in the parlor! It is also something to keep us sane from the boredom of when the children are grown and ready to fly from the nest. Working for our living makes us more decisive, confident and empowered - in control of our destiny. This of course leads to happiness for the woman as well as her family. I've also read somewhere that a woman who deals with the subtle politics of a work environment, soon learns to be street-smart. She can pass on this knowledge to her children too so that they can start their lives with an advantage in this fast-paced world.
I have seen friends give up flourishing careers in pursuit of the perfect balance between time for oneself and one's family. And I've seen those same friends regretting their decisions in these times of recession. I myself have been guilty of feeling so frustrated with the responsibility of running a perfect household and doing justice to my professional committments that I've contemplated giving up work many times. Thankfully, my parents and my husband have always encouraged me not to get bogged down by little frustrations. With a little help from the spouse and other family members, it is always feasible to enjoy a good balance between work and family life.
I have also seen women who work because they need the cash. In such cases, the work is just a necessary evil that has to be got through and hence they never excel at what they do or learn on the job. Such work fails to give them any satisfaction, confidence or independence - thereby reinforcing a feeling of entrapment. They think that they have to work in order to keep the house fires burning whereas other women get to laze around the house all day. All this martyrdom eats away into the happiness of the family. If these women start enjoying the work that brings them their financial freedom, they would feel so much happier.
I know of many women who are not married, or married but single now, but lead fulfilled lives through successful careers. Infact it is turning out to be the norm for this generation as more and more women value their independence over marriage and kids. However, I believe that a woman's touch is not only essential to a home, but it is vital to a woman's happiness to be the pivot in a household. Her natural management and nurturing instincts are best exploited, and satisfied, when she is running a household or any other kind of establishment. Also, who better to pass on one's talent and knowledge, but to one's own kids! In the words of my maid - "Bhagwan bina mandir nahi aur aurat bina ghar nahi!"
Thus, where the adage of woman's place being in the kitchen was true once, times have now evolved to the extent where men are taking up their share of the household responsibilities. A woman need no longer restrict herself to her home or shy away from working for a living. Nor need she think that marriage and kids are the end of a thriving career or waste of a good education. Being a woman is about marriage, children, family and oh ...so much more!
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