‘Chahye kitna padh lo, ghar toh sambhalna hi padega’. Can women afford to prioritize work above family?
“I was 20 when I got married, I was 26 when I started to work because my family was hit by the extreme financial crisis. I had two kids at that time, one of 10 and the other of 14 years of age. I used to get up at 4 PM in the morning to prepare food for the children, then after dropping them at their school, I used to rush down to my office and after coming back home, I used to make food for children and then sleep. But ever since the pandemic has happened, it has been a work from the home thing for me and my children, in-laws and my husband, all of them have been at home, and no wonder, I have been unable to work at all, and every time I do, there is a guilt that I am not paying attention to my family’s need responsibilities. I have been asked to leave my job, have even got statements ‘kaam kyu krti hai ye’ when it was the utter need of the family’s finances ” – Laxmi (Name changed)
So, basically, Laxmi earns, essentially to support her family financially, and she takes care of the family too. Yet, she is called out for prioritising work, especially when her work is to make the ends meet. And even if it is not for making the ends meet, don’t women deserve to prioritise their work, their ambition, and personal choices. Is a woman who is choosing to work making a selfish move?
To explain the issue that women face while working, Nandita Das’ film, ‘Listen to Her’ is a perfect example.
Why are women criticized for prioritizing work?
It has been a cultural belief that women are made to look after the households, a full-time job that is not even paid. For a traditional household, it is challenging to accept that a woman is working, and even if they do, it all comes down to the fact that they can’t leave their responsibilities of being a homemaker, or in fact, can’t prioritize work over family. There is a moral code for women, which states that their job is to look after the household, and if they don’t do it, they are morally policed. Often, they are called out for being selfish and ignorant.
We all must have heard somewhere or the other, unmarried women being asked to learn the household skills. Mothers often identify it as a big responsibility to train their girl child properly, every trick and technique to manage the household, convincing telling their daughters, ‘chahe kitna padh lo, ghar toh sambhalna hi padega’ (no matter how much you study, you will anyway have to handle to household). Society has been enforcing this stereotype so strongly that it puts women in guilt for choosing things for themselves.
Does choosing to work make a woman selfish? If she has an ambition, a desire to live a life of their own, just like men do, is there anything wrong in making that choice is the question.
Apart from this, women are often made to be seen as the soul of a family, the one who binds the family and this is the reason why people find it to be off when they work and dedicate their time to other things. So, if this is so if they are the soul, why are they not considered important when major financial decisions are made, when questions about a child’s education, marriage, and other so-called patriarchal decisions are taken?
To answer the question, why do women find themselves guilty for prioritising the work, the simple explanation can be the stereotyping and the make-believe, that women, if chooses to work, are becoming selfish. The guilt comes when women happen to not do the household work, which they are made to believe as their first work after marriage. To take them out of this guilt, all a family can do is support them and show trust in them. Man and woman are equal parts of a family, and hence, they should have an equal share of responsibility. The household is not really a woman’s job, it should be collectively distributed among every member.
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