We all look up to our mothers for comfort and advice. It is a good thing to consult them during need and respect their advice. I, too, love my mother very much and discuss almost everything with her to get the right suggestion. But, recently, I have received a piece of advice from her that I am finding very, very difficult to accept. I told her, very unapologetically, that I disagree with her on that particular piece of advice, and I would never suggest or teach that to my kids. Well, before I proceed further, I would like to emphasize that this post is not to disrespect or humiliate her at all; I love and respect my mother a lot. She has simply suggested what has been passed on to her. The disagreement in our opinion is purely because of the huge generation gap.
I am an Indian woman, and so is my mother. I have always seen and visualized her as the iron-lady of the family. She is a working woman and is active from dusk to dawn. Everything, including my father, is dysfunctional if she is not around. Our daily routine starts and ends with her. Thus, I never believed that any advice coming from my mother would be incorrect. I trusted and followed her blindly. Kids learn what they see. I was no exception. I learnt to do all my chores, ALONE, just like my mother. As I grew older and moved out, I saw the world differently, and there started the series of disagreements between us. Why was she alone when my father was there? Where was my father when she was alone?
I have joined the institution of marriage very recently, and like all other newly-weds, I, too, needed some important advice from her for obvious reasons. But, in Indian Society, the advices change for a married woman, even if you are a daughter. Marriage takes an entirely new dimension when you live in a patriarchal society like India. The woman is expected to bind the home, play all her roles: daughter-in-law, wife, mother, sister-in-law, daughter, etc. diligently. It is also expected out of the woman to look after the needs of the family members. (What about her basic needs?) Any woman would love to make her marriage successful by doing all this, unless these are imposed on her as regular duties to be performed. In this context of the ‘duties’ to be performed, my mother told me that ‘It is the woman of the house who has to do most of the work’.
I disagree. Marriage to me is a beautiful bond shared between a man and wife. But, in societies like India, the meaning of marriage is rooted deeply in patriarchy and gender inequality. While the woman, irrespective of the fact that she is a home-maker or a working woman, shares the major portion of work, the duties of men are limited. My great-grandmother taught this to my grandmother, and she to my mother, who has now mastered the art of finding an exhausting and tiring balance between her professional and personal life. As the legacy goes, I was also taught the same, directly and indirectly. I have learnt to cook alone; that’s why the lack/absence of any assistance in the kitchen does not bother me. I have learnt to eat alone; that’s why when somebody at the table finishes the food before I could, and leaves me and the table, it does not bother me. I have learnt to do my work alone; that’s why, when nobody assists in doing the household chores, it does not bother me. I have learnt to balance my schedule; that’s why when I finish all the morning chores, pack everyone’s lunches, make sure that everyone finishes breakfast before leaving the house, and I still manage to reach office on time, it does not bother me. Just like my mother, I am also gradually mastering the art of finding the right balance. Although, I disagree to share the majority of work, I silently end up doing it all.
In a discussion between to married women: a mother and a daughter, I have told my mother that I am determined to break the legacy-chain and I will never teach my daughter to have the life we share. I will teach her what I once thought of teaching myself – to find a partner who understands the need of sharing the work, who understands the true meaning of ‘Sharing’. I will never advise her to do perform all the chores while her man sits, eats, sleeps and ignores. If this means going against our society, our very own patriarchal society, and breaking some man-made laws, so be it.
Being a woman is always a sign of being strong. But, being a strong woman all the time, can also be a sign of weakness.