We all claim to be an active part of the 21st century. Yet, some of our ideas and perceptions are so medieval that they shock and sadden me. I believe that it is not just the right of every human to work but also their responsibility to themselves and their better halves.
I recently got married. I thought that people would ask me, “When do you guys plan on starting a family?” Or, “Where are you going for your honeymoon?” But interestingly, the most common and often asked question is, “When do you plan to stop working and how come your husband hasn’t asked you to quit the media yet?”
Having worked non-stop since I was 17 years old, I find these questions offensive and unnecessary. Unfortunately, we teach the women in our society to sit at home and become begum sahibs. And I’m not just talking about a certain strata of society. I am talking about everyone from the industrialist’s wife to my driver’s wife.
I remember when I joined Kinnaird College to do my FA. Every girl there had one singular goal in mind: marriage. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why. I would often ask other girls what they would do after getting married. What is the game plan?
There was never one. It was just the be-all and end-all of their existence to be married, full stop. The problem does not lie with the men we are with or our upbringing. Instead, the problem is with women themselves and their skewed perception of what they ‘should’ do.
For most of the readers of this column, there are no ‘have tos’, only ‘want tos’. At the same time, I have yet to meet a truly satisfied committee-party socialite or a happy upper-class homemaker. You know why? Because they spend their entire adult lives comparing themselves with others or being compared by others. Who is carrying what bag and whose husband bought what. Even a husband’s open and vile affair goes unnoticed as long as one gets to keep up with the Joneses.
Let’s go through a day in the life of your typical well-to-do madam. Wake up in the morning and send husband to work and children to school. Then the domestic staff prepares food, cleans the house and the chores continue. The woman of the house sits around, chats on the phone, watches TV dramas and, if it’s a busy day, attends a committee lunch. The kids come home but then tuitions and extracurricular activities commence.
Despite all this, there is normally a deep sense of agitation and dissatisfaction by the time the husband comes home. “Why does so and so’s wife have a new bag, new car or new jewelry? Why don’t you earn more? Why don’t you love me more?”
What happens is that instead of going out there in the world and working to buy the things they want, women often shove responsibility on an often already overworked husband. Days turn into months and months into years, the resentment turns into bitterness and then ultimately a deep-rooted sadness. My question is this: why do this to yourself and your marriage? I respect the institution of marriage and all that comes with it. What I don’t respect is the complete lack of motivation to be anything more than just a wife.
The term ‘homemaker’ is beautiful and, no doubt, comes with a lot of responsibility. At the same time, it also seems to come with the obligation to do nothing else. We women are brilliant creatures, capable of multitasking and making ourselves the ultimate role models. Yet, we settle. We settle for being less than who we actually are and who we can be. Then, one day when we start nearing our mid-forties, self-actualisation hits. We start asking ourselves who we are and what we have achieved and whether all the ‘sacrifices of self’ were worth it. We, of course, tell ourselves that we did the right thing and that we have beautiful children and grandchildren to show for it. But must we really take credit for what happened in the course of nature?
My plea to any woman willing to listen is this: stand up and take control of your life. Get a job, create a job and if nothing else works, start a business out of your home. Find a hobby that occupies the mind, body and soul. Don’t wait around and let life pass you by.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.
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