D: Listen, I’m thinking of redoing my CV and I may need your help. I think its time I got back to work.
D: Or wait, I don’t think I’m ready yet.
D: I’m way too comfortable living the life of a stay at home mom to chuck it and feel the pressure of a 9-6,7&8 job? Oh I love my tourism-profession, but I also know how thankless it can be at times, you know.
And after some more mulling over
D: Wait, let me think it over if I really want to get back to work or no.
R( with a chuckle): Ok.
D( sensing a sarcastic tinge in that chuckle): Why that chuckled OK?
R: Just wondering if, after what you said, you still think all these cries for men & women to be given equal benefits and opportunities hold any value.
D: What do you mean?
R: I mean, if I were to realize one fine day that no, I do not want to work, and that I’d rather siit at home instead and be with my child and wife, will I have an option to do that?
D: Yes of course you would, IF I were also working. And if I were earning more than you, then most CERTAINLY you’d have that option.
R: What I’m trying to say is that while its ok to talk about equal opportunities for men & women its also worth mentioning that women do enjoy some perks at times. Like for eg. If you were working and you had a tiff with your boss, you could choose to throw that job right at his/her face and walk out. I wouldn’t have the same option.
And this set me wondering. Do we, women, really have it this easy? Do we really enjoy perks vis a vis men?
Even though, in my defense, I said that I would NOT walk out so easily if I was the only working member in the family OR if I were earning more than him and I knew by bringing in a few more riyals we could run the house better, still somewhere deep in my mind I couldn’t help but wonder if the same perk will hold true for R.
If R were to really quit his work and become a stay at home dad will his decision be received well by people around us, by people who matter to us even? Not very well, I suppose. Because very soon, our society consisting of elders, relatives, well-wishers, friends, etc may take it upon themselves to pull him down at every given opportunity making him feel guilty for being jobless and for living on his wife’s earnings.
I remember when I took that decision to quit work to become a stay at home mom, I didn’t have to counter any pressurizing questions from anybody around me, the only questions I had to counter were the ones that cropped up inside my own self- questions about my own anxieties and fears, about whether I was taking the right decision, whether it was going to work out well for me, R & my child,etc.. But never was I made to feel guilty by my society for being ‘jobless’ or about my ‘supposed’ financial dependence on my husband. I was in fact commended for that decision because as per them this was what I was ‘supposed’ to do.
This was accepted and expected of me.
It is easy for a woman to take that one decision to quit work and just stay at home. If a woman quits work or decides to stay at home, nobody points fingers at her. Because that is what she is ‘expected’ to do. From the time she is born the need to get married, the need to subdue herself to the domesticity of life is drilled into the woman. No matter howsoever much she is encouraged to pursue her education, howsoever much she is taught to become confident, bold, assertive, she is told her ultimate happiness lies in getting married , producing children, and eventually being dependent-emotionally and financially- on her husband.
On the other hand a man is expected to bring income. The onus of earning for the family lies on the man. And if he shows any inclination to become a caregiver for his family he is snubbed by the society, he is tagged hen-pecked, spineless, and shameless for his supposed dependence on his wife’s earnings.
A man is raised to be the bread-winner while a woman is raised with the sole motive to get married. Any change in this set-up, all hell breaks loose. The society with all its might pounces on the man, who decides to stay at home and the woman, who decides to bring in ‘income’ to get them to change their mindsets because its not the ‘expected’ thing to do.
The truth is it’s the stereotypical mentality of our society that needs to change. Its still difficult for our society to accept that a woman can be more qualified than her spouse and can be the bread-earner of the family. It’s all in the mindset. The day we accept its as much ok for a woman to earn more than her husband as it is ok for a man to be the caregiver for his family, I think gender equality will have a better standing in our society.
Today I am a mother and I’m aware that my child is going to surrounded by people advising her about how her responsibility lies in getting married, raising children, becoming the obedient, dutiful doormat of a daughter-in-law. While I do want her to fall in love with a wonderful man, get married into a beautiful family, become a mother, have a family of her own, I do not want it to be her sole motive in life. I had rather have her grow up to be someone who gets to do what she aspires to do than do what she is expected to do.