Gender-Bender

D: Listen, I’m thinking of redoing my CV and I may need your help. I think its time I got back to work.
R: Ok.
D: Or wait, I don’t think I’m ready yet.
R: Ok.
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.

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36 thoughts on “Gender-Bender

  1. Very true. I had a carefree attitude towards life and work. Once the responsibility of home and kids was solely mine … I had to buckle down and get to it

    D: Ritu, you are a woman I truly admire and respect for the way you’ve conducted yourself in life 🙂

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  2. So true, Deeps.

    ‘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.’ Absolutely. There was a time when I was earning more than husband – and it was no issue for either of us. But yes, if he were to chuck his job, then society would have had a problem -even if both of us were fine with that decision.

    It is only when people have the freedom to do what each one truly wants that things will actually be comfortable for both genders.

    D: “It is only when people have the freedom to do what each one truly wants that things will actually be comfortable for both genders.” Precisely!

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  3. A very thoughtful post Deeps. Our society has lots of prejudices and fixed notions about who wears the pants in a family. While they have learnt to appreciate a working women and her share in responsibilities, the perks you talk of inevitably tag along with the woman and never the man. A man cannot think of being the stereotypical stay at home without earning the ire of the world. While I would love to see an increased acceptance towards letting a woman be what she wants to be, this balance in the scheme of things is too delicate to be spoilt much.

    D: Very true!

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  4. 1. it’s a social norm sketched for a man by society itself-to work and not stay at home-so no option there even if the wife is working and bringing in good amount of money.
    –but there is no said rule that this social norm has to be followed..there are so many that we break in the name of freedom and democracy so why not this one?

    2. you said it yourself “if I were the only member earning I would not have thrown my job and walked out”
    —well look around you will not find a household where in the women is the ONLY earning member..reasons could be many including my point 1. So again,this way put woman does have it easy way-to quit whenever she wants to and can sit at home !

    D: Yes there arent’t many households where women are the sole bread-winners, but gradually the scenario is changing. The concept of stay at home dads is gradually being accepted socially( wikipedia has stated that about 3% of urban working fathers in our country are SAHDs). Also more and more women are being accepted in the corporate and political world without any gender prejudices. Why, we have an excellent example in Chavi Rajawat,the sarpanch of Soda village in Rajasthan, who has been making a global impact with her drive towards showcasing the changing face of rural India. So yes, some hope there!

    But then ultimately time is changing and so will the norms..even this one. Of course it will take even more years for this norm to change and have equal opportunity for men to have this option of quitting and staying at home..It all depends on us..our minds are conditioned this way hence it became the hot topic of discussion…few years down the line people will accept a SAHD peacefully and gracefully !

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    1. and moreover for men too it’s not an easy walk to run the home by sitting at home…I mean they’re not conditioned like that…very few mothers teach their sons to actually cook and take care of the household..and that’s how it has been…

      Today given an option a man would think 100 times before taking this step to sit at home…

      Having said that this also is a case with women..there are women who can quit working and they have to get back to work even if there is no need to [monetarily] so there ! So,it’s not only about gender facts and privileges but individual choices as well .

      I don’t know if I have put across my point clearly 🙂 but I know tujh tak bhawnaye pahuch jayengi 😉 one piece 😛 😛 😛

      D: Arre, you’ve put across your point very very clearly :). I’m sure tumhari bhaavnaaye sab ke paas pahunch gayi hogi, in one piece 😀

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  5. Deepti, at SO MANY levels, I SHOULD NOT comment about this post 😉

    Still, me being me, I must. There are increasing number of men who take that call, because wife does better.

    Though I honestly am not a fan of SAHMs (though I enjoyed all the privileges of my mum being one), I don’t think it is as simple.
    Why not look at it from another angle. Probably it’s really difficult for guys to sit at home and focus primarily on home and child; to not think a donut is a good meal alternative, just cos the kid says so; and go through every sheet of homework, and make sure every bit of school activity is done; to ensure househelp does what’s required; an endless list of stuff that won’t come naturally to them, hence they prefer being the ‘bread’ winner?

    <>

    and as for this, it’s only if you really hate your work that you’d do that. not if you hate your boss 😉
    so it’s more about how women are treated in the workplace, how seriously (or not) they are taken without putting a gender tag on them. that’s our fight. to earn, demand or command that equal treatment.
    so it’s not so much a privilege for a woman to do that. it’s more of feeling of being cornered, that there is no freedom or scope to fight out and stick it out.
    but it always helps to have a trump card — real or perceived — that the job is dispensable. 🙂

    now, now… i better shut up.

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    1. Vani, my point here is not about men wanting or being capable of being a stay at home father or husband. Its about they not getting that obvious choice that most women enjoy. Just for a second imagine, he is a very capable caregiver who is fantastic at home, but would he get the same respect that a woman gets? What I’m trying to say is that gender inequality exists for both. Its as much a challenge for a woman to make a mark at her workplace or break through the glass-ceiling as it is for a man to break the perception that he may not know what is nutritious for his child or he can keep the house clean.

      BTW, I didn’t get your ‘R quote not showing up’ point. What was that again?

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  6. the quote that is not showing up is the last comment by r. and btw, good luck on the job hunt. go for it and have a blast.

    D: Arre I’m still in the contemplating stage! Nothing decided yet. Thanks anyway, V 🙂

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  7. hmmm interesting take! Yea ow much ever we rant for equality – on other hand don we jus take the easy oath of chillaxing!

    D: Chillaxing…like that term though 😀

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  8. Oh God Deeps, you have posted such a pertinent thought. Even I think it is very unfair how social conditioning works. Because I have seen many women who are such go-getters, and just shine from the word go in work sphere. But they either have to sacrifice having a family till very late or sacrifice work if they have a family situation early on.And many men I feel are so better in handling kids, but have to play 2nd fiddle to their wives just cos its supposed to be a mother’s task to take care of the kids.

    D: It is unfair, isnt it? Just because of some social conditioning we feel curtailed to do what we want to do and end up compromising on our choices and decisions. But like you said, today more and more people are defying those stereotypical mindsets and taking that bold step to do what want to do and THAT’S a positive sign.

    But I think we have a LONG way to go. and its something like 80% of women are the nurturing motherly types so, its like nature has thrust this resp on women. And men to be the bread winners.
    I do not see this getting dissolved anytime soon… but yea there are some men who are slowly being stay at home dads, thanks to the really tumultuous economic scenarios.
    Hmm… Anyhow till we get there, we have to go with the flow.

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  9. Oh well, society has something to say abt every single aspect of life! Either we wait for social acceptance to take better shape, or do what we want to do and be satisfied within ourselves! I know the latter is nt very easy, but it is nt impossible too!

    D: “Either we wait for social acceptance to take better shape, or do what we want to do and be satisfied within ourselves! I know the latter is nt very easy, but it is nt impossible too!” Absolutely, Swaram! Ultimately you need to realize the importance of doing what you aspire to do. Loved what you said!

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  10. Society and its conditioning are too deep rooted. As individuals its upto us to follow them or else do what we want to do.
    Having said that, traditionally, women have always had that choice. Every couple knows whats vest for them and with a child in question things do change. If a couple feels that the dad is much more equipped in handling the baby, he shud take a step back from his career and let the woman of the house take care of the earnings. i know of couples who have made this choice. very far and few in between. but yes, they do exist.

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    1. “If a couple feels that the dad is much more equipped in handling the baby, he shud take a step back from his career and let the woman of the house take care of the earnings.” Ideally thats what they should be doing, but how far will they actually get around to doing it without getting affected by societal prejudices is what I’m pointing at. As you mentioned there are couples who have made that choice, but they are few and far between. But thats some positive sign nonetheless.

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  11. Exactly! I fully agree.

    Though I’m all for Women making a choice for themselves.

    But yes, we men sadly, do not have a choice.

    D: I’m glad you agree, Rakesh.

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  12. Deeps, Great thoughts which stemmed out from a normal conversation.. I really liked the way this whole post has shaped up..

    D: Thank you, Rekhu!

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  13. Agree with u ofcourse but honestly the mentality is changing atleast in the cities…..I have atleast 2 friends who r earning more than their husbands and families are fully supportive. Infact 1 friend found her work getting too hectic and it was her husband who pointed out the cons of staying at home[as in she’ll go crazy doing nothing] and encouraged her by making it easy for her at home, etc.
    From where I see it is often the relatives, neighbours and friends who cant bear it when everything is going well for the people concerned :-/.

    D: You’re right, Nancy. Many a times it’s the relatives, neighbors and friends who spoil it for the concerned people by meddling in their lives. But yes, the mentality is changing for the better and its a welcome change for sure.

    But yeah I’m cd be spking for just 2% of the population 😦

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  14. before the society its women who need to change, they themselves jeer the man who stays at home or the husbands who earn less than them.Girls today want to get married to a man who earns a fat salary…. they dont want to compromise on that aspect, rest everything ..may be.

    One of my well educated youn friend was talking one day that her sister got a matrimonial offer from a good boy from a good family and he wanted to study initially, and then her sis would be the only earning memebr for that period, and her sis rejected downright, she didnt want to provide for her husband’s education, whereas, that friend of mine herself got the education on her husband’s expense only…so….

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  15. I respect SAHH – Stay at Home Husbands. Chetan Bhagat is one of them. of course the couple had their share of difficulties before his ‘career’ took off. His wife is a successful investment banker.
    Wish more men understood this and society was a little less biased with these stereotypical notions! 😐

    D: I wish too!

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  16. Get some parts of what you say. It is not easy for a lot of women to quit because they like what they do, like to work or know they won’t like being home.

    And anyone who needs the job to make ends meet can’t take a decision like this lightly. That said, social conditioning is a big part of why stay at home dads are not encouraged.

    And while I have no doubts on their ability to do as good or better a job as I can, I doubt they would stay out of touch with the market as much as we women tend to do.

    Nice post – first time here, though I have seen your comments on IHM’s blog. Shall be visiting more often! 😀

    D: Thank you, Sangitha and welcome here 🙂

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  17. I will not launch into a defense of what I consider real work, whether taking care of the house is work etc. My point is quite simple, if women want to be treated equally, irrespective of what the societal norms are, then every decision should be made the same way.
    I will be honest, I DO NOT have the liberty to quit and sit today. I cannot walk out on my boss. Not any more than my husband does. We both get paid similarly at our jobs, and either of us quitting would hit our life stlye. That being said, if things do get bad, we are both in the position to take care of the finances independently, if the other decides to quit, and we both have that liberty equally.
    We dont have a kid yet, but I know for a fact, that I will not have the option of being an SAHM only becos I am the mom. Again, the option will be equally applicable.

    D: Its great that both of you have worked out your options so well, and also you realize the importance of having those options mutually applicable fr yourselves.But many times it may not be the case. Men, mostly dont get to enjoy some of the obvious choices because of social conditioning. Hence the post 🙂

    Considering it is difficult to change society’s mentality totally, ignoring them, and doing what suits you and your family the best has to be the way to go 🙂

    D: Absolutely!

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  18. hey Deeps …

    I know just how hard it is to throw away a job. But it is just as easy when there is someone in the family earning ..

    Though the question of equality arises, it is also unquestionably true that women are generally more suitable for caring for a child or home keeping. Not just in humans, you can see it in animals too. (The few exceptions to this can be seen in penguins and probably sea horses). If you go doen to the basic level of philosophy, our soul reason for existence is for reproduction. Undeniable ! After all, life itself is transient. But, I digress …

    So, the fact being that the female in most specie is naturally made for taking care of the offspring, and the male for protecting the offspring as well as the female. (Take e.g. from nature itself .. roosters, lions, eagle males all protect the female of the specie. In humans, it could be financial security). Nature made males and female for a specific purpose. We have brains, and hence we claim equality etc etc … but when nature itself has created us for a purpose, no amount of trying to convince society, family or XYZ helps. Eventually, instinct takes over.

    D: To an extent I understand what you’ve said, Deepa. Yes nature has created us with some specific faculties. But just because a woman is naturally adept at looking after the house, taking care of her child doesn’t necessarily mean that she cannot be as capable at workplace. The same holds true for a man. All I’m saying we need to get rid of that mental block and give ourselves a chance to break away from the stereotypical mould.

    All said, at the moment, am not interested in starting a family. but when and if I do, I know for sure I’d put aside most things to take care of my offspring.

    D: I’m sure would. All my best wishes 🙂

    D:

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  19. Brilliantly written, Deeps. It is just so true. Nobody forced me to go back to work either, and no one even advises me to do so. They are all quite happy about my decision to be a SAHM! While on one hand it is a little sad, on the other hand, I also think it serves to balance out life as it is. One partner takes responsibility of managing the outside world, and the other, assumes responsibility of the house. I think it is fair enough, as long as there are no ego clashes and the husband/wife do not take each other for granted.

    As for the question of whether women have it easier. I would say NO. I think it depends on the economic situation one is in. If one ‘NEEDS’ the income, then no matter what, the woman cannot throw the job because she does not like her boss. So I guess it is not only a question of gender and role in society but also one of economic/financial necessity.

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  20. Deeps, this is one lovely thot-provoking post !!!
    I feel that one parent staying at home and the other working is part of a healthy compromise to make a family be together and loving. It can either be the Mom or the Dad, who decides to stay at home. While there are so many Men who opt to stay at home, women are finally having their career dreams fulfilled. 🙂
    And also let the others stop peeping into other’s lives and let them take decisions which best suits their family.

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  21. A thought-provoking post. you know what, we can introduce this phenomena, simply by educating ourselves and our children. coz they are the future of this world and the world will move around them their thinking. So, its important to educate children (no matter it’s a girl or boy) that do what you think is best for you not for the society, society is made up of us, people who are writing blogs, reading and commenting hereupon. if we understand this aspect of life, that means it’d not be difficult to imply in the future.
    New here, was reading Smitha’s ‘Appliance love’…followed your comment. its a nice post. i’ll try to be regular here.
    Love,

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  22. Coming over here after a long time Deeps!! And really loved this post and agree with the truth. The society is always there to pull one down in every matter of life and the weight is strong, but life is just one. I feel that it is happiness that matters and societal acceptance is a major factor.

    Actually we are transitioning to a different phase, at least for short term. My husband is going to be staying home(semi retiring!). He thinks that his job is taking too much of his time and wants to spend time with the girls when they are young. Like you mention, there was and still is quite a lot of negativity he gets in this regard. It is still one more month before he is home full time, so we have not yet started seeing the reactions fully! Meanwhile I have started working to support his decision. This is totally new for us and for our family and we are just going to ride the wave and see…

    D: Believe me, lakshmi, its heartening to see how, despite sensing the negative reactions from society, you and your husband have chosen to follow your heart and do what you feel is best for your family. Good luck to you! Do let know how has the experience been so far :).

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  23. this is something we will try out sometime-once I feel confident he can handle all the housework and kids’ activities and education at the same time, and he is confident I’ll can stick to a job long enough. meanwhile we are happier the way things are

    D: Great! Heres wishing you all the best 🙂

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  24. I know! I so get where you are coming from.
    I agree with what Swaram says: either you run your life by the societal norms or do what really pleases you. 🙂 I like that funda. 😀

    D: Choosing to do what pleases you is surely the right funda 😀

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  25. You know Deeps, governments and workplaces can make it easier for men (and automatically women) to have more choices by making little changes like changing maternity leave to Parental leave and flexible work hours and facilitating working from home etc. I know of couples who have taken turns to raise their kids and earn their living, being able to make such simple choices has enriched both their lives.

    D: What you said makes so much sense, IHM. Having the option of Parental leave instead of maternity leave is a fantastic idea! So is making options like flexi working hours, facility to work home, etc. available to both men and women. Wish such changes are brought about soon, we will be so much closer to achieving gender equality in the true sense of the word then.

    @Ashwathy – Chetan Bhagat’s is a brilliant example!

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