My 3 year old is with his grandmother and as I am going down the stairs I hear them talking.
They seem to be in the middle of a discussion about the family. He is saying: ” My Papa is good but he comes from office so late, he works so hard.” This is followed by a question from Dadi, and what does Mama do? ” Mama doesn’t do anything the whole day, she is just at home, sleeping and watching TV.” This elicits a big laugh from Dadi and the joke and thinking behind it gains strength.
Standing in the background, I hear this and am a little taken aback by his statement as well as my mother in law’s acceptance and reaction to it. Maybe he meant it as a joke, cause he knows it will make her laugh, I try to console myself. This joke is one which has been often repeated in our house, but every time it makes me unsettled.
Even after a few hours I cannot shake off the feeling of unease. Is this really the perception our kids have of their mothers ? Do all kids think that if you are ‘just at home’, you really do nothing the whole day. Is our work so invisible? As home makers our kids see us at home the whole day taking care of them and the house, and to them it doesn’t seem like any specialised or genuine labor.
And when the father comes home late in the evening in Indian households a big fuss is made. The mother in law will ask you must be so tired, what will you eat, the wife will tell the kids not to bother the father because he works so hard. And so of course, the notion that gets strengthened in the child’s head is that my father works so hard but my mother doesn’t really do much because she is home the whole day.
India is still a country where majority of the women do not have formal jobs and are homemakers. And truth be told, a vast percentage of the husbands and their families would prefer the women of their home to stay just there, and prioritize themselves and their kids over their careers. If women’s careers are not seen as financially essential for the family, then it is seen as her whim and fancy and not as something she needs and wants to do.
Most housewives run around the whole day, and mentally and physically exhaust themselves to keep the family happy and comfortable in every way, though this labor is camouflaged and seldom acknowledged.The work of a home maker is so multifaceted and diverse in nature from taking care of the physical, mental, emotional, financial, societal needs of the family members to maintaining and organizing the house, the staff and so on , and even then it is unrecognized and undervalued.
Why not then the families, especially the husbands, show more respect and recognition for all that a wife and mother does, acknowledge and appreciate in front of their parents and children their wives role in furthering the well being of the family.
As a whole there needs to be shift in perspective in the Indian society to respect and value what a woman does to ensure that her family functions in a healthy and positive manner. And no kid should be allowed to hold the notion that their mother does nothing. It is the responsibility of the father and the mother herself, to ingrain this realisation early on that the mothers work in the house is equally important and fruitful and also she had the opportunity to work but she might have given it up for the family. Many of us have left successful jobs and promising career opportunities to be with the children and the family, this is not a sacrifice but a conscious choice. Please do not make us feel bad or lacking in worth because of this choice.