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We are quick to judge women who are not a part of the conventional workforce. A Stay-at-home mom writes about being judged for her choices.
I always wanted to be a working woman. This desire to work started from my school days. I dreamed about finding a job and building a house of my own more than meeting prince charming. In fact, meeting prince charming was never on my list. In those days I never liked the idea of getting married, but I was sure that I would eventually get married to someone of my parent’s choice though I didn’t care much. Then with time, my attitude changed and I too fell in love and got married to my knight-in-shining-armour. Well, that’s a different story.
Let me come back to the topic now.
After getting married, I resigned to join my husband abroad as I did not like the idea of leading a marital life staying in different continents. Though I enjoyed the wife role, it took sometime to get to terms with the non-working, non-earning part of my life. Then when I had my baby, the non-working part served its purpose.
What I am saying is – the ambitious working woman in me found the perks of being a house-wife, a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). The SAHM life proved how wrong I was when I wondered how free my mother’s life with no homework or no exam to worry about was. Life with a husband and baby taught me how wrong I was in assuming that a housewife/SAHM’s life is easy.
I guess almost all women out there must be familiar with what I am talking about. So I am not diving into narrating the hectic day of a wife/mother.
When we returned from the USA to India nine months ago, I hadn’t made up my mind whether to join work or not; because my priority was my son and getting him adjusted to the new surroundings. But as soon as I landed, I was bombarded with questions – “Are you looking for a job?”, “Will you get a job?”, and many were asking my husband if I would get a job where he works.
I saw pity in some eyes on account of my worthless housewife life where my engineering degree is of no use.
While many of those were innocent questions – just wanting to know my future decisions – some of them were not so innocent. I saw pity in some eyes on account of my worthless housewife life where my engineering degree is of no use. I saw accusation in some eyes for not helping my husband’s hand in securing finances. No, no one accused me directly. But there was a lot of discussion about the living expenses in India and about the difficulty of supporting daily life even when both husband and wife work. All of this, I found, is a bit stretched. It’s true that India is more expensive than ever before but only for those who support their livelihood with daily wages, not for the average software professional.
I talked to one of my friends who was trying to get back in the software field after a gap of six years. She was finding no luck there. I asked her -why don’t you do the catering business which you wanted sometime back? She is an excellent cook and she likes trying out new delicacies. She told me that she would love to do that but she was asked what is the use of having an engineering degree if you are going to do the cooking business, and that demotivated her.
I felt that years ago, when the 12-year-old me exclaimed about the work-less, worry-free life of a housewife, I was unaware of the duties and responsibilities involved. I was unaware of the exhaustion a wife met with at the end of the day. Years later, I no longer think that a house-wife has the luxury of time. But even today I see the same exclamation in many (mature) eyes when they ask me how I manage to pass my free time.
I wonder, why is the wife with no earning job still considered worthless?
So what, if someone finds their passion a little later?
So what, if following what we are passionate about doesn’t pay as much as the job that our degree can get us?
So what, if taking care of family is more important to one than earning a handsome pay packet every month?
Even after experiencing the hectic day of a housewife, how can any one think that we must work outside the home to be useful?
When what I choose to do makes me happy how does that make me worthless in your eyes?
This post was first published here.
Pic credit: 13514463@N06 (Used under a CC license)
Well just because SAHM are nit salaried ,in this hugely commercial world their worth is often undermined, but every person need to find her own calling. The best principle of feminism I feel is to have a choice. Whatever a woman does should be HER choice with no imposing from any outside force.
Absolutely Pooja.. Sadly the freedom of choice is often neglected.
Vinitha- I can totally identify with your article – I’m no software engineer but an economist researcher by choice and education- I’ve moved countries due to my husband being in finance and have had difficulty in finding full time work due to the constant move every few years. When I was not working people asked me to have a baby even when I didn’t want one- I had other interests passion to pursue and really didn’t want a child at the time- now when I have a 17th month old people are like are you looking to go back to work? And I m like – I don’t want to work full time. It’s like being a SAHM is not respectable anymore- it’s probably the oldest profession in the world- woman taking care if her chikd.:p since when did that become not a great thing to do? It’s women themselves who judge other women , including sometimes myself- when I fell I should justify the statement of SAHM even without asking esp to a working mother.! Nowadays I just tell myself to be more confident -yes I may miss the money and everything else but I don’t care much – I’m more worried if my toddler has eaten anything or at all. Peace to myself is the jargon.!
Even I found myself trying to justify the not working part many times. When someone asks me Are you working? I answer No as if I am doing something not right. Now, I am also getting more confidence in saying No I don’t work outside home. It is a bliss once I learned to listen to me more than others. 🙂 Glad to read your experience here, Anu..
Hey! I was actually having this conversation with one of my classmates the other day and I was absolutely stunned to have been called “you have been conditioned to become a housewife!” I am just 21 and for the sake of the argument I was asked if I would ever give up on my job and look after my family, I agreed without giving much thought. People seem to have a false notion that women who decide to stay-at-home are not strong enough or competent enough as the ones who decide to work. How absurd is that? Since when has deciding to look after one’s family become a subject of condescension and pity? I appreciate what you are doing for your family out of your own free will Vinitha. Every woman is strong in her own way, and nobody has got anything to do with your life choices. If you are happy, you simply are!
Have a nice day! 🙂
When I am happy taking care of my family and when my family realizes the sacrifices I have done to do so and appreciates my efforts, then I am rewarded much more. When we choose to stay at home just to take care of family, it isn’t easy for us either. As long as your family appreciates it is alright Preethi. Another thing is working woman or not working woman we have to learn the house wife skills to run the family.In fact staying at home needs requires more competency skills in today’s world, I definitely experience so.. I agree with you cent percent ” If you are happy, you simply are!”. Glad to know your views.. 🙂
Vineetha ji, brilliant post. Agree with each and every point made. I am a working woman and your article has set me thinking about how society stereotypes working women as unnecessarily ambitious, selfish, career driven and not bothered about family. Sorry to drift apart from the topic of your article but society judging both working women and stay at home women is wrong. I love my work and would not like to quit it, even for family and my choice has to be respected. Working women are often asked questions such as when will you plan your family, why are you so obsessed with your work, what are your priorities etc etc … So it was a wonderful read. I wish society lets women be what they want to be rather than dictate its own set standards.
You made my day Nidhi… No, you are not at all drifting from the topic here. When working women like you agrees with my points I really feel heard and appreciated.. I am glad you understood that my point was about the choice each of us and not about glorifying just the house-wives. Many of my friends also came up with similar views like yours that they were questioned for being ambitious. Society always will find a way to point at us and make us feel bad, worthless, whatever but ultimately it is about what we want to do and our happiness in doing so. Only if we are happy we can do anything good to our family or to the society. I admire you for being a working woman and taking care of family as well. Balancing life is an art. Working women doesn’t necessarily choose their career above family. And even if some do whats the problem as long as their family understands and accepts it? If only society understood that!! Thank you for sharing here Nidhi.. 🙂
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I have been on both the sides of this working/non-working spectrum. I joined back work when my son was 4 months old till the time he turned 2. During that period women used to pity that my small baby does not have his mother around but then I loved my job. Then we moved to UK and I left my job to become a SAHM. Being a full time mom was not easy. I stumbled a lot. Now I love being at home looking after my 3 and a half year old son and dont want to go back to work outside anymore. Its my personal decision and yes I am not open to any judgement. And I dont bother if people judge me for this. One has to become thick skinned. A couple of months back, one of my former managers asked me if I am working? My answer was -” Yes, I am. I work as a full time mother 24×7″.
Having experienced both sides you must be equally aware of the goods and bads of both working and not working mom situation. It is about one’s choice right. I am glad you are able to do what you prefer to do, Anamika.. And the answer you gave to your former manager is excellent! 🙂
It definitely should be the person’s call to be a SAHM or SAHD. But personally I believe that financial independence is very important. I mean, why should women get a choice to not work. My mom was a SAHM while my dad worked in Dubai. Shes quite resourceful and I’d often wished that she’d do something other than constantly running after us, worrying about us and getting us to do what/how she thinks it should be done. Yes, she was very devoted to us and was ALWAYS there for us. But I really wished even at a small age that she had a life outside us kids.
And another thing. I dont think its women’s choice to be SAHMs. They cannot choose that unless the husbands agree to it. What if the husband says ‘no my salary alone cant suffice for the whole family. you have to work’. Would it still be woman’s choice?
May be its because I am single, I dont understand the concept of living on husband’s money. Im not saying that home gets cleaned and kids grow up by themselves. It IS a full-time job. But I dont know, a life without a pay check (albeit small) at the month end seems scary.
I was you Nidaa. I could never picture myself as a house-wife. Like you say I wanted financial independence too. But life happened. And I learned to make adjustments according to the circumstances at hand. As I said in the write up, I wasn’t thrilled to stay at home in the beginning days of marriage. But the visa problems made me choose the house wife role. But then already I had figured out my priority and that was my family, my husband. I had the freedom to go back to India and continue working or stay with my husband as a house-wife. In fact many times my husband suggested me to go back seeing how much I missed working and earning. Now if my husband had forced me to be a house-wife or never given me the choice then I wouldn’t have stayed as his wife, I know that, he knows that. About the concept of living on husband’s money, that is called family life. Wasn’t it your father who payed your fees when you were in school? and you didn’t feel awkward then right? When we are kids we could never picture our mom and dad as different people who used to have different families, lives etc., right. Because from the time we saw them they are together. Such togetherness is called family life and its better if there isn’t any financial independence there. Even if it is just the husband who earns it is for the family. Living as a husband and wife and maneuvering two different lives into a single one is a challenging task for both the people involved. You can never be a part of happy marital life seeking financial independence. I hope you understood what I am saying, Nidaa.
I know in some cases women are not getting the ‘reward’ which you mentioned in one of the comments….
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