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Manushi Chhillar’s winning answer got her the Miss World crown, but it has also opened up a much needed debate on the monetary value of a homemaker’s unpaid work.
Year 2000. Memory lane. Priyanka Chopra from India became Miss World. Fast forward to 2017. Manushi Chhillar becomes Miss World. In these seventeen years the charm and awe for the title has remained the same. Beauty with brains, as these beauty pageants try to convince people. To check the intellect of the contestants there is a question and answer round.
The whole world is applauding Manushi Chhillar for the answer she gave to the final question. The question was “which profession deserves the highest salary and why?” Her answer was that the motherhood deserves the highest salary and respect. The answer won her the coveted crown, but also opened up the debated topic – Should a homemaker get a salary for the duties she performs towards the family and home?
Homemaker, wife, mother – all the roles played by women are mostly thankless jobs. The emotional quotient involved in these roles while performing these duties is very high. A motherly instinct never thinks about monetary gain or loss. All a mother is concerned about is just the betterment of the child. In the process she sacrifices her time, health, profession, choices and comfort. There is no parameter to compensate these in monetary terms.
In most households, the husband is the breadwinner. In situations where the wife is also earning, it still doesn’t give her freedom from the household responsibilities. The condition of the woman work force involved in domestic help or other lower strata jobs is even worse. They earn but they are not independent. Financial decisions and matters are mostly handled by the men of the house.
In some households there may be a practice of handing over the salary to the lady of the house. She needs to manage and run the finances. She also has to take care to save a small amount of money. At times women pool in groups to save a monthly amount. The practice of ‘bhishi’ and kitties are examples of such savings. I have known domestic helps who have constructed their own pakka house through such bhishi or collective savings. These kind of savings give them a little bit of financial security but not independence.
The evaluation of household and motherly duties in cash is a concept which our society is yet to digest. There is a fear and guilt attached, that how can we charge something which is totally emotion driven.
A woman gives up a flourishing career to embrace motherhood. That is purely by choice. But all the toil that goes in keeping a house intact, from fixing the meals, to laundries, and the nitty gritty about managing a home is simply taken for granted. The desires and needs of a mother often take a backseat. Because it is always implied that a mother is bound to sacrifice; it is all in her instincts. Maybe a mother doesn’t even feel sad or lost while sacrificing her wishes for the child or family. But it is very necessary that her sacrifice doesn’t goes unpaid. There should be gratitude and at times pampering for the homemaker.
There is a trend and need to give allowances and pocket money to the kids of house. Even when children can ask for anything from parents, there still may be a practice of giving pocket money to them. This gives them a chance to learn managing finances and a sense of freedom. Then why can’t there be a practice of monthly allowances for housewives, mothers or homemakers?
These allowances should strictly be for her. She can buy that pretty dress that she saw on mannequin the other day but didn’t buy as the monthly budget didn’t allow. She can offer herself a soothing manicure and pedicure for her aching feet, which she often refuses as a luxury she can’t afford. She can have her own savings that she can use later sometime. It is ironic that the only monetary allowances she can ask is in either the form of alimony or maintenance during separation or divorce. If a wife is provided with an allowance that is exclusively meant only for her needs, desires and choices, it will be a kind of token that her duties, work and care is valued. It is a kind of pampering that she deserves.
We should try to remove the stigma attached to the feeling that the emotions and love shown by a mother cannot be paid in cash. Of course, no amount of money can buy the love and care of being mother, but the toil shouldn’t go unnoticed, without any gratitude that makes a real difference to her life.
Our newly crowned Miss World, Manushi Chhillar, who belongs to Haryana, the state infamous for low girl child ratio, dared to bring this issue on the international platform. No doubt she is a beauty who speaks her mind. The time has come when the domestic duties and chores shouldn’t be taken for granted as a baggage attached to marriage and motherhood.