The Boundaries For Independent Women In So-Called ‘Modern’ Families

Posted: July 17, 2018

Even in so-called ‘modern’ families, there are strict boundaries on what women can aspire to. It turns out that our modernity is very skin-deep indeed!

“Jhanvi is an independent women, she is working in an Indian government Bank since 3 years. Her family is traditional, having an ideology that girls should study well, stand on their feet financially and after marriage manage home, children and job well. In other words, she is supposed to become a superwoman like many others who have the passion to continue their professional life.”

Does this situation resonate with you or any one close to you? We can recount many examples of women who have managed home and career perfectly, but do look closer, and you will find imperfections in every facet of their lives. Every married couple has faced problems and built their customised solutions.

Some difficulties faced by the modern wife

Women are supposed to be expert in culinary skills as well as home management. In addition, Indian wives should ‘adjust’ according to the husband’s changing mood swings, in-laws’ traditional rules as well as look beautiful always. God forbid if her exhaustion shows on her face! You should be always smiling, always willing to help. It does not matter if you are tired or have your own mood swings. Neither does it matter if you have returned home from office just like your husband.

I have often wondered if we are still children at heart. Are Indian males groomed to be children forever? First mother, then wife then daughter/ daughter-in-law takes care of his needs. Without women they will perish. Mothers teach girls at the time of marriage to make their husbands as dependent on them, as soon as possible. It is claimed that this act will establish power in the household. Is that so really?

Most people in our society, men and women alike are victims of gaslighting abuse prevailing in our families. To understand what this abuse is, recall Sridevi’s husband in the movie English Vinglish. He was a very good husband, and took care of all the physical and financial needs of the family. But he used to undermine his wife continuously in private as well as in front of others. He used to make her feel inferior and did not respect her decisions.

Similar situations are created in parent-child, husband-wife relations, often from both sides. Women often are more impacted, because they are criticised from all directions regularly, from ‘well-wishers’. Women end up losing their confidence or become defensive in order to protect their rights. The extreme ends of both situations are harmful for one’s mental health as well as relationships.

What can be done differently?

As women, we make the mistake of becoming so dependent on our spouses for approval and small decisions, we tend to lose freedom. Occasionally, we need to take a stand on how we want things to progress.

I recently interacted with a relative who was a working woman, lived in a joint family and had children quite early comparative to others in same age group. Some of her life tips are really helpful.

1. Set defined expectations and conform to them: Following this approach is very important. Often, we blame or take blame even after clear expectations. Think of positive and negative outcomes and a course of action in both cases. This approach simplifies decision making in critical situations. Expectations should be realistic with some margin for change.

2. Think calmly, remember happy memories, then speak: Before blaming, always think twice. This should be followed by men and women alike. Remember, people are not always wrong but you tend to overlook their positive points in the heat of argument.

3. Both husband and wife take pocket money monthly: When there are financial issues or we try to live life on a tight budget, many fights/misunderstandings occur. So whatever be the financial condition, set aside some money for personal usage which will be non-accountable. You may spend it, pamper yourself, buy some essentials or save it. But, that money should be non-accountable. This little freedom gives a lot of happiness in an overall fast and demanding life.

4. Treat Children as the responsibility of both parents: It is a common occurrence in our families that once a woman starts the motherhood journey, she is forever the only caregiver. the same responsibilities should apply to fathers also. Men should start doing their own daily chores as a good example for children. Do not treat sharing household tasks as ‘help’ to women. Men should be able and habituated to doing their own work. Children learn from the daily routine more than

5. Take vacations regularly: Never think that we do not have time or money for family/couple outings. Regular breaks from daily routine increase productivity and boost mental/physical health. Take some time away without children also, without guilt. You will feel light-hearted and enjoy yourself immensely. Remember, even moms need personal space. Mothers need a vacation from children occasionally, period.

These are some of the solutions. Let me know what problems you face and what solution you have applied. Your response may be useful to another reader. So please share your thoughts and advice freely by commenting below and sharing this post.

Published here earlier.

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I am social media marketing expert, has done Women Entrepreneurship from IIT Delhi, WEE. I

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