Am I Setting Up My Daughter For Heartache By Giving Her A Rosy, Unrealistic View Of Life?

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A mother wonders: Am I doing the right thing by asking my daughter to focus on her career? Or will she be faced with the same dilemma as me, because boys are not brought up feminist?

My daughter came running into the kitchen while I was cooking and said, “Mama can I help you make the chapattis?”

My instant reaction was, “You don’t have to do this now, go back and study as you have got your exams coming in a week.” As usual she obeyed and went back to study.

A feeling of déjà vu

This conversation gave me a feeling of déjà vu, when my mom used to tell me that I should focus on my studies, and the household work will be taken care of by itself when I will be able to secure a good job and earn well. I remember helping my Mom with some small household stuff during my school years, but all throughout she told me focus on the competitive exams that I need to crack, or get decent enough marks to score a seat in a reputed college. Never in those years did I hear from her that you will also be evaluated on a daily basis on how well you do the cooking, how good you are in housekeeping, how well you entertain the relatives and guests, or how you will have to make compromises in every phase of life; and that all this was bound to happen once I got married!

I often complained after my marriage – why did my mom never tell me, that despite getting a good degree or having a good paying job, I would still have to excel in all those areas which were considered so unimportant throughout my growing up years.

Am I raising a daughter or son?

Now, I see myself guiding my daughter in the same way that my mom did, where I am asking her to focus on her studies and  not give importance to anything related to household jobs.

Am I raising a daughter or a son? Because as per Indian standards all these ‘liberal’ parenting rules are applicable only to boys and not to Indian girls! That the girls in India ‘should be’ taught right from childhood that no matter what their qualification or designation is, their primary job will always remain taking care of kids and family,” but the same is not applicable to the Indian boys.

Gender bias in household chores

I have seen so many women struggling and juggling between jobs inside the house and outside, with no help whatsoever from their husbands. All these women who have secured jobs in the private or public sector have gone through the same level of competition as men. There has been no gender based distinction in getting through the competitive exams or through the various interview processes. How come when it comes to household jobs, there is so much gender bias?

I am bound to think on these lines because my daughter’s future is at stake. Am I doing the right thing by asking her to focus only on her career, and live under the illusion that rest everything will fall in place.

Do I have to introduce her to the harsh realities of the world once girls move out of their parents’ home and get married?

Or I should just assume that she might get a husband (if she ever gets married) and in-laws who will be as understanding and supporting as her parents are, when she doesn’t match the ‘set expectations’ of the good “Indian wife”? I sometimes want to tell her that there are certain things in married life which she cannot shy away from no matter how hard she tries…

Should I be having these conversations with her instead?

Cooking

Your husband will not be responsible for getting home cooked meals on table, it will be your responsibility to come home from work and get the show running in the kitchen. Even if you can afford servants, this is one area where you will always be judged by the family and outsiders.

This will get tougher for you if you are not living in India but still married to an Indian man, as in other countries having domestic help is out of question!

Household chores

Housekeeping will also fall into your plate and there will be sarcastic comments if you don’t score well in this area. You cannot just leave your bed unmade in the morning and walk away from the house. Or come back from work and not worry about the messy house and kitchen.

Even the laundry exercise will be part of your primary responsibility; you cannot leave the clothes anywhere you want and they will be stacked in your closets. You will have to do it all for yourself, your husband and the kids.

Becoming a mom means sleepless nights

Yes, you are the one who will deliver a child and life will change forever. You are the one who will have sleepless nights, changing diapers will become your life, and the entire responsibility of a small, helpless child will be in your hands. You will be lucky if you get help from the husband, but be prepared to tread this path all by yourself without support.

Child rearing

After you become a mother, your whole priority in life will be your child. You might never be able to join back work from maternity leave if the child needs your support and care more than other kids. You might have to consider taking a part time job or work from home to adjust to the kid’s needs. You will have to take days off from office if the child is sick, because “no one can take care of a child better than a mother.” You will be faced with a dilemma whether to go back to work or be a stay at home mom. In all this you will be continuously judged by people around including women.

Kids’ homework and classes will be your priority no matter how much work load you have from office. Their performance in school is compared directly with how well you are bringing them up; nowhere the fathers will be blamed for the low scoring or bad grades of the kids. It’s even fine for the fathers to not know who is the kid’s teacher or which grade they are in but you will not be excused.

You will have cut throat competition in office and will have to outperform many male employees, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the small tasks back home. You will have to work extended hours both at home and office to maintain the balance, which might take a toll on your health. You will be judged continuously in home and at office, sometimes without getting credit for the hard work you have put in.

So what should I do then?

Should I say all this to her instead of supporting her in her education? Am I setting her up for an unhappy life by giving her a rosy, impractical view of life?

There are many more pieces of conversations floating in my mind but I want to take a pause here and ask a question to all the mothers now raising their sons and planning to get them married.

Are you raising your sons differently? Because, we have definitely started raising our daughters differently. Do you think I should have this conversation which I have in mind with my daughter or is there a chance that I might not need it anymore?  

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An HR professional who keeps shifting between being a homemaker and a career woman. Currently

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