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Zimma To Zumba: Mothers, Take Your Time Out Without Guilt!

Posted: June 17, 2015

Mothers are human too. They too need their time out that too without guilt.

Some days back I went out with some of my girlfriends. We dressed up, excitedly made our way to a nice restaurant and had a really great outing  catching up with each other. For those few hours, it felt like the good old carefree college days when one had very few responsibilities in life.

To somebody at another table, we might have appeared as just another frivolous, giggling bunch of ladies out to have a good time. But what was not apparent to a casual observer is that for those few hours, each of us women had managed to leave behind some of our stresses and baggage to spend some quality time recharging our batteries.

Although we looked relaxed, many of us had cooked dinner for our spouses and children just before stepping out. Even if each of us had made an effort to dress up, we know exactly how we had managed to put on the makeup in a matter of minutes; juggling kid’s tantrums and the husband’s last-minute panic attacks about taking care of the baby.

Although we laughed and joked through our dinner, one furtive eye was always on the phone to make sure our children or husbands didn’t need us back home for some reason.

Although we laughed and joked through our dinner, one furtive eye was always on the phone to make sure our children or husbands didn’t need us back home for some reason. Some of us called up home intermittently to check if the husband was managing alright with the children and to make sure the children weren’t fighting among themselves or if they had had dinner.

All of us were anticipating a warm welcome back home not to mention a house that looked like a wreck thanks to the freedom both husband and kids enjoyed in those hours. As 10 pm approached we became restless and like Cinderella, wanted to get home before our self-imposed curfew. But in spite of this, we ladies managed to have a lovely time and looked forward to doing it again.

However, every time we do plan a get together – either a girls’ night out or simply a daytime lunch outing, why is it that a little part of me feels guilty for enjoying myself? Why do I feel a twinge of remorse for leaving behind my husband and child at home while I have an enjoyable time out with women similar to me?

I think back to my grandmothers’ era and surprisingly remember that women of that generation too had their own little ways of spending time away from the family, just socializing with each other.

In moments like these when I question myself, I think back to my grandmothers’ era and surprisingly remember that women of that generation too had their own little ways of spending time away from the family, just socializing with each other. I remember women from that era excitedly looking forward to meeting up during occasions like ‘Haldi- Kumkum’ or for a ‘ Mangala Gauri’ some of the many religious events dotting the Maharashtrian social calendar.

These were women-only get-togethers celebrating the change of season or the period following a newlywed girl’s return to her mother’s house. Whatever the reason, it was a pretext for the ladies to call upon their friends, dressing up in their best sarees and jewelry to enjoy delicacies, special to the occasion and to socialize. In ‘Mangala Gauri’ the ladies played fun traditional games like ‘fugadi’ and ‘zimma’ some of which require great fitness skills providing a great cardiovascular exercise if one thinks of it. In those days, women did not enjoy the freedom to go out the way we do and probably these events provided a much-needed respite from the drudgery of everyday life.

As many women did not work outside the home, it must have been fantastic to meet other women, enjoy freedom to indulge in dance and some merriment away from the eyes of the menfolk. I remember my grandmother returning from these outings, rejuvenated and happy. While we little girls would accompany her sometimes, our interest was mainly in the food and games, while the grown up ladies enjoyed the freedom to talk, appreciate each other’s attire and just to be themselves. I must say that the only thing that I do not agree about these get-together which often had a religious basis was the fact that only married ladies could attend them and, therefore, they were not inclusive of widows and unmarried women.

In the next generation, at least in my family, ‘kitty’ parties came on the scene. Again, these provided a much-needed escape from the routine of everyday life. The ‘kitty’ where money is pooled and one person gets to have a lump sum every month was the basis of forming such groups. Because of this financial ‘investment’ the women met up regularly at one person’s house and again, the same kind of women-only get-together took place.

My mother- in law has been going for her monthly kitty parties for the past several decades. Although the financial aspect is not the primary reason to get together, even to this day, the women contribute Rs.25 each into the kitty and that is used as a pretext to meet up. Each kitty party is a much-awaited occasion and it is lovely to see my mother–in-law eagerly anticipate meeting her friends of so many years. They usually have one savory and one sweet dish at each person’s house, dress up in their best clothes, converse, laugh a lot and return to their homes in a few hours.

Every time she comes back from these outings, she is full of stories and information of all kinds- the latest sales bargains, the newest restaurants, whose children are doing what and so on. It is heart warming to see the effect of a social outing of this nature on her mood. Getting away from the domestic chores, the same routine day in and day out, away from the endless and sometimes mindless television serials to spend a few hours with her peers just cheers her up and refreshes her to face the humdrum life with a smile.

So coming back to my generation, I feel that in a way similar to the women in previous generations, we too need our space and time away from domesticity.

Don’t get me wrong – we love our families and enjoy spending time with them.

Don’t get me wrong – we love our families and enjoy spending time with them. But sometimes, it is nice to not have to worry about your children constantly. It’s simply wonderful to speak to someone other than your husband about things that would not interest him. It is liberating to let your hair down for a few hours, wear clothes that you have been saving in the back of your wardrobe for a special day which never comes because you are forever stressing about spilling something on it when out with the kids or avoiding those high-heels because they are not practical enough for running after your toddler. It’s nice to sometimes not lug around a huge kiddie bag full of wipes and snacks and instead pull out that impractical clutch bag that has never been used.

Somehow, a girls’ night out or day out or even kitty parties get a negative response from people, both men and women and I admit that I myself used to be pretty judgmental of women pasting photos of them having a girls only outing on Facebook. But I can now understand, especially as I took a career break and that meant spending so many hours cooped up at home. In my working days, somehow, there was not that acute need to go for such get-togethers. Going out of the house for work also meant interacting with people during the day- whether colleagues or otherwise. The lunch break was a full hour to myself – to do window shopping, eat lunch with colleagues or just be on my own, read a magazine and so on. Besides, there are office lunches and parties. But life as a housewife does not let one meet other people in the same way unless one makes an effort.

But the talk is usually related to ‘what’s for dinner’ or ‘how much homework your child has today’.

Yes, there are outlets to meet other similar women, in the playground especially if you have children or in school at pick-up or drop-off time. But the talk is usually related to ‘what’s for dinner’ or ‘how much homework your child has today’. Although such exchanges are important too, it makes a good change to meet outside of these settings and converse on other topics.

So whether it’s ‘zimma’ or ‘zumba’ that gets you energized, whether it’s coffee mornings that excite you or cocktail evenings that you prefer, girls’-only get togethers are a great way to emerge from the domestic cocoon occasionally and give the ‘individual’ inside yourself some time to unwind.

It’s not so bad to leave the ‘Mummy hat’ behind at home for a few hours and don a ‘party hat’ instead.

Free woman image via Shutterstock

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  1. Vrushali….thats a great topic, wherein you have delved into all the important aspects of it, and it had a personal touch to it, which made it very interesting. DO write more…..
    I think some more points I would like to say is…..the women feel guilty, because, whether she is working or not, she thinks that she is the sole responsibility of her kids, and the others also comfortably delegate this important and tough job to the women, saying that she has the ‘motherly instincts and touch’ and she can do a best job in this. But no one talks about the fathers’ instincts and bonding, which is also very important. No one makes the father guilty for leaving the kids back home, when they go for badminton, golf, or a late night party (official or otherwise). The women of the household DO NOT question them about their responsibility as a father. Isn’t a mother expected to bond with the child after she comes back from work. Then why is a father let off, slouching with the tv remote surfing through useless channels. When this topic came up with my friends they said that “poor men, that is the time when they relax….why ask them to take care of the kids.” This statement shows two things-
    1.) Taking care of children single handedly for a long time can be stressful for anyone….then in this case the mother definitely needs a break, without feeling guilty
    2.) the father is not seen as a person who should be doing this duty, and even if he does this, then it is a favour he does to the mother.

    My point is no one has tuned it in his mind that every day fathers need to bond, whether they are CEO or labour worker, and HE IS ALSO A PARENT. Women also do this mistake of cocooning the children from the father assuming that he cannot handle the child. Nobody taught the mother to handle and she took interest to get a grasp of it, then why not the fathers too. It is high time, women start leaving the children to bond with the father, even if the women are there in the house to take care of them. If it is done, then they would understand that both of them need to take turns when the other is taking a break. I see a lot of women, either leaving or made to leave the kids with the grandparents when the father is present in the house. Time enough we learn the strategies for equal parenting from the westerners, wherein both the parents change diapers, take turns to take care of the kids, and try to maintain physical fitness through regular exercising.

    • hi Chintu, Thank you for your kind words and for your comment. You have made some really interesting and valid points. I agree with you that the father is a parent too, not just the breadwinner and needs to take equal responsibility for the children….which helps in parent-child bonding too. Like you say, fathers do take time to relax without the guilt that we mothers burden ourselves with. We women really need our space and time-out without apologising for it.

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