No More A Martyr: Why The Indian Homemaker Needs To Take Control Of Her Life

Posted: October 27, 2015

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Why do homemakers take themselves for granted? They should learn to value themselves as much as they value their family members.

While watching a rerun of the movie English Vinglish on the telly a few days ago, I was reminded of the time when I went to watch it in the theatre with my kids after reading some really good reviews of the movie. Well, those reviews were not wrong, and the movie was time well spent. But I am not attempting a review here. I wanted to talk about a very important and relevant issue that the movie touched upon – about the Indian homemaker.

I hate the term housewife because I genuinely believe that ‘homemaker’ is a more appropriate usage for a lady who spends her life building her home and her family. Just like the movie portrays, we take the most important member in our family shamelessly for granted. We did that to our mothers – those selfless souls who made life comfortable for us, looked after each and every need of ours and put their hobbies, passions and lives on hold for us so we could be brought up well, so that we could pursue our dreams. No, I was not rude to my mother. But I realized her true worth only after she passed away. My own mother was a gentle, loving soul and a stay-at-home mom. A great cook and a person of many talents, she was simple and down-to-earth. I still remember that she wanted to open a bank account in her name. I never understood why she wanted that. She was never deprived of anything in her life. She and dad were the most balanced and loving couple that I’ve seen who have lived the adage “in sickness and in health.” She never had to ask for money, and she spent as she liked. Yet, she had once expressed a desire to have her own bank account.

I never understood it then. I started understanding it much later when I began earning. The high of opening your own bank account, of earning your own money, and of seeing your own name on a credit card or bank statement was huge. Each one of us seeks our identity beyond that of someone’s daughter, mother or wife, as we indeed should. Having money or property in your name gives a tremendous boost to one’s ego and self-esteem, not to mention that it empowers you in the real sense. Perhaps this is what she sought that we did not understand. Isn’t this what most homemakers crave for today? Today, homemakers of my generation feel even more resentful because unlike my mother, they were raised equally with boys to study and have a career. But many of them had to give up a flourishing professional career to raise a family and that sometimes breeds resentment and bitterness as time goes by for what could have been. They feel that they could have the fancy titles and six and seven-figure salaries next to their names easily had they continued earning. That “I” takes a huge beating and no gratitude or even kind words acknowledging their contribution and efforts they put in, takes a huge emotional toll on them.

That brings me to the question of respect of a homemaker. Why does no one give her the respect she deserves for being the 24X7 hands-on worker for her family? Is it because we are taught to respect money? Does the patriarchal system make us respect our dads because they bring in the bacon? Have we been conditioned to take our mothers and the work they do for us for granted?

Are the stay-at-home moms to blame for some of this mess too? I think so, yes. As a mother who is raising two kids, I don’t take bullshit from my kids. They know that mom is friendly but they cannot misbehave with me. Those boundaries are set for them. And I wouldn’t allow them to bad mouth their father either. In every family, it is important that the children are taught to respect their parents both by the father and the mother for being just that – parents. Why do mothers put up with abuse from kids like in the movie? Moms are not punching bags, period!

In every family, it is important that the children are taught to respect their parents both by the father and the mother for being just that – parents. Why do mothers put up with abuse from kids like in the movie? Moms are not punching bags, period!

Why are our homemakers becoming martyrs and putting their lives in ‘sacrifice’ mode? Why are they clinging on to the kids or the husband? Why can’t they cultivate their own interests and indulge in their hobbies? Even if others in their homes do not encourage them to do so, they must take that step to do something, anything, even small, on their own. The emptiness that a woman feels when her kids grow up and don’t need her as much makes her feel depressed and sometimes clingy and controlling. That needs to be acted upon when she is younger.

Ask any homemaker if she is working and the answer you are likely to get is no or she is just at home. There is a problem of self-esteem too. Most homemakers start believing that what they do at home is useless perhaps because they don’t get any money at the end of the month. Everyone thinks that they sit and while away their time at home, and somewhere they start internalizing that. In short, no respect again. This time, in their own eyes, about themselves.

Thus, this is a complex situation with multiple facets. Just like in the movie, I also believe that happiness will come only by loving yourself first and foremost and believing in an intrinsic sense of self-worth and also in raising sons and daughters who are taught to be sensitive, caring and respectful towards their mothers.

What are your thoughts on this?

Image via Daily Motion.

Rachna Parmar is an award-winning blogger, a Content Developer and strategist who enjoys her

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  1. Hi Rachna, thanks for penning down your feelings regarding many women’s pet topic.

    Can all of us ponder on the following questions to find solutions to the above-mentioned problems:
    1.) If a home-maker’s job is equally important and she chooses to stay back in some cases, and is forced to work both outside and inside the home in some cases, then WHY ARE THE WEDDING EXPENSES BORNE BY THE GIRLS’ FAMILY?
    Some can justify it by saying that the husband ‘feeds, clothes and shelters the woman and ‘her’ (!!) children’.

    2.) So – does the woman sit and warm the sofa after she gets married?
    – is it free labour that comes along just because she is born in that gender?
    – in case she is not married and chooses to stay away from her parents, is she not capable of earning and feeding herself?

    3.) Do the girls’ parents need to spend for her just because the woman ‘needs marriage’? If a man does not need marriage, then why are the boys and their parents lining up in the matrimonial sites?

    4.) Isn’t marriage partnership? Partnership for life as both the husband and the wife need and depend on each other for various things and ‘not just that the wife is dependent on the husband’.

    5.) Is it not the girls’ responsibility too to take care of her elderly parents? Is not the son-in-law equally responsible and need to be stigmatised if there is any lapse in such responsibilities?

    If we can answer all these, then we could tackle the greatest problem of female foeticide and infanticide, as the parents choose gender based on-
    – whether the child would earn later
    – take care of them later in their old age
    – and not a liability by making them pay huge debts due to wedding expenses.

    Make the wedding simple, paste the pictures and videos online, for friends and relatives to see, seek their blessings and wishes, stay happy by supporting both families….then life would be much more peaceful….we should learn to value the outcome of all labour rather than that which fetches ONLY money.

    • Chintu, I can sense your angst through your questions. Unfortunately, gender inequality is an evil we are grappling with in our society. The changes are slow. Sometimes, the woman also needs to take matter in her hands whether it is an abusive relationship or an unhappy heart.

  2. i too felt the same when i watched the movie. i am also a home maker and work from home andlook after our institute. but i get nothing and my spouse says i’m irresponsible financially.

    • Well Varalakshmi. I read your comment in this section and thought of telling you this. If you are working somewhere, whether inside or outside you are definitely contributing and there is no need to justify it to the outside world. For you to boost your morale just try doing this….take your role out of the family, and see how it impacts the other family members, financially and emotionally. A paid person can do your job, but he/she will have less or lesser involvement in the long run. They can NO WAY replace your emotional bonding with your children and other family members, who might need you more than anyone else. That does not mean you should be away from the family for them to realise this. It is just that we all have been judging or were taught to judge, most people with the monetary value….emotional support is taken for granted.
      Many people who blame the mother for neglecting a child and place psychological problems on her shoulders have failed to acknowledge her contribution when she was present and thereby prevented the occurrence of the same. Acknowledge yourself more as we cannot afford to place our self respect in somebody else’s hands.

  3. Varalakshmi, I can understand how you feel. It hurts when those closest to us do not acknowledge our efforts. We can ignore outsiders, shut out cranky society but apathy at home hits hard. But the onus is now on you to look for that happiness within. Practice gratitude for being such a resourceful and skilled person. Keep telling yourself what a wonderful job you do. Cheer every little compliment and victory. And seek validation from other family members or friends who are encouraging and more respectful of what you do. Hopefully, your husband will fall in line too. Otherwise, just ignore his barbs because he is insensitive or perhaps is used to you depending on him for validation. Thanks for reading.

  4. Great read! I am a grandmother that enjoyed the homemaker experience and am now enjoying my grandkids visits at vacation time and when the parents need to be away. The biggest problem to finding a solution to this divide is not the men, (they don’t mind, unless they want you to make money cause what they make is not enough for them… Then it’s a bad situation anyway) it is the attitude of the other earning women towards the homemaker. A lot of the earners get a superiority complex and look at the homemaker as inferior, not smart enough to get a job or do anything, on the dumb side, lazy etc. and some poor ladies get all caught up in that and start to doubt themselves. But if you can not give up on the adventure of life, Persue your interests as the article suggests you can stand up with any earner anytime. Homemaker is just an option one chooses like any other job. Yes it doesn’t have monetary benefits ( except for what you save on childcare and house cleaning etc. ) but the overall package is great. It is hard to pick this option in this day and age ( peer pressure) but if you do, take pride and enjoy .

    • You are right, Rita. Sometimes, it is the women who pull down other women. Thank you for sharing your views and summing up the article so well.

  5. True words rachana…..u have exactly penned down my feelings…..

  6. Wonderful article, Rachna. I could relate to so much of it and even living in Canada, stay at home moms have the same struggles as the ones in India. I have often felt that staying home means I’m perceived as not ambitious and I’m lazy. I was laid off my full time government job back in 2004 and decided to stay home with my kids and pursue my creative passions. For the most part I’ve enjoyed the experience and don’t miss the office politics, stress, fatigue and lack of time. I do miss the money and prestige that came with working. Now I often don’t feel valued for what I do, especially by the family who often seem to take it all for granted and only notice when stuff isn’t done. I have to work hard at doing creative things I love such as writing/blogging, music, photography. I need to keep challenging myself and interacting with friends and the community to keep feeling good about myself. I am happy I’ve had this time with my kids and am grateful, especially this fall when my 21 year old son was ill and I needed to be with him. If I’d been working, I would have felt so stressed. It was stressful enough as it was.

    Now I’m curious about that movie you mentioned. Indian movies are fascinating to me, even the ones in Hindi that I can’t understand. Your country is so different from Canada and yet so similar and that makes it fascinating to learn about.

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  8. Well Let’s do one thing. Lets abolish the system of marriage. What will happen??

    Well men and women are equal, so let them have sex in colleges, schools and where not.

    Now if the women get’s pregnant, let her care for the child and feed both herself and her child during maternity and otherwise.

    Fine men are ready to leave the women independent. Are you seriously telling me that women are not desperate for men? Are you serious that condoms don’t fail? Why do we then get a number of fake rape cases, where a women had consensual sex with a man and now he has refused to marry him. The pregnant lady files a fake rape case against the man.

    Why can’t women learn the fact that they are weak and live with that reality. Why are you destroying the Indian family system and values. Why are you abstaining from your dharma??

    Had marriage not been there, it would have been the natural responsibility of a girl to take care of the child. The man/ husband is aiding you. However, a large number of kids today are suffering because their mothers no longer care for them and are selfish about credit cards and 6 figure salaries. Money, Money and Money.

    Mothers today are hardly seen, dress up in vulgar manner and care little whether their young child has even had food or not. Thanks to microwaves and kamwalis (maids), lest the life of a child would have been completely. Though obviously selfish mothers seldom care.

    Further, a women is seldom able to earn as much as a boy does. Even with the same education, the women’s salary is 60% of the man’s salary. Most women stay at the lower echelons of the corporate and unfortunately they rather being thankful are always complaining.

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  10. That is so true, we are brought up in a way that we tend to ignore our mom’s contributions in our lives, we always celebrated our dad. I feel what mom is after getting married and I know am no match to her as a mom myself. Great article.

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