Post marriage life for women changes drastically, managing home, office, in-laws, kids (if there are) and spouse’s needs. What about her needs?
A recent ad of a very popular detergent brand aptly shows how gender roles – gradually, unknowingly, sometimes even consciously, are passed on to the next generation. The media is doing its part in bringing the ‘real’ to the ‘reel’. It is about time we alter gender roles in the real world.
The tag line of a liquor brand says “men will be men“. They should also add this “and women will become superwomen”.
Life takes a 360 degree turn for most of the girls post marriage, as they settle to a new household, leaving the warmth of a known neighbourhood, modifying ways of commute and juggling the various roles of a wife, a working professional, a daughter-in-law and a daughter.
This story is an attempt to bring this to light especially in the modern times.
Priya boarded her company bus. It was 10.15 pm. Just as she settled down and rested her back on the back seat, Akhil called for the sixth time.
“Priya, it is 10.15…how long are you gonna take to reach home?”.
“Akhil, I did WhatsApp you, it was a pesky client on the call which lasted longer than I expected. You know the travel time, it will take at least an hour”.
“Priya, you know that Ma-Baba have come just for a week, at least this week you could try being a less of a career woman“.
“Akhil, please, I have done everything that is needed for their comfortable stay. I have cooked dinner also in the morning itself and have made the salad and raita just the way Baba likes. I told you I had not expected this delay. Should be there in an hour”.
But Akhil had already hung-up.
Priya and Akhil had been married for a year. It was a love marriage (not that ‘love’ or ‘arranged’ makes a big difference). They both worked as mid-level executives in corporate firms. They had met through common friends and dated for more than two years before deciding to get married.
Every day, Priya left home at 9.00 am and came back by 9.00 pm. Her commute one way was over an hour. She would wake up at 6.00 am and cook breakfast and lunch for both of them. At work she handled a perpetually work-shirking team leader and a boss who was never there when crucial decisions needed to be taken.
Leaving work on time was never a luxury she could afford as most of her clients were based oversees, so client calls were always scheduled for late evenings. Leaving late from work the previous day in no way meant that she could come in late the next day. The ‘in time was fixed, not the out time‘. If she was lucky she could at the earliest leave by 8.00 pm after which it was an hour’s commute by train or worse, by bus, to reach home.
On the way she had to remember to buy essential provisions. Immediately after reaching home she would start cooking dinner. By the time dinner was ready it was 10.00 – 10.30 pm. Post dinner, washing, cleaning took up time and her everyday bedtime had changed to 12.30 – 1.00 am. Twice or thrice a week clothes had to be washed too.
Akhil would wake up about 45 minutes before his time to leave for work. He would get ready, have breakfast and leave on time. In the mornings Priya barely got time to take a look at herself in the mirror. She had become a pro at gulping breakfast or eating while standing in a bus or train.
In the evening, Akhil would be back almost an hour earlier than Priya. After which he would watch T.V. or a movie from their DVD collection. On days he was in the mood, he would do some preliminary help needed for dinner but most of the days ‘he was just too tired” from work to even wash his own plate.
Akhil’s parents lived in a town near Mumbai. Three out of four weekends every month, Akhil and Priya would visit them. This meant a bumpy bus ride of almost eight hours, one way. So as to spend longer time with them, the return journey was always the first bus on Monday morning, around 4.00 am to reach Mumbai. Once in Mumbai they would directly go to work.
Priya’s parents lived in Mumbai about an hour’s drive/half an hour by train, from her place. In the last one year of marriage, she would have barely visited them a couple of times.
Since her marriage, Priya had developed severe problem in her back, her hair fall was alarming. This stress was also having an effect on her emotional well-being. She notices that she gets irritated very often and has largely lost that spark that was in her before marriage. Each time she goes home to her mother she hears, “Priya you are just shrinking, enough of your flying corporate life, take it easy a bit”.
In the one year since marriage Priya has not had the time to meet her best friends from school, her college mates or her ex-colleagues. Weekends are always reserved for visiting Akhil’s parents, Akhil’s professional/personal social circle, housework that cannot be completed over the week or office work which is carried home.
There were days she wanted to give it all up and run away. There were times she tried involving Akhil in everyday work but his contributions were few and far between. The responsibility of running the house very much remained hers.
As if this was not enough Akhil’s mom would call several times during the week to check whether Akhil was doing well, whether food of his choice was being cooked, did he get a good night’s sleep. She would speak with Priya as well but it was more a formality than choice.
Priya knew that they loved each other. Akhil was a nice guy. Just that in life just being nice is sometimes not enough. She would sometimes wonder, “marriage has not changed anything for Akhil. He lives in the same house which means the same neighbourhood, his commuting ways have not altered, his likes and dislikes are taken care of by both his mom, me and even my mom.” (Priya’s mom insists on cooking food of Akhil’s choice each time they visit them).
Sometimes Priya would seek solace in the fact that as long as he isn’t abusive or manipulative, I should not over-analyze.
Is there something drastically wrong in the upbringing of boys and girls in our society? Why is it so ingrained in a woman’s psyche to take on multiple roles and assume responsibility for the immediate family, the extended family, the housework, her career and so on?
While she adapts to these new roles, who should take on the role of ensuring her well-being? Why is it so difficult for men to share household responsibilities, at least to be aware that running a house should be a collaborative effort and not a ‘job-profile’ that can be taken on by the ‘wife’.
Most of the times women are given alternatives, ‘you can hire a cook’, ‘don’t take on so much, some days just let the vessels be in the sink or let the laundry pile-up’ or the mother of all ‘give up your job na, sab theek ho jaayega’.
Can every woman ensure that her well-being will be her priority? Compromising on one’s physical or psychological well-being is not a foundation to a good marriage. There needs to be a conscious effort in every family to balance gender roles.
Image source: Hindu wedding by Shutterstock.
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