Dear Mother In Law And Sundry Relatives, Do I Deserve Your Respect Only If I’m A Multitasking ‘Superwoman’?

Women today would rather have an equal partnership with their spouse, than do it all and be awarded with the label of superwomen!

Women today would rather have an equal partnership with their spouse, than do it all and be awarded with the label of superwomen!

It was just a few months after our marriage when our in-laws had come to visit us from Abu Dhabi where they were living at that time.

In those days, our household routine in the morning would like this: My husband and I woke up and exercised together, then we prepared breakfast for the family, he made coffee while I fried the eggs, he cut the fruit while I toasted the bread. After all of us had breakfast, we’d again pack lunches and snacks together before getting ready for work. After we got back from work too, we’d share whatever household chore needed to be done that day.

My mother-in-law remarked one day, “I know this lady in Abu Dhabi who just got married. You won’t believe how she keeps herself well dressed in sync with the latest fashion, while managing her entire household without any help, and then she also works in a high-profile position at a financial firm. Now, that’s what I call a truly accomplished lady.

I smiled and took a deep breath. Understanding fully well that she was trying to compare me to that unknown lady and show me how I fared poorly for sharing the workload with my husband and for not bothering to dress up impeccably every time I stepped out, I just replied calmly, “I’d rather be happy than earn an ‘accomplished’ tag from society.”

Years later, I was reminded of this conversation recently when a friend shared a video on a WhatsApp group. The video showed this woman juggling her business, her household, her little baby, while the husband gets ready for leaving for some conference in Bangalore. The lady in question receives a call from her sister-in-law wishing them a happy anniversary and showing surprise that her brother had forgotten. The lady answers that it’s but natural, because he has an important meeting and they can celebrate it any other time. All this while she answers the door to hand over the clothes she has stitched (she has a boutique I’m presuming) to a delivery person who will take it to her customers. Then she even knots the husband’s tie and puts it on his neck and packs his lunch box. She then asks him to take deep breaths and not be nervous.

In the next shot, she is shown to come back to her flat, her hands full of shopping packets, a baby in her arms, struggling to open the door when her sister-in-law (with whom she’d spoken over the phone), her mother-in law and some random ladies comes one by one and praise her with poems on being this perfect woman managing everything so well and in the end, they put a ‘Superwoman’ sashay around her. Her husband calls her and we realize he’d arranged for this surprise.

I made a few observations here

First and foremost, the husband didn’t seem to care whatever went on in the household (the baby was crying in the background) except for the fact that she must make everything ready (even his tie) for him to leave.

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The ladies showered her with praises for being this lovely person, managing everything by herself, not giving up, blah blah blah and then by awarding her with the Superwoman tag.

The wife seemed to be overjoyed by the surprise.

I had a few questions in mind

What if, instead of arranging the surprise the husband took the trouble of sharing the workload at home?

What if she was not a deft multitasker?

What if she was a messy housekeeper, annoyed with the workload, frustrated at having to manage so many things singlehandedly without any help? Did she not deserve to be appreciated in that case?

Most importantly, what if she expected her husband’s help in managing the household and the child? Would that make her any less of a woman?

Expectations from women

I feel that these kind of messages are subtly trying to tell us what we should aspire to be like. Just like my mother in law mentioned, this is what being ‘truly accomplished’ looks for a woman.

She is a flawless Goddess, with ten hands like Ma Durga.

She manages the household like a pro not excepting any help from her partner.

She believes in smiling always because how can you be a woman and not smile? She never gets angry or doesn’t have any expectations from anyone else other than herself.

Why are we still supporting and spreading such messages?

What if some of us do not want to be Superwomen but still expect some appreciation for being a loving partner, an understanding friend, an intelligent professional, a creative soul, a smart and witty personality, just like our male counterparts?

What if some of us expect equal partnerships in marriage? Does that make us any less of a woman?

The problem with this multitasking Goddess like role model is the subtle messaging of what is expected of us as women.

Just like that fairness cream tells you, you’re not a good professional or eligible for a good marriage until you’re fair, or that anti-pimple facewash reminds you how you should hide your face in shame until you get rid of those pimples, similarly such celebrating Superwoman type videos try to make us feel we are not good enough to be appreciated because we are human just like our husbands.

A request to all ladies out there: think!

Ladies, my earnest request to you would be to think before passing on such videos.

Do we really want to be treated as Goddesses and give up on our lives to perennially serve others, or do we want to be messy human beings living a life full of love, fulfillment and real friendships with our partners?

Think, whether you’d prefer being appreciated on one special day with gifts and accolades or rather receiving help from an understanding partner in the kitchen or with the baby every day?

Think, what is it you truly want for yourself and for your daughters in the future?

Let us strive to be women in all our messy glory than be Goddesses and Superwomen who must always prove their superpowers and sacrifice their own lives and preferences solely for the sake of serving others. After all, happiness is an inside job, not something we receive by constantly proving ourselves worthy of all external expectations.

Image source: pixabay

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About the Author

Kasturi Patra

Kasturi’s debut novel, forthcoming in early 2021, had won the novel pitch competition by Half Baked Beans Publishers. She won the Runner Up Position in the Orange Flower Awards 2021 for Short Fiction. Her read more...

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