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Can a mother choose to stay home and still be respected for her work? Even without a fat paycheque?
When women work outside the home, their work inside doesn’t magically go away! Women continue to bear the ‘double burden’ of two jobs – resulting in immense stress as well as lost opportunities. Join Women’s Web & Breakthrough India in our special #Streelink series this month, as women share their stories on the double burden. You can learn more here and share your story.
Breakthrough India is a human rights organization working to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable. Learn more about their work!
With my graduation hat on, the Director’s Gold Medal shining around my neck and holding the degree proudly, I was standing in front of a wall that read ‘Indian Institute of Managerial Science’ and behind the lens was my fiancé, clicking candid pics of mine. It was the happiest day for us and happier days were to follow, with us getting married.
Soon, we got married and I started working with a leading bank. My husband always supported me and shielded me against his own family, who were reluctant about my career. Their attitude was, “Girls should not stay out from home so late. Abhi toh theek hai. Par kal ko bacha hoga toh aise kaise chalega? (It is fine till both of you are living alone but once you plan for a kid, it won’t work then.) The baby would also need your care and attention.”
My husband always assured me that the child would be ‘our’ responsibility. That day arrived when I saw those two beautiful lines. I was happy, and happier for the fact that my hubby had readily extended his helping hand. My in-laws also moved in to give me that extra care and support.
Gradually, morning sickness kicked in, getting ready for office started becoming difficult and needless to say, I was getting heavier in terms of both weight and the burden I carried. All this while, she was silently watching me do what I wanted to, or should I say, in the zest of managing my job, I never paid heed to her.
With each passing day, I had new complications coming up – swollen feet, low BP, and weakness were just a few of them. Every other person including my husband convinced me that I was educated enough to carry on with the high paying job and that there are several mothers out there who go through hardships but they manage.
One fine day, this particular soul just burst out at me: “You need to stop working and take care of your health and the baby. Your 7 months of hardship will go down the drain if you don’t give priority to your health.” Finally, flickering between the two sides, I applied for 6 months’ maternity leave during my 8th month of pregnancy.
I was otherwise happy but the voice of this lady always left me perturbed. She kept poking at me about the importance of mom in a baby’s life and how my job would keep me away from my baby most of the time. Basically, she wanted me to quit my high profile job.
Soon after delivery, she started voicing her concerns more sternly. And finally, when I was about to resume work, she scared me by pointing out horrifying stories about day-care centers in newspapers and social media and how such caretakers cannot be relied on.
She made me believe that, “In your absence, I doubt if anybody would take as much pains as you would. Don’t you see your in-laws ageing? Who would mind it if the baby has had his tummy full or not? Who would cautiously take care of his nutrition and not surrender to the junk which kids happily relish? Who would make wholesome dishes during his weaning time and alter it as per his tastes? And who would bear his tantrums and not surrender to the screen all the time just to avoid his crying? Who would…who would…who would…apart from you?” Haunted by this question, I was fanatically searching for a caretaker but she kept pestering me to quit my job.
Losing the battle of finding a worthy caretaker, somehow I was convinced to quit my well paying job. Meanwhile, with free time in hand for the first time in my life, I took up my long lost passion for blogging and started freelancing as a content writer.
The world outside raised its brows in shock, condemned me, and brutally accused my family for not being supportive enough to help a talented woman like me continue with her job. At home, my husband cursed me for leaving such a high paying job since according to him, now with the additional financial burden, we had lesser hands to earn.
For me it was a double burden to have lost my worth in the eyes of the world and back home, I lost my husband, who married me just for the money I was bringing home. I was devastated and had a bitter clash with this lady too for not allowing me to do what people expected of me.
The dawning reality of my husband and the burden of being worthless increased my stress. Surprisingly, because of the dogmas of this society, I still wanted to save my marriage and the day my 8-month old son became a victim of this volcano of stress bubbling inside me, the lady walked up to me and exclaimed: “You don’t do what your heart wants to! You do what people want you to do. You are leading a life trying to be perfect for everybody else but your own self. You want to have a position high up in the eyes of this society without worrying about how I, your soul feel.”
All this while, my inner soul was nudging me but for the first time ever I heard her so clearly. My inner self brought me to the realisation that I was not living for myself but for this society. I never listened to her because the cruel mandates and preconceptions of this world held me back.
The baggage of societal expectations was so heavy that I almost forgot about my passion for words and how I did not trust anybody else for my child’s upbringing. Today, I am still fighting the dilemma of whether to continue with this marriage or not. But I know that the day my mind corroborates with my soul, I will truly liberate myself from the burdens this society has thrown on me. And then, I will rise above all.
Learn more about Breakthrough India’s work here: Campaign #Streelink | Instagram | Twitter
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