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Being a 'sacrificial lamb' will not increase your self-worth. Claim your rightful place in your family as an equal member, and don't let them take you for granted.
Being a ‘sacrificial lamb’ will not increase your self-worth. Claim your rightful place in your family as an equal member, and don’t let them take you for granted.
There is this quote from a well known WhatsApp forward – There were 4 pieces of cake left and there are 5 members in the family. ”I don’t like cake,” mom said.
I am sure everyone must have read this at some point of time or the other. What is most ‘appreciated’ about this quote is the self-sacrificial nature of the mother. She wants her kids, her husband or anyone else in the family to eat the cake and she gladly gives up on her share. Actually she doesn’t even ask for it to be shared in the first place.
Every year the family celebrates Ganesh Chaturthi at their home for 5 days. Lots of guests come over for darshan throughout the day. Those that come during the afternoon have lunch before they go. My friend’s mom gets up at 5 in the morning on those days and sleeps at around midnight, due to the unending visitors and the food they’re offered.
Now everyone would say “it’s just for 5 days, and she does it out of love and enjoys it.” But what baffled me when I visited my friend’s house was that her mom was the last person to eat every time, despite being the one who shouldered most of the work. As much as we deny it, we still have deep patriarchal practices that exist.
I noticed as people started visiting her home during the festival, the men all gathered together in the living room, sitting and talking. Guess where most of the women headed? If you are a woman you’ll probably know the answer to this question. To the kitchen of course!
Most kitchens do not have an air conditioner for obvious reasons and the fan is never used. Either you’re cooking, or you are worried that the food will get cold and then it’s an additional task to heat it again. Blame it on the ads that are shown on television. Entire family sitting on the table and having hot chapattis, while the mother is busy making them and serving them one chapatti at a time.
Let’s get back to the women in the kitchen. Most of them start helping the host in cooking food. Someone is cutting salad, someone is frying puris, someone is washing utensils and someone starts serving the men hot starters on a plate while doing rounds so that they are never out of them. Mind you there is one woman who will even stand in a quiet corner and watch the men eating so that she can inform the women in the kitchen that a particular dish is over and more needs to be served. All this while the women have not eaten a morsel and are cramped in the kitchen.
After a while everyone decides to go ahead and eat lunch. It is decided by the women that the men and children should eat first so that they can be served food and the women would eat together so that they can chit chat. Sitting together and eating where everyone self serves is not even considered as an option.
The men enjoy their food served by the hostess. Food is served in the plate as soon as something is over, without a wait.
Sometimes the food is not enough. Let’s agree it’s impossible to make exact proportions and it’s difficult to anticipate how many guests to expect. Now when a man or a child asks for a second or third serving, the hostess gives it all not worrying that there will be none left for when women eat.
When it is the women’s turn to eat, who serves them? The men? Or the children? No one but themselves! Let that sink in… Think about the hostess – the woman who has been toiling in the kitchen since 5 in the morning. By the time she sits to have her meal, the food is cold, and there are only leftovers for certain dishes. Sometimes they don’t even get the leftovers as the men have overeaten when they like something, and it’s the women who have given them the second and third serving instead of just telling them that there is not enough left for the women to have.
And what about after the meal? The women enter the kitchen again to clean up and wash utensils, while the men continue their chat in the living room.
There is a picture that is circulating the internet of a mother cooking in the kitchen while on oxygen support with a caption – Unconditional Love = Mother (She is never off duty). The origin of the picture is not known however the picture has triggered a serious reaction from people.
I am glad most comments mention that the mother needs to rest and this is a toxic glorification of motherhood. In the name of unconditional love and sacrifice, women have been tired and overworked for generations. There are lot of people verbally bashing the family members saying why have they made their mother/wife cook in this condition or why can’t they cook themselves.
Image with comment from the Women’s Web Facebook page
Let’s look at a different perspective though. Many women especially the older generations feel their worth is measured by cooking, cleaning, keeping the house in shape and sacrificing her needs for her family. She feels if one fine day she doesn’t perform her so called duties the house will be upside down. She also feels guilty to let her family down. How many women we know continue to cook when they are unwell, when they have their monthly periods and are in excruciating pain? It’s considered ‘normal’ and acceptable to simply pop in a pill and go on with your chores. The very nature of self-sacrifice has been deeply rooted in women.
Dear women, being a sacrificial lamb for your family will not increase your self-worth. Yes you love your children, your husband, and you want to give them your all but what are you teaching them? We always say children learn more from examples than from words. Is this the example you want to set for the next generation. You are actually harming them in the long run.
~ The little girl who is watching you will grow up to be a woman who thinks it’s her responsibility to put herself last. Her husband and kids come before her. She has to keep working come rain or shine.
~ The little boy will grow up to be a man who expects unreasonable sacrifice from his wife. You have set such standards that his wife will never be able to match up. He’s grown up looking at you toil even in sickness, sacrificing your needs, and if his wife doesn’t do the same, she suddenly won’t be the ideal woman.
~ Lastly your husband will take you for granted. The first few times you are unwell he’ll ask you to rest. Eventually he will realise that you don’t listen. Maybe you are not even that unwell, he’ll think, and that you are actually able to manage all your chores so well or that you have a higher tolerance. Many men we know are lying in bed with a mild fever of 99°. Is it because they are delicate darlings or is it because they think it’s sensible to rest? Why can’t women do the same? Do not forget you are a human not a super human (Please don’t try to be one).
As the saying goes – “The problem with putting others first is that you taught them you come second.”
Let’s work towards smashing the patriarchy and getting rid of age old practices. Women have struggled and come a long way trying to get equal rights and equal representation in society. We are not second class citizens and we shouldn’t be acting like one. We as women (even men) have a huge responsibility to teach love, respect, kindness, humility and equality to the next generation. Fight for your rights and for what is right. You are worth more than the work that you do.
“We must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter.” – Barack Obama
The next time you are unwell, take a break. Everyone deserves one.
The next time you feel you can’t handle it all and feel overwhelmed, speak up.
The next time when men eat first, take your plate and sit with them.
The next time you feel tired, take that nap, and let your family cook.
The next time you are asked to work unreasonably, say “NO”
The next time when there are 4 pieces of cake and 5 family members, ask them to redivide so you get your share.
Say it loud and clear- “Yes, I am a mom and I want a share in the last piece of cake!”
And let us not kid ourselves; who doesn’t like cake?!
Image source: a still from the short film Juice
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Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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