Instead Of Devoting Our Lives to Others, Why Aren’t Women Taught To Set Boundaries For Ourselves?

Women are often hailed for being great at nurturing the family and dedicating themselves to its needs. But what about our own?

Women are often hailed for being great at nurturing the family and dedicating themselves to its needs. But what about our own?

One fine afternoon, when the kids were still at school and her husband was busy with back to back meetings, Shikha felt a sudden bout of emptiness. This wasn’t the first time she had felt that way.

My 38-year old cousin has always been seen as the quintessential perfect woman within our families. Last week, when she called me up to have the same conversation for the third time in a row, her words stuck in my head. She said “My life is perfect, everyone says so. But where exactly am I?” 

Now that the kids are grown up and don’t really want their loving mommy checking up on them every now and then, what is there for Shikha to look forward to in her life? After all, everyone else at home is constantly after one thing or another in their lives. And here she is, feeling lost, trying to find her long lost passion. On this day, she can barely remember what she wanted her life to be, what would actually make her as fulfilled and happy as she once was.

Shikha was an IT professional who had quit her soaring career when her husband had to move abroad, a year after their marriage in 2005. It was a choice she made out of love for the family and she doesn’t regret it in anyway. Her husband and in-laws have always been supportive, not that they ever had any reason not to!

Is it okay to give up on yourself in the process?

Women are often hailed for being great at nurturing the family and dedicating themselves to its needs. From being a dutiful daughter to working your way up the professional ladder and leaving it all to take care of the family, only to end up seeking acknowledgement and maybe some admiration.

Everyone talks about the efforts of a mother, a wife, a daughter-in-law. What they don’t talk about is the fact that the life of a ‘perfect’ woman is worth much more than that. 

Let’s face it, the only way to earn respect from others is to create a place for yourself. In other words, like everyone else outside, your family also needs to see your unique self in order to value your presence in their lives. Taking care of them is one thing but if your entire life revolves around others, sooner or later they will take you for granted.

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Unfortunately, it is quite rare to have a family that recognizes your love and efforts. With time, you become that one constant in their lives that is always there for them, no matter what she’s feeling on the inside.   

Why aren’t we talked to about setting boundaries as much as gol roti banana?

In today’s fast-paced lives where everything is just a click away, it is extremely important to have that talk about finding your purpose with yourself and other women in the family. You can be a source of inspiration within the family and be respected heartily only when your individuality shines through your actions, beyond the household, that is. 

It is about time that parents start teaching their daughters not to lose themselves in being there for others. No, it’s not about being financially independent or pursuing a hobby. It is deeper than that. It is about being self-aware and drawing the line between family and women themselves. 

Where exactly do the bitter feelings originate from?

A majority of women in India (and around the world) end up growing into bitter, soulless and cynical individuals. Why? Maybe because their entire life has been about others. They were neither taught nor did they choose to learn to have a life beyond family. Think about it, most of the bitterness within households are caused by sulking women who don’t feel valued enough. Isn’t it?

The only way to stop ourselves from turning into bitter people is to be vocal about our likes and dislikes, even when its not what the family wants to hear. Much like you’d do in a professional set up to get heard. And no, we are not just talking about matters of the family here. What we need to be way more concerned about is whether or not we are able to create our own lives, like everyone else at home. After all, everyone needs their fair share of personal space and freedom to live their lives, isn’t it? Why is it only the woman’s job to juggle between everyone’s needs and aspirations but hers? 

The answer is simple. We are conditioned to believe in ‘giving up’, ‘adjusting a little’, ‘family is everything’ ever since our childhoods. That’s where the road to seek acknowledgement and approval often begins. While they often talk to us about becoming financially independent, rarely someone sits us down to explain to us the sheer necessity to value our individuality, stand strong for things that make us happy and lastly, stop seeking approval. Think about it, how often do men seek our approval before pursuing things that matter to them, e.g. a job change, a vacay with the gang, a passion that was long lost and many more? How many men do we really know who are ready to give up their precious freedom without labeling the woman “dominating”, “controlling” and so on? 

Of course there are men who stand rock solid beside their women counterparts and treat them as equal partners in a marriage. Also, how many of them actually talk to their partners beyond the mundane household stuff is something to ponder. But the number of women who continue to lose themselves in the name of family and responsibilities outnumber them all, for sure. Yes, things seem to be changing today but where should the change actually start from? The fact that self-awareness and setting boundaries are real issues of concern, needs to be explained to our children and everyone else, especially the women in our families. 

The very foundation of a strong family bond lies in happy and content individuals. And women must realize this and work their way out to become one, more than anyone else in the family. Because no matter how much you choose to ignore your inner self in the name of everything else, one day it will look you in the eye and question your existence and how much you value yourself and this precious life of yours.

To be treated like an equal by others, you first must accept yourself as an equal. Only then shall they start making adjustments for you, instead of you doing all of that, all your life. 

Top image is a still from the Hindi movie English Vinglish

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About the Author

Moumita Dash

A strong believer in equal rights for women, I wish to get rid of the hypocrisy in our society. From sociopolitical issues to gender specific taboos, everything needs to be put in perspective. I believe read more...

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