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Recently a relative called me. She asked, “where is your daughter in law?” I said, “she is visiting her dad.” Immediately the question cropped up, “then who is cooking and taking care of you?”
A simple incident shocked me and made me think over how we all are affected by the patriarchal society.
I was shopping for my son’s wedding when my driver casually asked me, “How is this girl? Is she good at house-keeping and cooking?”
It sounded funny because my son was getting married. I was not hiring someone to do the above tasks. I responded keeping my calm, “I don’t know, I haven’t asked her about that yet”
He looked very disappointed, “That is very important. You should have asked that first” he said. I asked him, “Do you know cooking?”
He laughed out loud and proudly (yes very proudly) bragged that he doesn’t even know how to make tea or prepare Maggie. He went on to say that he will either eat at home or in a hotel. He has never ignited a stove. What stared at me was the pride he had in what he was saying.
Now it was difficult for me to be polite and though I respect his profession I tried to prick his ego bubble with a pin, “My daughter in law is an engineer. She works full time. Yet you expect her to cook at home and take care of the home, whereas you are a driver and you haven’t learned cooking?”
He did not seem bothered by what I said, “I am a man. I don’t have to cook. But a girl, no matter what she is, it is her duty to cook and take care of home and children.”
Now I had to surrender. Leave alone a pin, even an axe couldn’t burst that bubble. I just said, “My son is able to manage on his own, so am I and my husband. We do not want our daughter in law to do anything, unless she wishes to do it. That is not just because she is working. Even if she had all the free time at home, she has the freedom to do what she wants because she is a family member and our child, not a helper hired to do chores!” And I ended the matter there, because there was no point trying to make him understand.
When I was still upset with men and their thoughts, another shocking episode happened once again. This time the attack came from a woman who was helping me purchase a few things for a ritual since I had no clue about it. On our way back, she asked me the same questions, “Does your daughter in law cook well?”
I answered, “I don’t know. I never asked her that. But even if she doesn’t know she has time to learn. My son is older than her. He will learn and teach her eventually if she wants to learn.”
She was shocked and looked at my son, “OMG, how can your mom say that? Tell her she is wrong” she exclaimed. My son calmly replied, “I think she is right.”
At this she said, “You cannot make such changes in our society. This will lead to a lot of chaos. It will have a bad influence on everyone and not just you and your family.” Surprisingly, she looked very angry and upset at this simple conversation we had. Since she had accompanied us to help us out with shopping, I decided to let the matter go, because I could see how deeply she had been indoctrinated.
My son was not interested in marriage earlier. I did not force him but kept pushing him a little to start looking at it. I gave him freedom to choose whoever he wants as a partner. As soon as people around got to know that he is looking for a girl, all types of advice and guidance regarding who is an ideal wife for him started pouring in. In fact it was like a functioning manual that comes with the product we buy,
The list would be unending if I keep adding all the insights we received from our well wishers. I am leaving out the beauty part, since that is too ridiculous.
Fortunately my son is not gullible to indoctrinations of patriarchal preachings and knows the value of a woman or to be precise every living being in his own words. The marriage happened.
The advice from the wise ones has not stopped.
I was speechless. My daughter in law had been married for just 8 months, and she was thinking that an independent woman like me is already in her care and depends on her for cooking at my home.
I calmly answered her, “Cooking is happening like it used to happen earlier and I am taking care of myself like I used to do earlier. She is my son’s wife and my own child as well now. Not a caretaker or a cook.” I had to make it very clear that I am not going to change, and that I did not want any advice regarding this.
Neighbours and relatives are now asking when I will have a grandchild. Now they think of her as a baby making machine. Sigh! I tell them, “It is not up to me to have a grandchild. It is my daughter in law’s and son’s decision when they want to have a child,” but they don’t hear that at all.
At least among my friends I seem to have made a better choice, since none of them have asked the above questions or given the above suggestions.
Image source: mynoemy1 from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro
I am Farida Rizwan, 57, Counselor and Psychotherapist working as Senior Curriculum Developer with Chimple Learning. I am the founder of My Giggle Garden, Preschool, and Daycare. I am an ardent blogger @www.chaptersfrommylife.com read more...
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