In Focus 13th December, 2017

Why Don’t Women Take Care Of Themselves? It’s Not Because They Don’t Want To!.

Often, women aren’t aware of their own self. It was only when I got married that I realized this.

I have read a number of articles which motivate women to look after themselves, suggesting tips and a list of do’s and don’ts, but I never understood why women could not do it on their own.

When I was getting married, I knew that I wanted to be an independent woman. I was ambitious (I still am) and was still exploring the right choice of career for myself.

My first day after the wedding was as expected; with ladies coming in, discussing my beauty, whether I could dance and talk and smile and sing and whatever else that possibly makes a woman a ‘good bahu’. I went back to work after a week of being married. I was extremely uncomfortable as I was loaded with sindoor, bindi, payal and nath while going to work, but I was told to get used to it because it’s all a part of ‘Patni Dharma’.

The initial days were quite unremarkable except for my husband who didn’t want to ‘look married’ and avoided posting pictures with me on social media. It was just another week before I was asked to take charge of sweeping and cleaning the house, because now, I was the bahu and bahus are supposed to do it all by themselves!

I was equally agreeable, having always seen around me that this is how things work. However, I was not allowed to be part of any decision-making in the house either, as I was a bahu and an outsider.

A few days passed after which I heard that my sister-in-law had a problem with me. The problem was quite hilarious and stupid – apparently, she felt annoyed finding me in the kitchen whenever she came home from work. Why? Not because she wanted me to take rest but because as a good bahu, I should have completed all the household chores before she entered the house, so that, as soon as she got back, she could hand over another bunch of chores to me! I could not understand these tantrums but I obeyed them as a bahu was expected to do.

This was when I realized how women become foes to each other and how we are failing as a sorority. She refused to consider my schedule and work, but instead, wanted me to be the best at household chores.

As for the daily cooking plan, I asked her what she would like to have daily, so that I could buy and cook vegetables accordingly; otherwise, I found it difficult to manage on time. She allegedly said, “Ok. Now, you want to take over our kitchen too; I won’t let that happen”. It was devastating and insulting for me. However, my husband’s response was that it’s okay because she is elder to me. And I kept thinking, what about me?

Now I know why women are so unaware of the self; it’s not because they don’t want to take care of themselves but because no one lets them do it. I had a job, I had to cook for four members, I was supposed to clean the house daily, I was expected to be in good shape so that my husband keeps loving me; I had to have good arrangements at night to keep my husband entertained and yes, it was mandatory to keep everyone’s expectations fulfilled to be judged as a good bahu.

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. 

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