In Focus 25th December, 2017

Yay! My In-Laws Permitted Me To Take Up A Job!.

It all starts with the preconceived notion of society that women need ‘permission’ from their in-laws to work after marriage. Once it is granted, it is regarded as a huge favour and they won’t leave even one chance to boast about how broad-minded they are for taking this decision for you.

In a majority of homes, women are familiar with dialogues like, “What’s the need for this job, don’t you think I earn enough for the family?” (and you obviously cannot dare to question the breadwinner) or maybe, “What is the point of being so ambitious, 1-2 years down the line when the baby arrives, all the unnecessary adrenalin rush will vanish!”

Because hey, the entire point of studying, working hard, getting good grades, giving your heart and soul to your profession comes down to the obligation of managing work and office in a very efficient way as a token of repayment for the favour granted to us by our ‘supportive’ in-laws. If we complain about the double burden, we are shut up by “Feminists these days, coming up with such baseless claims to gain attention” or “You want equality also, and then you don’t even want to work for it.”

If I compare a normal, mundane Monday of a man and a woman working at the same position in the same organization, then here is how it will go: (probably not all households but yes, a majority of them witness this routine).

Woman: Typical early morning. If anyone in the family has some early morning meeting or task, then an earlier morning for her as well. Tea, breakfast, lunch for the entire family. Get ready for work. Start thinking already of the list of things to do in the evening like dinner preparation, picking up the kids from school, grocery shopping, helping kids with homework, cleaning, laundry, bill payments and the list goes on.

Reach office, finish off your work. And if she needs to work late night for a deadline project or probably travel to another city, then it doesn’t happen because of all the pending household chores. More often than not, this does turn out to be a setback in her professional growth. She is left with absolutely no time for herself or the things which she enjoys doing. And the unfair part is she is not paid a penny for all this because it comes ‘naturally’ to her and is therefore very easy for her.

Man: Alarm rings. Warm tea and breakfast is served. Lunch box is ready and he is off to work. He doesn’t have to think twice if he needs to work late or travel for work although he has the same professional qualifications as the woman. And obviously, if you are putting in extra efforts to finish the project, if you are completely focused on your job without any other ‘household’ commitments and can take up more work, then why won’t you grow professionally? Once he arrives home, dinner is served to him and he has time to himself for the rest of the evening, and why shouldn’t he? Because in the eyes of society, he is not meant to do household work, it has never been taught to him. There was never any ‘need’ to teach him all that, for he is a man (bye- bye practicality).

He can be on his phone or on a conference call at the dinner table or in the bedroom because his work is considered serious and a woman’s work is considered a ‘hobby’ or ‘pastime’, which will not last long.

Some families may even be able to afford a maid which tremendously reduces the work of the woman but even so, things like drying the wet towels kept on the bed, telling the maid what to cook and what not to, coordinating for the kids’ pickup, or taking a leave if the maid has taken an off are some of the things that are still done by the woman.

Here is a very common example. Whom do you call if the shampoo is over or the water stops while you are in the bathroom? The first reaction is “Mom, please get it fixed.” Because we’ve grown up with this idea that such basic work is the woman’s responsibility, and even after doing all this, she does not get the appreciation she deserves.

The nagging aunties in my society often give me the “Work while you are at your mother’s house, once you are married this luxury is far away” line which is when I realized that coming home from work after a long tiring day, lying on your bed, getting warm food right on the dining table, reading a book, watching a movie or show, or going out partying are really considered as ‘luxury’ for working girls like me before marriage.

This ‘freedom’ is what we are supposed to be grateful for (bye- bye equality!) I wonder where our moms get the strength to manage office and work so brilliantly and give us the best of both worlds. If 10 years down the line, I have even a quarter of the undying perseverance of today’s working women, I would consider myself very lucky.

Like Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, so girls, if you do not want this unfair burden then I believe that we need to stand up against it. You are entitled to make your own decisions about what job you want to do, and which projects you want to take up. I am not denying the fact that healthy discussions with your partner should be done in the interests of the family, but remember, at the end of the day, the choice and decision is yours. If your partner is not ready to support you in that, then make him see things through your perspective and no, you are not selfish or less womanly if you want to give more importance to your career.

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. 

This post was first published on Women’s Web. Check out the post here.

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