Why does one undermine the contribution of a homemaker? And why is it assumed that only a woman can be a homemaker? When new acquaintances tend to get more familiar, one of the common questions that people ask me, both men and women, is where does your wife work? When I tell them that she is a homemaker, they remark – ‘Oh, she does not work!’
I have a serious problem with that statement and even though politely, but I cannot help but respond – ‘Excuse me, she works, 365 days a year and doing mostly a thankless job like millions of homemakers around the world.’ And one remarks that they do not work!!
Working woman or working lady is a term reserved for only those women who leave their homes and work for a remuneration. Why home maker is not regarded as a working woman? I have always wondered why ever this distinction was made! Why is working at home less important then working in office?
In typical home setups where the lady is a homemaker, men and other folks in the house generally assume it is her responsibility. The closest that one comes to lending a hand in home chores is labelled a ‘help’ and not sharing, reflecting the mindsets that we generally grow-up with. After all this the remark ‘Oh, she doesn’t work!’ when one gets to know that the lady is a home maker is not only wrong but insensitive and cruel.
Even going by the Maslow‘s need theory, after all why do we all work – financial security, material comforts, self—esteem and self-worth. While earning money for financial security and material comforts is considered as a lower-level need by Maslow, self-esteem and self-worth have been considered as high order needs. As a homemaker, a woman has no chance of being monetarily remunerated, only the higher-order needs like love, self-esteem and self-worth explain a homemaker’s pursuit of selfless philanthropy.
My better-half Vandana is well-educated, an accomplished rhythm artist with an amazing musical sense, one of the wisest and bravest persons whom I have ever met. She completes me in every way and makes our house a home in the truest sense. She is better than me, someone who has helped me evolve as a better human being with every passing year of our married life. I consider myself lucky to have her as my life partner. I respect her decision to be a homemaker and in no way her decision diminishes her abilities or her worth.
Take Chhanda for instance, as a child she missed the presence and company of her parents. Both her parents were working, and her mom used to return late from work on most days, leaving very little time that she could spend with her. Later, after her marriage, she found her mother-in-law to be her inspiration – a person who was well-educated, very capable yet very proud homemaker by choice. Chhanda says that like others chose to be doctors, engineers, she chose to be a homemaker. ‘I want to love everyone close to me, take care of them and be loved in return’. A lovely career goal.
The biggest takeaway for Chhanda dedicating her life as a homemaker is the time that she could spend with her daughter when she was growing up. Chhanda says – ‘There is nothing more satisfying for me than the fact that I could give her time as a mother, reach-up to her, understand her and become her best friend. Generally, daughters are closer to their fathers, but in our case, I think she became closer to me because of the time I could spare for her.’ Today Chhanda’s daughter is pursuing a successful career and happily married to a ‘suitable boy’. The satisfaction that I see on Chhanda’s face cannot be described in words.
You must do something more, something more worthy – this is a common phrase that women who chose to be homemakers have to often listen from their husbands or other people, and even from other women. This is the biggest bias I have come across. Why is it assumed that homemaking is not a worthy job to do, why women who by choice or circumstance become homemakers are relegated to a lower pedestal, created by society?
Chhanda too had to listen to such thorny remarks but she has no regrets. ‘Singing is my hobby. I have been prompted by my family to try singing professionally. But frankly I am happy to be like this, singing never meant money and fame for me, but more a way to relax myself and connect with myself.’ Her motto in life of love and be loved has completed in her every sense and she lives a fulfilled life.
The kind of bias we see against homemakers, surprisingly and rather refreshingly we do not see such biases in homemakers about working women. Chhanda says – if there is a desire and/or need then women should go out and work.’
Chhanda’s eye are lit-up every time she talks about her daughter Udita. Talking about her, she tells us how Udita chose to work and has continued to do so even after her marriage. He husband is a modern man who shares the house chores with her, and both treat each other as equal partners.
Mukta who lives in the pink city of Jaipur is another wonderful example of the worth that women have created while being a homemaker. Mother to two lovely daughters, Mukta’s circumstances didn’t allow her to pursue a career outside. She happily settled down as a homemaker and created an exemplary ecosystem for her young daughters. At a time when most kids are handed over gadgets (modern toys) by their parents to engage them, she chose to give her time instead. With a great life partner, her husband Sudhanshu by her side, she made sure that her daughters are exposed to storybooks, art and craft from their toddler years. Understanding the essence of the holistic development of the child, she invested her time and effort for her kids and making them learn the creativity from a very early age.
These days Mukta shares her experiences with other parents and writes articles on modern parenting. On demand from the community, she has also started conducting counseling sessions on parenting.
But it is not the accomplishments, but the kind of worth that Mukta has created in her role as a homemaker is what makes it special. I would like to applaud for the institution and judges who awarded Mukta the ‘Nari Shakti’ award [given every year to women for their extraordinary accomplishments in Jaipur] few years back, for there are rarely ones who recognize the silent yet remarkable contributions of a homemaker.
REVERSE GENDER BIAS
Right through this article, I and am sure you as well, assumed that only a woman can be a homemaker. Why can’t a man be a homemaker? In fact, social bias is so strong that men are not given this option, not even by the wildest figment of the imagination. Afterall men are supposed to go out, work, earn and make a living for themselves and their families. They have to wear the tag of ‘the provider’. And if still, a man dares to be a homemaker, while his wife goes out and works, then those men are mocked at, people laugh behind them and often they are targets of cruel jokes. I have personally known a couple of such instances.
One thing is clear that when it comes to the role of homemaker, gender is insignificant; either genders faces discrimination and there is an effort to undermine, underscore and undervalue their contributions and their stature.
But the truth is that homes are places worth living because a homemaker somewhere quietly, selflessly is making it beautiful and ensuring that other members of the family can go out and do something that they think is ‘worthy’, drawing satisfaction from seeing the happy faces of their loved one.
Hopefully we don’t fail to recognize homemaker’s role and their immense contributions and stop remarking that they do not work and stop advising them that they must do something worthy in life. They make life worth living.