I can’t stress enough how exciting 2015 has been for me so far. In a very twisted way I have learned so much about an aspect of myself that a younger me didn’t even imagine. I have been meaning to write this post for a while but it’s been difficult to find some time to sit down, relax, and put pen to paper. But today being International Women’s Day, it seemed to be the perfect occasion to write this.
As I mentioned in my last post, my Mum sustained multiple fractures on her leg a month ago and as a result, I’ve become a full time nurse/homemaker. In that post I took you through my typical day. In this post I will take you through my feelings about and learnings from this experience.
In 24 years I have never felt any emotion for this day that Urban, westernised households celebrate on March 8th. All the banners, newspaper art, messages, etc., wishing people of my gender “Happy Women’s Day” meant nothing to me. I looked at all these with blank eyes. This time however, I was actually excited about it. Since last week when all the IWD art starting showing up, I’ve been excited. I know that the day isn’t going to be any different from a regular day, but I was simply excited!
And after some introspection I realized it’s because I finally felt like a Woman.
You know, I didn’t feel like a woman the first time I got my period. I didn’t feel like a woman the first time I wore a bra. I didn’t feel like a woman the first time I waxed my legs. I didn’t feel like a woman the first time I wore a saree. I didn’t feel like a woman the time I was told to not leave the house after dark.
The first time I felt like a woman was the day my Mum had the accident and the whole family was relying on ME for stability. THAT is what, I’ve realized, is being a ‘Woman’ (For me). And that’s why on IWD 2015 I felt like I am actually being celebrated; that it’s MY day.
My FB timeline was filled with IWD posts today. Some posts were simple wishes, some shared the woman they were celebrating, some talked about women empowerment, some shared pictures of the woman they respect the most. My post was about the IWD special TV show marathon I was doing- Marvel’s Agent Carter 😛 Also because I think it would be considered narcissistic to say that I’m celebrating myself! Yes, I’m celebrating myself because I deserve it. Because I’ve earned it. I have earned the right to call myself a Woman. Even after being born a girl, it took me 24 years to realize how much responsibility a woman takes. I know people (Incl. men) are sharing on social media how much they appreciate and love and are thankful for the women in their life, but you don’t really know the worth of these women unless you live their lives. I watched my Mum everyday for two decades and I knew that she was the epicentre of our home but I never imagined the gravity of her presence until I lived just a quarter of her life.
Usually it’s the Mothers that we both respect and take for granted at the same time. A large percentage of Mothers are ‘Housewives’/’Homemakers’/’Stay-at-home Moms’. Some girls look at them and say I will never be a Housewife, while some think that’s the only way for a woman. This brings me to some encounters back from when I had just started working.
It was back in early 2011 that I heard an immensely powerful advice for women which transcended the focus on ‘women in the workforce’. Kirthiga Reddy was a Guest of Honor at my Uncle’s company’s anniversary and she was talking about Women in Corporate world. The only thing that I remember from her speech till today is, “The most important career decision for a woman is the life partner she chooses.” It’s so powerful because it’s a bitter-sweet truth. I’ve had the good fortune of working with Kirthiga Reddy and attending many sessions chaired by her. She is an inspiring woman who is quite open about her experiences, even her deeply emotional ones. If you come across an opportunity to meet her or hear her speak, please do.
This reminds me about a session I once sat in. Let me give you some context first. Most of us in that session were young girls (I wouldn’t call us Women due to lack of mental maturity at that point) who were fresh out of college. We were all ambitious, passionate, and short-sighted. Many were from highly respected and cut-throat colleges which meant that these girls were used to a way of operating where climbing the corporate ladder meant wearing blinders. One of the girls started talking about how girls from her batch got married immediately after graduation and how that’s a bad choice. She said that there was no point in studying in such a good college when all that you’re going to do is get married. While I am ambitious, I completely disagree with her sentiment for many reasons. Let’s start with this societal conditioning where one is trained to think that ‘education’ is meant solely to get a job. The better you score in your exam, the higher paying job you get, thereby leading to greater respect in the society. And when you flip this, you don’t deserve a job if you haven’t gone through the Indian system of education. To me, this whole logic is utterly flawed. What happened to learning just because of your thirst for knowledge? As if your daily life requires no thought process or skill. And on the other hand, jobs require a degree it seems. I know that this statement is hugely debated with the larger section debating for it, but in my opinion and based on my experience, a degree is just a piece of paper. To do a particular job you need skill, knowledge, and a clever enough brain. The official education system may or may not give you that; you have the same chance of acquiring these even outside this system. Frankly, I have a huge disdain for the Indian Education System* and that’s a topic that deserves a whole other post.
Furthermore, what’s wrong in wanting to focus on family? At this point I’d like to state that I find Women are Women’s worst enemies. It’s not the men who’re restricting women’s freedom to choose; It’s Women. When you say that a person should do X and not Y, you are judging them and taking away their right to choose. When you as a woman look down upon another woman’s choice, you are doing the same thing that you accuse the men of doing. To me that colleague’s statement was exactly this- Her condemning the choice made by another for herself. You have your set of priorities which makes sense to you because of who you are. Just because the next woman has a different set of priorities, it doesn’t make them wrong and you right; it just happens to be right for them. And why do some women look down upon choosing family over career? And vice versa! I’ve head women say that choosing family over career is “taking the easy way out”. Come on girls! I have played both roles and I can tell you that running a household is no easy task. And I haven’t even yet taken up the most important task of raising children.
There’s nothing wrong with either. What’s most important is that we have the freedom to choose, and choose without shame. Every role we women play is crucial to the functioning of a society.
While I’m on the topic of choosing family over career, I have to admit that this one month that I’ve spent looking after/serving my family is probably the most fulfilling experience I’ve had so far. The awards, promotions, hikes, recognition, etc., that I’ve got so far is nothing in comparison to the feeling of fulfilment I’ve gotten from looking after my family. As much as it sucks that my Mum broke her leg, I cannot ignore that this has been an amazing experience for me. It was such an eye opener. I appreciate my parents a hell of a lot more now than I did before. Yes, I said parents and not just Mum because my parents include me in their decision making now and I can see how much my Father does for us. This reinforces the fact that marriage and parenthood is a partnership. There’s no imbalance of the importance of each one. The Man isn’t more important because he earns the money, nor is the woman more important because she runs the house. This brings me to my other pet peeve- Gender inequality. In this frenzy to empower women, the world is resorting to the tactic of downplaying men. It’s like saying that, in order to prove that item A is good, prove that item B is bad. I absolutely hate arguments where people say Oh women are more important because they can give birth and men can’t. Evolution depends on both genders. There is a reason why there are two (bioligically) different genders. Men and Women are co-dependent and let’s not forget that. If we continue shaming men just to empower Women, there will come a time when scales will be imbalanced again and not in the favor of Men. Let’s respect every human being’s role in society. And most importantly, respect both genders’ right to choice.
On a lighter note, I had read that doing household chores is a good exercise in itself but had never experienced it before. But now……OMG! Just making rotis feels like an arm-strengthening exercise! This past month I haven’t done any yoga or any other exercise (Normally I either walk or dance). Just the cooking and other chores is exercise enough. I’m sure that if I keep this up for a few months, I will get at least 4-pack abs!
But yes the year’s been great so far. SO much going on right now that I feel slightly overwhelmed on occasion. There are other crucial things under way that I can’t wait to write about but I’m afraid I might jinx things. Until next time, happy Women’s day and have a fulfilling weekend!
*(This is not to say that other countries’ education system is brilliant; I don’t know about the others to comment. My opinion of the Indian Education System is solely based on my experience and observation of it, and independent of other countries’ system.)