This is a new feature on the blog where I will publish stories related to what comes after a wedding – the marriage and the relationship behind it. Everything from what makes a marriage work, to what the Indian wife faces at home is open to discussion. Feel free to send in your honest thoughts on marriage, about your experiences so that we can all freely talk about it and learn from it. I am happy to let you write anonymously so that you can share your personal experiences openly and without a worry.
Does Your Husband Help At Home?
Kanika* is a 26 year old from Delhi who is getting married this December. In the lead up to her wedding, she has been feeling anxious about how she is expecting for herself to transform from a driven career woman to a multi-tasking care taker of the home and office affairs with limited to no help from her husband-to-be. She wonders why she feels it is her sole responsibility to manage her new home while remaining a star performer at work.
I recently read a Reader’s Digest article on How to Get Your Husband to Help at Home that really got me thinking. It spoke about how the rules of a marriage have changed today – how (in plenty of cases) both partners have equally high ambitions for their careers. Yet, how it is so naturally expected for the woman to still continue to be the primary caretaker for the house. I will admit today that I have also been brought up to think like this. And, I never challenged this school of thought. I consider myself to be a feminist, and extremely modern in my thinking. However, when my parents dropped comments on how I should consider taking up a career that was not extremely hectic (investment banking) and instead consider taking up a career that would help me have a better work-life balance (such as human resources, no offence!) – it actually did find a place in my mind. As my wedding date draws closer, I have found myself feeling stressed about how I will handle a house as well as continue working at an office which requires many 12-hour work days. But after reading this article, I felt like a huge load was taken off my shoulders.
The Reader’s Digest article talks about how a married couple grows discontent with the relationship. Both of them are working full-time, but while the husband comes back home to unwind in front of the TV, the wife continues her working day with cooking and taking care of household activities. Now, read what the article said:
“Mahesh thought it wasn’t his job to do things around the house, Rajini’s traditional upbringing didn’t allow her to ask a man to get involved.”
Why is it that we assume the husband works harder than us at the office? Why is it that we continue to believe that it is our responsibility to have a cooked meal ready on the table at the end of the day? My mother told me for the longest time, and still does – “Why don’t you learn some basic cooking? It will really help you after you’re married. Atleast you will not be ordering takeaway everyday.” What are the odds that my fiancé’s mother is giving him the same lecture?
Now, before you get any wrong ideas, let me clarify a few things. My mother gave up her job voluntarily, because she wanted to become a housewife, she wanted to spend more time with her children, be more involved in their upbringing and teaching them whatever she could as a mother. Before her, both my grandmothers never imagined working an office job. All three of them come from a background and an era where women have traditionally been more involved in housework. Which is fine. Or rather, was fine, for their day and age. My parents are still pretty modern compared to a lot of other parents I know. But yes, they come from a time when women began getting empowered, and so their thinking lies somewhere in between. However, as an adult of this day and age, I cannot afford to have the same thought processes. I cannot afford to think that ok, I will try taking up a career which requires lesser time commitment from me, so that I can take care of the house, and eventually, children. No. It should be a choice. Not a forced decision, or one that I feel I have to take because “who will take care of the house then?” Aren’t households around the world taken care of by married couples where both share equal responsibilities of house work?
This brings me to another point. Equality is what we should strive for. Not feminism. So many feel it does not create equality (that’s only because they’ve misunderstood what it truly means). Don’t punch me in the face for this. I saw an episode of Satyamev Jayate years ago on the topic of Domestic Violence (Season 1, Episode 7). A woman spoke about realising how both sets of gender are equal. How, even in a marriage where the husband is the sole bread winner, the woman is the sole home maker. Both are nothing without the other. They’re complementary, and should be treated that way.
This rant has a point. I feel like I’ve been woken up from a deep slumber. I thought I understood society, and that my whole family and I are very modern. But just look at the little ways in which older ways of thinking creep up into the mind of the newer generation. My mother is totally right in her thinking, of how I should learn to cook so that I can make a meal when required. Part of her wants me to learn this as a survival skill. What if I’m alone and I want to eat something? However, a part of her also, unknowingly, believes that it’s my primary responsibility as a soon-to-be-wife. It is the latter that I should not let sink into my consciousness.
And coming back to the Reader’s Digest article – I feel relieved to realise that the house is not only my responsibility. It is two people’s responsibility, or in my case, seven (I will be living in a joint family). And as modern-day adults, we must realise that a woman who works a full-time job probably does have the same ambitions as a man. If both of them work together to create a house, it will make for a better home.
*name changed to protect privacy
If you have a personal story you’d like to share, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “On Marriage” in the subject line and I will get in touch with you.
Does your husband help at home? Do you expect him to? Or do you feel like the home is only your primary responsibility?
I’d love to hear what you have to say about this, and I’m sure Kanika would love to know as well! It’s time to start talking about what we have learnt, and understand with each others’ help what women out there are doing.