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Guilty as mothers

*This has been lying in my drafts for months now. I had written it for something that never took off, so now publishing it here. A topic that has been written to death about, yet remains relevant.*

Guilt comes as a freebie with motherhood : for working women (WM) who choose to be stay-at-home mothers (SAHM) once the child is born so also for those who choose to join back the work force within a few months of delivery. The guilt is obviously about the choice they have made-either voluntarily or due to circumstances. The guilt that pangs the heart while leaving a wailing baby with either an aayah or at the day-care or even with grandparents to go to work is something most women in this situation are familiar with. While WMs have to doubly make sure that the child is not neglected, SAHMs do not have it easier either. Managing the house and being in charge of an infant or toddler 24*7 can be nerve-wracking. To add to it is the guilt of not being able to contribute to the family kitty. The erstwhile double income family may also have to make some lifestyle changes to ensure smooth running of the household under a single earning member. A SAHM can face additional pressure (many times self-inflicted too) of having to be the perfect parent since she has the advantage(?) of being with the child 24*7.

In olden times, probably this emotion was non-existent or was not so recognized because women or mothers had a designated and defined boundary to fulfill their roles and they did what was expected out of them. Duties of mothering, caring for the infant or child along with the housework fell into the woman's lap while the man tackled the outside world. However as more and more women got educated and began to spread their wings, a life outside the four walls of a house beckoned them. Soon women began to don their new avatar of the new age woman who juggled a career and a home. In a bid to prove a point, they started embracing the "super-woman" tag with a vengeance and set up for themselves high expectations to execute every aspect of their multiple roles to perfection.

The guilt stems from the kind of expectation that a society has from women. The society proves its hypocrisy by awarding the womenfolk with superfluous tags of "super-women", "great at multi-tasking", while continuing to follow the patriarchal system. It has evolved, albeit, only in welcoming the women folk into the working sector; the responsibility of managing a home and children, however, still is seen primarily as a woman's territory. Although there are good private day cares available for a WM these days, finding one close to her workplace might be tough. Also, not all companies are considerate towards a new mother who will need to leave a little early or at least on time. A SAHM who decides to go back to working full-time after a baby break is not treated at par with her peers and is often offered a less-challenging role or lower paying job.

An attitudinal shift is urgently required if the society wishes to have happier and fulfilled women who are also satisfied mothers. More flexi-time jobs in several fields need to be created to accommodate women undergoing a difficult pregnancy or mothers who want to restart their career when the kid is still young. Companies should initiate an environment where marriage and maternity is not seen as a setback to resource for the company. A day-care within the company premises will go a long way in retaining the female employees. However only this won't be sufficient. The attitude towards women in general also needs a paradigm shift. Home and children are as much a man's as a woman's responsibility. A woman should not be expected to shoulder these completely in addition to being a WM or for that matter just because she is a SAHM and 'is home all day', she should not be expected to be a home-goddess and carry out all the responsibilities. She too is entitled to her personal space and time.

Although new-age husbands are trying to shoulder these responsibilities, thereby giving the woman in the house the right kind of atmosphere to fulfill her personal ambitions, the change is only just a speck in the spectrum. In most average Indian households, the wife comes home to cook a meal even when she has been out all day slogging at work. The husband gets to relax and unwind with the T.V.. Even in a joint set-up the working woman is expected to 'do her bit' after work and also 'make up for the week long absence' during weekends. It is not unusual that the WM draws flak for leaving infants and toddlers at a day care to go to work. A SAHM on the other hand has all the more reason to be taken for granted. The "what do you do all day?" question - having undercurrents of condescension- is directed more towards this section downplaying all the work she does. Either way, she is forced to justify her choice and take appropriate steps to conform to rules of being "a perfect wife/mother/woman".

A society that is sensitive towards women and her needs is how I envisage an evolved society. Since women are making successful foray into areas erstwhile considered a man's field, isn't it time that men made some attempts to take over areas that are (still) considered a woman's area?


  1. As usual, well reasoned and well-structured post Uma. As they say, we need more male feminists for only then will society become truly equal.

    1. Agree, Aparna..the mindset needs to change. I know it will be a gradual and slow process but at least the wheel needs to start to spin.

  2. You missed one small guilt Uma - the guilt of the male who thinks he is not contributing enough :)

    But yes, it's a sentiment very close to my life, though I am yet to be a father!

    1. The guilt is too small to be noticed I think..;-)
      Happy to know, Amit and may your tribe grow!

  3. Very well said Uma. This is the truth of the matter. The expectations are so heavy that shoulders slouch under them whether you are an SAHM or WM. Hope to see the changes not as just a speck but a bigger storm.

    1. yes, hope we must, coz it's only hope we can!

  4. Well pointed out Uma, the change is yet to come and let's all hope 2013 brings a start to it :) Happy 2013 in advance!


  5. Men should indeed leave aside their ego and try to take over areas that are considered women's... Ideally their shouldn't be such a bifurcation(man's tasks and woman's tasks) in today's times...

    1. exactly! there should not be a gender tag to any job.

  6. You have hit the nail or nails on the head Uma. Whichever path you choose, you have zillions of questions and doubts aimed at you. To more households awakening in 2013 :).


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