I see a lot of hard-feelings from housewives hating on working women on my Facebook newsfeed. The latter probably deserve it for their condescending attitudes towards stay-at-home moms. Putting the hatred and condescension aside, I want to talk to those women willing to listen and love those on the other side. I am not a mom nor a housewife so I can only talk from within my limited territory of being what I like to call a ‘working housewife’.
There needs to be a mutual understanding and acceptance of the fact that there are challenges and advantages of both lifestyles. For women with jobs, there is a very significant pressure of showing up at work and performing for people who aren’t family or friends. Usually people who pay by cash are much more demanding than those who pay by love. The other side of the coin is that cash driven performance is usually more appreciated and tangible than love driven ones and hence more rewarding. There are highs and lows at both ends.
But the fact remains that a working woman usually does not get to sign out of work mode even when she signs out of office. And here lies the major difference between the two lifestyles. Most working women come home and do most of the housewifey stuff in less amount of time at half the energy. They probably look at housewives and dream of the possibility of brewing a cup of tea in their own kitchen, reading a book between cooking or just going out for a walk to catch the sun. As opposed to tea bagged beverages, report reading/writing, and spending evenings cleaning and cooking with no ‘me time’ between snoozing their alarms and setting them up again.
Over a weekend discussion with my husband, I realized that there is no win-win situation for women, at least when I look at it under the context of the Bengali community we belong to. There are usually three scenarios in our culture:
1) A girl does not pursue her studies, perhaps because she does not want to or does not get the opportunity to. She becomes a housewife. We either pity her (poor dear got married so early!), judge her (‘bimbo’/‘golddigger’) or tsk-tsk about her missed opportunities (‘or to brain bhalo chilo’).
2) A girl pursues her studies but chooses not to work. She becomes a housewife. We tsk-tsk even harder of what she could have been lest she wasn’t this lazy to seek work or this crazy to give her opportunities up (for a man?! Pah!).
3) A girl pursues her studies and finds work. She does not become a housewife. We demand that she still manages the time to do most of what 1) and 2) does because she needs to keep her man, their home, his dog, their friends, his family, her family, in fact the whole world happy while growing human lives inside her, half-dying while ejecting them, loving them, feeding them and raising them. If she is not agreeable to breaking herself with fatigue to keep up with the world’s demands, we label her with that dirty tag of being a ‘career woman’.
So who gets to win? Sadly, no one.
I really wish we could be easier on women and how they choose to live their lives without working out some way or the other to knock them down wherever we can find room to. I know I myself have been judgemental in the past and I seek to change my own visions. At the end of the day we all just want to be happy and satisfied and it should only be by our own yardsticks, not those of others. But it wouldn’t hurt if we could build a more compassionate and less spiteful world that encourages that kind of a mind set.