It’s funny how our society assumes that a woman is a natural multi tasker. When she wants to be a dedicated housewife, she is also expected to be a corporate guru. And when she looks perfectly prim in that business suit, people want her to carry a saree with the same panache. The misconception that a woman ‘effortlessly’ juggles between work and family is so deeply ingrained in all of us that whenever a woman digresses from the usual pattern, it raises many an eyebrow.
Believe me, this constant to-and-fro is anything but ‘effortless’.
When I first expressed my wish to study medicine, my family’s reaction was, “Oh but it takes years. And how will you give time to your husband then?”. It was bizarre to say the least. There was I, a teenager opening up about her ambition while being assigned duties that she had never thought of. That was my first encounter with a dreadful yet common thought – ‘It’s not going to be easy for me’.
Yet, I had already taken my decision. I loved biology and I wanted to study human body. The science of it had captured me and the anticipation of hardships was too insignificant to change my mind.
I studied hard, swapping between being the top student of my class and an ideal daughter. I finished my specialization in gynaecology. Soon after, I got married, checking another box in my quest of being a ‘perfect woman’.
As I said before, it was anything but ‘effortless’. I was always on my toes trying to be the best. I got a lot of admiration in the process, just enough to keep me invested. But, gradually its effect began to fade. The respect that I had earned trying to be a ‘superwoman’ wasn’t helping. Life was turning out to be an endless barrage of ever-growing expectations and me desperate to fulfil each of them. I realized that I was being made to follow convention and break it at the same time.
All that regard that I got was just an acknowledgement of me being a ‘superwoman’, which I was not, clearly!
It sounds glorious for sure, but the problem with such a tag is that people around you presume that you don’t need help. Your daily struggles are taken for granted and you’re not really cared about. In times when I messed up, I had only my own shoulder to cry on. Because ‘women don’t cry’ is the ‘men don’t cry’ of post-modern India. At least that’s what I believe.
The amusing part of it is, I’ve never faced work-stress. I love my job so much that it has now become a refuge from the chaotic world of responsibilities. I love it when patients share even their darkest secrets with me and call me an emblem of empathy. Selfless appreciation, truly. I feel I look my best in scrubs. The problem is that I don’t like to dress up every 3rd day for a family function. It’s not my forte to please everyone all the time. Smiling through all this is becoming harder day by day and venting my thoughts here, unfiltered, is such a relief. It’s great to have spoken up, finally.
See, it’s not that I’m being treated badly. I have a really loving husband. But I’d really appreciate if he helps me with cooking instead of praising my culinary skills. I’d like him to make kids do their homework properly instead of patting my back for raising our children well.
I’m waiting for the day when my parents would, instead of giving me life tips and sermons, ask me, “Beta, how are you?”
I have realized that instead of effusive, casual ‘Thank You’s from everyone alike, occasional role-reversals would make my life easier.
Today is International Women’s Day. All are celebrating womanhood – a woman’s efficiency, her supposed perfection, her all-nurturing attitude and a never-say-no outlook on life. A woman is invincible, they are saying, proudly.
Let me put it on record here, it’s neither helping me nor a million others like me. We’re done with praise. What we need is an acknowledgement that we’re humans and not clockworks. We make mistakes and we need your participation at every step. We would still love to chase perfection, but not alone.
We won’t mind some real help. We’re not superwomen. It isn’t superwomen’s day.