On the one hand is my friend, the HR head of her company, an author of four books, a mother to two kids and a member of an NGO. Somehow magically, she manages everything well and is even always impeccably dressed. She is someone whom we would like to call a superwoman. Then there is her husband, an architect by profession, but most of the time, he languishes at home, pretending to work from his home office. His friends drop by most days, and together, they leave for a bar or restaurant by evening, and he returns late. However, my friend has to come back at a certain time, even if there’s pending work because her kids are home and she has to finish their homework. This is a clear case of men being given the leverage of being just ‘men’ while women have to be ‘superwomen’ to be called successful in life. Isn’t it a huge problem?
Today, women can choose their educations, careers and spouses, which would certainly stun their grandmothers. But on the other hand, women are also dazed and confused because of the choices. We hoped feminism would remove a fixed set of expectations, and instead, now we interpret it as a route to personal perfection because ‘women’ – can do anything. So we are living with one of the most common social dilemmas — the need to excel in everything, be it our looks, marriage, motherhood, homemaking or our careers. While men are okay with going about their life, as usual, nobody expects anything from them. We need to ask why?
Let’s accept that the feminist movement has triumphed over the past couple of decades, and women today have more power than ever. We are now shattering glass ceilings in every domain, even those traditionally considered male-centric such as politics, finance, science and research. But this comes with its drawbacks. Even though women excel outside their homes, they still have to maintain and even excel at their household skills.
Women Should Be Superwomen But Why?
Unfortunately, with social empowerment came a great burden for the woman of today. Women have expanded their reach in terms of the roles they have adopted but have not compensated for the traditional ones that have long been associated with their gender. In fact, the freedom of choice has only added to the sky-high expectations placed upon women. So, a woman has to fulfil her duties towards herself, her home and her career with perfection and never lose her balance. For example, a world-renowned scientist should be agile enough to cook a great meal for her family after launching a satellite. Remember the movie Mission Mangal? If a woman is heading a company, then she must maintain her appearance to give a favourable impression of the firm she represents. Isn’t it true that the more successful a woman gets, the more glamorous and efficient is expected to be?
Why does a woman have to simultaneously be the ideal homemaker and working woman? Are men asked to be successful in their careers and be good husbands and fathers? A definite ‘No’. He is excused from the household chores because he’s earning bread for the family. This should not seem like a comment on a woman’s capability that they can either build a sound domestic or professional life at the expense of the other. But is it necessary to expect her to fulfil every role perfectly and degrade her if she falls short?
Many women have faced professional setbacks or deliberately chosen a slower path to balance their careers and family. As a result, they have been considered too inept or mellow for the board office. On the other hand, homemakers are shunned as being idle, no matter how good their food is or how clean their homes are. In our society, who doesn’t know that a double standard exists wherein a woman who chooses to stay at home and doesn’t take up a career is labelled as just a ‘housewife’. In contrast, a career-oriented woman is out-casted by the so-called ‘supermoms’ for neglecting her children and husband. This relentless social demand exerts great anxiety in the life of every woman.
So, why does this double standard exist? In our patriarchal society, there exists a misogynistic approach towards household chores and childcare, with most men considering it the woman’s responsibility to look after both. Men think it beneath themselves to help with the housework, even avoid tasks that were once their responsibility, such as paying bills and driving children to and from school.
The way out of this impasse is that society should give women flexibility. They should be able to maintain a work-life balance while also changing expectations so that when women make choices like deferring a dream job or fast promotion because of their family, they can stay in the game and still be eligible for promotions.
Women, too, need to stop making life so difficult for themselves. First and foremost, we should understand that homemaking and childcare shouldn’t be treated as competition. There is no award for the one who raises better children, decorates her house prettier or brings home a sizeable salary at the end of the month. Lastly, we should accept all women as they are and not rebuke them for the choices they make.
The views expressed are the author’s own.
We request you to support our award-winning journalism by making a financial contribution towards our efforts. Your funds will ensure we can continue to bring you amazing stories of women, and the impact they are making and spotlight half the country's population because they deserve it.