Sitting next to a pretty girl at a dinner recently, I asked her what she does, in terms of work. Very apologetically she said, “I do nothing. I’m ‘just’ a housewife.”
With the wave of women empowerment sweeping the urban scenario and Women’s Day being round the corner, (coming from me: I have worked from the age of 17), I must say that being empowered is about making choices. It is about a woman taking charge of what she envisions her life to be. It could be the role of bringing up healthy, balanced children who know how to be happy and bring happiness to those around them. It could be about choosing to be a successful banker, sportswomen, chef or housewife. It could be about being in a great marriage, being single, being in a relationship without the certificate of matrimony. It is about the power and freedom of choice sans judgement by loved ones. It is about taking charge of one’s life and being accountable and unapologetic for those choices even if they are not seen that way by the rest of the world.
Sheila’s apology for being a housewife set me thinking about the immense sacrifices a woman makes when she chooses to put her dreams on the backburner while taking the baton of a home and running it successfully. Her sons are squash champions and very successful human beings because she invested in their wholesome upbringing.
Am I advocating sacrifice and giving up ones dreams? Not at all. I am infact saying that sacrifice is a choice Sheila made, and she is delighted with the outcome. But in this current scenario of women who feel this urge to ‘prove themselves’ to the world, she is feeling apologetic about not being a famous pilot, a celebrated chef, a celebrity, a ‘woman of substance’.
What is a ‘woman of substance’ then? Is she not a woman of integrity, value systems, a woman able to ride the rapids and troughs and come out of it all with balance, grace, kindness and compassion? Why are we creating badges that must egg on an entire race into frenetic ‘performance’ to please the gallery and prove a point to society? It is my view that life has to be lived keeping in mind one’s unique situation intertwined with their own comfort and dreams. Life cannot be lived to please a voracious society that can anyway never be pleased. Empowerment is about making choices suited to one’s own circumstances and needs.
A humorous video doing the WhatsApp rounds recently had five successful corporate and businesswomen speaking in verse about how they miss those days of keeping house and lunch groups as opposed to finance, accounting and doing overtime in office. It was funny but gave a strong message about the FOMO age we live in where appearances and ambition are merging. It appears to me almost as if the peace and equanimity of one’s own choices rests with how we are viewed or wished to be viewed. Not with how we want to see our lives when we are nearing our end. In the end, all that will matter is the peace, happiness and composure we bought ourselves and our loved ones and the kindness and compassion we showed to our dependents, be it our staff or our children.
With Women’s Day a short while away, we need to commemorate women who lived their life by these tenets, women who had the courage to make choices like Sheila did than only those who rose up in the ranks in male dominated companies. That’s a no brainer — celebrating the corporate winners, the ostensibly successful women. But acknowledging the unsung heroes is also part of a Women's Day celebration. To know that there are those who lived bravely, sharing and caring selflessly for those they love. And yes, in a country where women still need to be motivated, encouraged and inspired to work and be 'allowed' to pursue their work dreams, we need to always be aware of the importance of education of the girl child. We absolutely need to encourage women to receive security and comfort in a work place, and on our parts celebrate the success stories. But we definitely should avoid judgement and criticism of how women wish to live their lives, and also celebrate the unsung heroes who go unacknowledged.
The writer is a columnist, designer and brand consultant. Mail her at email@example.com