By Lata Jha:
I find it strange that most discourses on women empowerment and eulogies of accomplished females are centred around the idea that as ‘complete individuals’ and ‘women of substance’, they’ve managed to balance their personal lives with their profession, by giving as much importance to their families as they gave to their career. That they were always around to attend parent teacher meetings, organize their kids’ birthday parties and tuck them into bed every night while meeting deadlines and achieving difficult targets at work.
It’s a little disconcerting because the ability to balance both aspects of their lives, especially the domestic, seems to be an important expectation we have only from women.
I do not question the inherent concept of women caring and nurturing, or the fact that they make a home. I do however think that the balancing act is something men have an equal, if not more, responsibility to achieve. Correct me if I’m wrong but nobody would point a finger at the guy who isn’t around to sign his kid’s report cards. He would conveniently be the ‘workaholic’. It would totally be the done thing. People would gently and occasionally advise him to not miss out on his kid’s childhood, that he would regret being a money minting machine all his life. But it would never be something the society woke up to and looked down upon. He would shrug his shoulders simply saying that he doesn’t care, or that it’s the wife and kids he’s working so hard for.
But God forbid if there was a woman with kids who dared to dream and lead life on the same lines. She would be nothing less than the vamp, not worthy of being a mother at all. Her own family would ridicule her every single day, or I wouldn’t be surprised if she had no family left at all soon.
We have different rules, standards, yardsticks and expectations from men and women. And I say this from experience. Having fathers who were single-mindedly devoted to their jobs, I’ve seen girls being told by relatives that while they were free to pursue their dreams, they couldn’t ‘afford’ to be like their dads. It just wasn’t done for a girl. They would, at some point, have to put the family before everything else in their lives. That their fathers had managed to sail through life, but as women, they couldn’t.
I do not doubt people’s good intentions. Nor do I want to dole out moral scriptures on parenting. I just feel it’s important for both partners in a marriage, and in society, as a whole, to balance their personal and professional lives. With the kind of environments we’re living in and the pace at which kids grow up and become detached, they need both their parents to have a happy, secure and normal childhood. The man can’t just wear the pants when he wants to and shirk responsibility when it’s convenient.
We need to close the gap that exists between people’s expectations from men and women, the norms that they have set for both, and the double standards that they often practise. As beings who make the home and the world, we deserve that.