At the beginning of my article I’d like to say that in my opinion ‘Housewife’ isn’t a derogatory word to be used in contrast to a career woman, but society very often comes to look upon a married woman looking after her household( a herculean task by itself) as ‘ just another housewife’. Even if that’s not the case, the homemaker herself begins to feel incomplete if she doesn’t have a life beyond the husband, the kids, the house and the soirÃ©es.
Hence it’s not uncommon for many housewives to begin ventures of their own. Some do it because of unfulfilled career aspirations, to kill time or even ward off boredom when the kids grow up, but in many cases they may be driven by financial troubles at home.
We are all familiar with the success story of the seven Gujarati women who converted their skills of rolling Papads into a multi-crore enterprise that today employs the six sigma methodology in its operations. For this article I interviewed a similarly talented woman. Like most Indian girls of her time, Ms Revathy Subramanian was married off at 20 and in the years to come she and her husband, who works in the merchant navy, went on to have three beautiful girls. Life was fulfilling and yet Ms Subramanian somehow always knew that someday she wanted to do something of her own.
Talking to her made me realize that marriage doesn’t necessarily limit a woman; she opted for a long distance course in business management as leaving the home wasn’t an option then, but she knew that it did not have to be a definite deterrent to her dreams either. In those years she dreamt of having a manufacturing unit of her own, to apply her creativity at making something of her own. So after the birth of her second daughter she started her own manufacturing unit for leather goods; today her designer leather bags are exported all over Europe and even the US.
So, this was a success story but there are many women out there just like her doing their own thing. In fact many of them have businesses that allow them to utilize their skills without even leaving their homes. For example, these women start their own cooking classes, blogs, businesses involving website flipping, classes in yoga/ arts and crafts/ boutiques and many more.
The levels of success may wary but what doesn’t change is the sense of empowerment it provides these housewives. But the journey isn’t necessarily a bed of roses to quote Ms Revathy. She recounts days when she had to come home at 3 am and instances when family emergencies forced her to prioritize between work and personal life. In our patriarchal society, it’s not taken badly if a man chooses work over family but a woman doesn’t have that option.
Gender differences creep in at other stages too. Lending institutions aren’t particularly lining up to provide credit to housewives; their business ideas are often disregarded as passing fancies. What helps at this stage is the seed capital provided by family members. The support of family members is instrumental in making these ventures successful and ensuring that the children aren’t brought up by nannies.
Being in the manufacturing business Ms Revathy had to deal with labour and contractors; the experience was anything but smooth. Men hate taking orders from a woman and they detest rejection. One of the contractors went on a tirade of threats when his contract was terminated due to fraudulent activities. As a mother of three, Ms Revathy was shaken up by the experience, but in retrospection, she believes the lessons learnt then made her the business woman she is today.
Ego hassles can come up even in the most firm and stable of relationships. Watching your wife succeed can be both a heady feeling and a feeling of despair for the husband. In such situations, communication, communication and only constant communication can salvage a relation and allow the couple to bask in the glory together.
Also the once housewife usually does not forget her days as a homemaker, the children always remain a priority. Today, Ms Subramanian’s three daughters are well settled in their careers and personal lives, and she couldn’t be prouder. More importantly all three of them have their mother on speed dial and she is their go to person for making any decision. This speaks volumes for a woman who is constantly travelling for work all over the world.
Such examples display the potential behind the thousands of women who haggle over vegetable prices and fret over the color of the curtains. This isn’t to say that every housewife must consider having a professional career but that the society must not undermine those who do. She isn’t just a home maker; she is a dreamer just like you and me. Let her hope, let her strive; let her step out of the house- you’d be surprised by her prowess. Most importantly let her do whatever it takes to make her happy- isn’t that the secret to a happy home and stability in the household?