Women and the Independence Paradox

rosie-the-riveter

Source: teenskepchick.org

In today’s world, the line of demarcation that existed between the traditional roles that defined men and women have blurred over and become interchanged to an extent where people have to walk around on eggshells for fear of blurting out something that might not go with the times, i.e. the sentiments of the modern and independent woman that we have come to identify with today. Understandable, as even in today’s world, the misogyny continues to thrive, the sexism that has being around for centuries still lingers, in some places more so than others. Every inch of independence that we women have carved out for ourselves in this male dominant world of ours came and comes with a price. We fight for it. We go against the wishes of our fathers for it. We disappoint our mothers for it because they just do not understand why we cannot follow in their footsteps and obey in every path of our lives. We break up with our boyfriends for it, because they try to control and dominate our lives to an extent that it is difficult to identify your own self and what sets it apart from him. We divorce husbands for it, because staying with them would mean losing your soul, one single piece at a time.

The whole argument of equality between sexes brings forth the independent woman – the woman who can do it all and be it all, even when the rest of the world is trying to bring her down. The woman who can climb corporate ladders and also be the super mom and wife on home turf. In societies that predominantly leans towards women being the homemaker, this puts an additional strain on the woman to keep up. The husband who more or less is a bed partner and sperm donor and of course the bread winner in conservative speak so to say, does not see the career woman his wife is, nor does he understand the need for it. He does not want to be saddled with bringing up their children and the housework that goes along with it. All they want to do at the end of the day is to come home, eat home cooked food, see that their children are well fed and going about their lives as they should and perhaps go out with friends or lounge on the couch with some footy on until its time for bed.

Meanwhile the woman, having after spent the same amount of time or perhaps even more at work, comes back to a home that she needs to put into order. Countless are the tasks a woman has to do in order to turn a house into a home. It does not magically happen overnight. There is laundry to do, fold, sort and iron, beds to change, bathrooms to clean, food to cook, homework to look after – and the list goes on. The woman struggles with both roles, all because she was educated and brought up to believe that she could have it all. And why shouldn’t she?

This puts the woman in a position where she forces herself to become self-reliant in so many ways. There is a saying that goes, if you want something done right, get it done yourself. So the woman takes on more than her share of the burden of keeping house. She fixes the broken, takes care of the seemingly mundane tasks that men often are absentminded about, or rather chooses to be sometimes because in the end the wife will get to it. And of course there is the fact that nothing he ever does is good enough for the wife. And the story goes.

This long ramble here brings me to a point. Where we women come to a point at which we have to do everything by ourselves. There is no leaning on another person, there is no asking for help – you are the fix it, can do it, want to do it wonder woman. You become this unstoppable force that at times “emasculates” the man, all because he sees his role as the provider for the family, the one who has to take care of the “manly” stuff around the house eroding away. You don’t see it. Nor do you have time for it. Because come tomorrow, you have to get up and go through the same grind all over again. And there is that report your boss requires for tomorrow morning’s meeting to get done. Who has the time for mundane complains?

When at last you come to a point where you are overwhelmed, and need someone else to take charge, that help is nowhere to be found. You have pushed away your well meaning mother if she is around, because you do not want to burden her in her old age. Bewildered, she has stopped asking. You cannot ask from your siblings, because they have too much going on in their lives. Or you have never been the sort to ask from them. You have stopped asking your friends, because hey, they are also busy with their lives, husbands and kids or workloads of their own to worry over. At times you have felt smug over just how well put together your life is in comparison to theirs, but now you wonder, is it really? Your husband, if you are still married, has no clue as to whether you are feeling overwhelmed. Because it has been years since you have needed him for anything, except perhaps to change a light bulb five years back, or pick up his underwear from the floor. So where does all this lead to?

Becoming someone who is self-reliant is part of the journey a woman makes towards being labeled as an independent. One of the lessons that my father taught us from a very young age was to become educated. His advice was to be smart enough so that we would not be left with broken pieces that we cannot figure out how to put together if our life falls apart. His advice has definitely seen me through a lot of rough patches. I have always gone out of my way to assert my sense and need for being independent. Even though our religion puts it as the duty of the husband to provide for his wife and keep her in comfort of the kind she is used to, I don’t feel right unless I earn my own keep. I want that financial independence, I want my opinions to be heard, I want to be respected, I want the whole damn cake so to speak.

There is a friend of mine, who found herself diagnosed with a potentially terminal disease that found herself on the other side of the equation. She is the self reliant sort, even today. So when she found out, and for the first time needed the emotional support from her spouse, it was nowhere to be found. Because unknowingly, with our need for self reliance and independence, we do tend to push away the people that loves us and wants to be there for us. We tend to stop communicating, because we no longer want to be known as the wife that won’t stop nagging. Or be labeled as someone who is so helpless that she requires constant need, care and attention. And so it goes.

At what point will we realize that we are potentially harming ourselves in never asking for help when we need it? Will we realize it when we are sick and unable to even move a muscle and all that your spouse does is ask you to go to the doctor and sort it out? Or will that make you even more determined to become stronger than you were before? I believe that the communication gap is an issue here, whereby at a certain point in most relationships, the back and forth just stops – you are too tired to argue, or its just not worth the hassle. Your spouse believes you have everything under control, and you don’t mind as long as he doesn’t bother you. So life heads into a loop from which there is no escape, for which there is no pause or undo button. Life once lived, is gone. The moment you just had is now well into the past. But somewhere along the way, I think as women we have to ask ourselves, is there a middle ground we can work with when it comes to being indomitably independent? Or has that moment already come and gone, never to return.

Food for thought perhaps.

Advertisements