“Working women get more respect than housewives! Haven’t you seen how your mother was treated! When you earn money, you earn respect and dignity in the household. No one tells you what you do all day! No one taunts you that you just keep spending! No one tells you that you are spending his hard-earned money!”. my mother told my sister and me on a regular basis so that she raises daughters who are financially independent, who can get respect in their marriage that my mother never got!”
In many Indian households, it is very common to hear mothers telling their daughters to be self-independent to escape the fate of their mothers, who have been housewives! They attribute to the disrespect, the insults, the taunts that they struggled with to just one and only one fact – If they would have been working, they would have earned the respect!
But, sadly that’s not the whole truth. And, I realized it when I became a working wife and a daughter-in-law.
No doubt, that financial independence is very important for anyone – be it, men or women! But, what I am debating here is the thought that being a working wife gets you respect!
Before you read any further, here is the much-needed disclaimer: These views are solely my views. I have drafted them based on my life struggle. If it isn’t true for you then I am really happy for you! But, if it hasn’t happened to you that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or it doesn’t happen!
So here’s my story:
Woman Gets Respect If She Is An Earning Member: My Naïve Mother
Since my childhood, my mother had a firm belief that working women receive more respect than homemakers. They are not held responsible for the similar standards of wifely duties and obligations as that of housewives.
This belief pushed her to make sure that she raises financially independent women, who are treated with respect! She believed earning women are treated as equal partners by their husbands and like an asset by their in-laws. She believed that the in-laws will appreciate the financial support that a wife provides to their son and hence, she will be respected!
Raised with these beliefs, many of my cousins firmly believed that post-marital ill-treatment cannot touch us as we were financially independent. So, we studied hard, achieved good grades, and now we are working in MNCs in respectable positions. But, we feel cheated! We feel we were lied to by our own mothers!
We entered into marriage assuming that we will be treated with respect because we did everything that my mother told me to! But, sadly being a working woman wasn’t as empowering as I thought it would be.
As working women, we are not only struggling with the battles that our mothers fought – the battle of dignity, the battle of respect, the battle of equality – but also the battle against workplace sexual harassment, the battle of unfair practices against women, the battle of equal opportunities. Being working women, we have to carry the constant guilt of NOT being a good wife or a mother! We are tired and overburdened most of the time. But, we still hardly get any respect for our hard work at home or at the office!
Fighting these battles has often brought a lot of unhappiness and frustration. With inconsiderate men at homes, we are expected to single-handedly manage household work, raise our kids, take care of in-laws, while working really hard to offer robust financial support for the husband! And, when we complain – we are told this is our Kartavya!
We are being raised in a culture – where women are superwomen! Where we promote the idealogy of women can do everything and let the men have it easy!
It Isn’t About Money; It’s About Mindset
My mother was right that financial independence is important but she wasn’t absolutely right when she assumed that working women have it easy or they are showered with love and respect!
It isn’t about whether women earn money, it is about our mindset. Indian society still struggle to see man and woman as equal! Even if their education and their salary are the same, women are treated lesser than men. And, this mindset is the reason why women don’t get respect even after being an equal partner to men.
Sadly, we Indian parents are hypocrites! We want our daughters to be treated be equal to her husband but we hardly treat our daughters-in-law equal to our sons. The day we manage to change it, things will start changing for women!
Dear Ma, I wish I could have got a chance to tell you that neither your daughter’s salary package nor success brought her respect! As your daughter is battling the same battles as yours, she tells herself – “The women’s fight to seek respect isn’t over yet! Keep fighting!”