Thank you all for appreciating the article series and sharing your thoughts and comments on the same. I am so glad that many women have come out to speak about their experiences and shared their views.
Recently I was conducting a parenting workshop on managing emotions. These were either new parents or parents who had very young children. We were discussing about what you do when you feel sad or unhappy and need time/space. One mother shared "I don't have time to be sad, there is no one else to take care of my child". I responded, "Why don't you tell your child (around 6 years of age) to give you some space and explain that you are sad. Tell him/her to play in one room or corner and that you will be in another room or corner." She looked at me as if I was speaking in a language she couldn't fathom. She said "How can I do
that? How can I tell my child that I need space? Shouldn't I be there for him always?"
Most of you would have felt or heard one or another version of this. One of the cultural things that women are told growing up is that everything is their responsibility. A smooth functioning of the house is her responsibility, child rearing is her responsibility, keeping everyone happy is her responsibility. And with so much responsibility comes that much guilt....And so there is guilt if she forgets to buy something, there is guilt if she has to leave the child alone, there is guilt if someone is unhappy with what she has cooked and how she has cooked it. A colleague of mine had to work extra hours for a project. When I went to pick her up from home I saw her frantically grabbing her bag and rushing around. She looked at her husband with a very apologetic smile and said "Sorry, aj apna tiffin pack karlo, muze late ho raha he" (Sorry please pack your tiffin today I am running late). All the way to work she was upset that she had left many of her chores unfinished. Finally when I couldn't take it anymore I asked her "So what's the big deal re, your husband will do it". She looked at me and said "Nai re, doesn't he have to get ready for work?"
There is some unwritten code that a woman's happiness, her needs come last. And because they come last, if she does anything which either fulfills her needs or gives her happiness, she should feel guilty about it. What goes hand in hand with guilt is the need to sacrifice. It started, long ago, with sacrificing life (Sati pratha where a widow would be burnt with her husbands body). Now while this ritual is made illegal and almost ended, the concept of sacrifice is still very strong. The more a woman sacrifices, the higher she is praised. She will sacrifice her dreams, her goals, her happiness for the larger good of the family. Surprisingly, for a society which holds a the concept of sacrifice at a high regard, it doesn't really apply to men. They may, for the sake of their children, sacrifice their hobbies or their needs. But mostly, this sacrifice word is attached with women. And if she doesn't sacrifice, then she is made to feel guilty.
Many women don't think of what they give up as sacrifice. They think of it as their duty. They feel guilty because in their eyes (or sometimes that of the society's) they are doing something wrong by putting themselves first. It's not like women these days don't put themselves first, they just do so with immense amount of guilt.
So my question for today is: Why should you feel guilty or make sacrifices for the larger good of the family? Can 'who comes first' be needs based (which means sometimes its family and sometimes its you), rather than 'family first'? I look forward to hearing from all of you, and let's have a good discussion.
Leaving you with these thoughts and this fact