The Breadwinner

By D.N

A couple of months ago,  I read a couple pieces on SetoPati that have renewed my feelings on working women and their status in society.   It is 2015 and women are severely judged on their choice to be mothers. What if tomorrow if I find out that I am infertile, will I never become a complete woman regardless of my achievements and accomplishments in life?  And if I say that I do not want to have a baby at all, does that mean that I, knowingly and willingly, gave up my right to be called a ‘woman’?  Yes, the society we live in has norms and I understand that sometimes we have to conform to these, but at what cost?  Will my success always be defined as ‘a working mom’ and not ‘a successful career woman’?  Is it so wrong to want something different in life than just the norm?

Nisha Rai writes that she was breastfed for six years by her stay-at-home mother and was taken care of by her every step of the way and thus her life could not have turned out better.  She highly values such mothers and is quite sentimental when it comes to the age-old request made by mothers “Mero dudh ko rin tira hai!”  She also wonders if today’s mothers, the modern mothers, who focus on their career, would ever even be able to make such statements to their children because they are too busy focusing on their career and not staying at home and breastfeeding their child.

Neeti Aryal Khanal posted a response to this piece that mirrored my sentiments.  In fact, I believe she mirrored most ‘modern women’s’ sentiments.

Why are the modern mothers being judged for not being able to breastfeed or stay at home with their children?  Do people REALLY believe that they dislike it?  Has anyone stopped to think about the pressures they are under as well? She might want to stay at home and take care of her child but she needs to continue working in order afford the best of everything for her baby.  Also, workplaces only allow so much time for maternity leave and after that if she is not back, then she has forfeited her job.  And if she goes back to work and  worries about her child, she is told that she needs to be able to separate professional and personal time.

And why, oh why, must she be judged if she does not want to forfeit her career?  

I am sure she studied just as diligently, worked just as hard as her better half, so why must she let go of her professional life in order to take care of her children? And her better half must continue being the breadwinner?  Did anyone stop to think that maybe she wanted to be the breadwinner?  Why must she be denied her desires just because she was born with a uterus?

Of course, there are people who say that forfeiting your career may make you sad now, but in the long run it will be okay. After all you were born to become a mother and maternal love will replace all feelings of resentment and sadness.  I do not believe that is true.  Have you actually gone and talked to those mothers?  Of course there are some of us who would love to nurture and are perfectly content in doing so, but there are some of us who are not content with just nurturing little ones.   We also want to nurture our souls.  And are we not allowed to do that?  Let’s say I have a kid and I become a stay at home mom by giving up my career that I spent so long strengthening.  Sure I will stay busy and may not think about my working career, but I guarantee you that it will stay in the back of my mind. And if I sit there regretting that decision, how am I going to be a better mother if I have stopped nurturing my soul? Would anyone want their mothers to have regret in their hearts?  Am I happy that my mother and my aunt regret not being able to study further?

Do I have to become a mother to prove my worth?  Am I not a woman who has dreams and aspirations?  As far back as I can remember, I’ve looked forward to becoming more than just a good daughter and a decent wife.  I must admit that I did not always know what that something was going to be, but I knew it was definitely ‘something’.  I’ve always thought about leaving my mark in a grand fashion and having  more than just my immediate family remember me after I’m gone.  Why is that such a wrong thing to think and say?

Was I born to just breed?  Why was I not born to become the breadwinner, just because I was born with a womb? Maybe I would have wanted kids but the constant pressure and questions makes me think I am just a baby-making machine.  Now tell me, if a woman becomes a mother with all these thoughts, how is that doing justice to either the mother or the baby?

I’ve thought about my mother’s milk and have come to the conclusion that I do not need to remind anyone about my milk (that is if I ever have children and breastfeed). My mother does not need to remind me of her milk.   It’s not because I am ungrateful, but because my mother is her own woman; she does not need me to become her walking stick.  I will become it if she needs me, there is no doubt, but she is a self-sufficient woman who does not need to be dependent on her children to survive.  I will take care of her because I want to and not because she needs me to do. Nisha Rai’s mother is from a different generation, a generation where women were supported either by their fathers or their husbands (of course there are always exceptions and I am not denying it) and thus in continuation they need/needed to be cared for by their children.  We cannot apply the same situation to the mothers now and it would be foolish to do so.  Times have changed and so have mothers.

We need to think about the fact that being a mother is not for everyone.  There are women who are content in becoming the best aunt to their nieces and nephews. They are able to ride out their maternal instincts that way. There are those women whose lifestyles are in great contrast to that of being a mother.  This piece is not to bash on women who want to become mothers and are happy in doing, but it just to point out the simple fact that not all women want the same things. We should not be put to trial just because we want something different in our lives.

 *Originally posted on Drishtanta.

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