‘That doesn’t make me any less of a feminist’
“I love being a housewife.” This simple sentence may raise the hackles of many a self-proclaimed feminist, but there are also those who say being a housewife— choosing to raise a family from home as the man of the house brings home the bacon — and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive concepts. Housewife is often seen as probably the least empowering thing a woman can be, and one that no feminist can love. The core idea of feminism seems to be women shedding their traditional roles as homemakers and conquering the world beyond their domestic responsibilities. But do all women want that?
While most feminists rage against idea of a woman restricting her time and talent to within the four walls of a happy home, to some their choice to be housewives is more life-affirming than life restricting. Balancing career and home is a constant struggle most women have accepted, but there are still a good bunch of them who choose to put their family before anything else. “It isn’t a sacrifice that I was forced into because I didn’t have a choice. I wanted to see my kids grow up. I didn’t want to miss their first step, the first time they laughed, or their first reaction to drinking cola,” said Ben Sunita Rose, a former teacher, as she fondly recalled her younger son tasting a soft drink for the first time. “It started as a year of sabbatical, but by the end of it I realised I didn’t want to miss any of my children’s firsts. So, I decided I wanted to be a stay-at-home mother,” she said.
“Some people are meant to be leaders, some doctors, some CEOs. As cliché as it may sound, I was born to be a mother,” said Manika Kumai from Sikkim. With two children who have serious health conditions, she didn’t even think about putting her personal aspirations before their well-being. “People may call it a sacrifice, but I had my priorities set from the beginning. Nothing is more important to me than my children, and my husband feels the same way. Everything we do is for them. What and how we do it is different. I am no martyr,” she said.
Empowerment — when it comes to women — is invariably measured in terms of financial independence and success. That is why women who are happy in their traditional roles as homemakers aren’t considered progressive or empowered. “It’s quite a thankless job, you see,” said Neelu Kayastha, a happy wife and the proud mother of two daughters. “My sisters-in-law is always telling me that I should do something for myself, in terms of getting out there, conquering the world. However, that isn’t me. I love what I do. I’m not a housewife because I have no other option. This is what I choose to do and I am happy,” she asserted.
So, what do the children of such women think of their mothers? “My mother is the strongest and most independent woman I’ve known,” said college student Aditya Roy about his mother Anju. He grew up watching her take charge of situations and handle everything from managing finances to keeping the house in order. “Their father just brings home the bacon,” Anju said in jest. “It really annoys my mother when I say that,” she added. With a degree in teaching, Anju had a promising career as a lecturer, but gave that up once her children were born. Does she think they got in the way of her career? She was quick to reply, “Do I look like the kind of person who lets anything get in the way of what I want to do?”
Then there are those women who choose to work but not let go of the “homemaker” tag. “I have a job, not a career. I’ve never been very ambitious when it comes to the latter. I see that drive and desire in my husband: to grow, climb the ladder and add more zeros to the bank balance,” said Geeta Limbu, a human resource executive. “Meanwhile, I’m content with a stable nine-to-five desk job that allows me enough time for my family. That’s why I chose my current job. It’s close to home, has consistent work hours, and I never have to take work home with me. It’s perfect!”