I recently attended PTA meeting in the boys’ school and three things stood out for me.
1: Out of the 30 odd parents attending the meeting, only two were fathers, rest all were mothers.
2: Except for a couple of mothers, most of the mothers were stay at home moms or homemakers. (more politically correct I guess)
3: All the Homemakers seemed to be a little embarrassed to be stay-at-home moms.
The first thought which of course came to my mind was that out of the whole school only two fathers stepped up to be in PTA, why?? When did the school responsibilities start falling predominantly on women? Each class/section now has a WhatsApp group for the parents to discuss the school work. Ninety-nine percent of the members in the group will be women. The children are the responsibility of both the parents so shouldn’t fathers be equally bothered/worried about the tests or assignments or catching up? Why PTM’s usually have mothers (even if they are working mothers) attending, the fathers conspicuous by their absence.
This lead to the next observation of most of the mothers in the PTA being homemakers. So does it mean that homemakers have more time on their hands and thus involve themselves more in school activities? Being a homemaker myself I seriously doubt the time factor. So why the predominance of such moms?
This leads me to my third and the most important observation.When the mothers were asked to introduce themselves they included their professional qualification and the sector they had worked in before sheepishly adding “now I am stay-at-home mom”. All the mother’s seemed to be embarrassed to be stay-at-home mothers. My question is why the stigma regarding stay at home mom? Why do we need to back up our homemaker tag with the sector that we have worked in?(Even if you haven’t worked for more than ten years, in an office?).There is this image of our saree clad homemaker mothers and we somehow do not want to be associated with that.
I have been experiencing this for about fourteen years now. I have had to give justification and reasons why I am not “working”, and no my boys have never been the reason. UAE’s job sector is based more on sales and marketing plus it is not very forgiving to mothers who might have taken a long break to get back into the workforce. Due to these reasons, many of us professionally qualified mothers are not in the organised workforce, either by choice or due to circumstances. Thus they fight the obvious and the not so obvious stigma of being a homemaker. It can also become very frustrating for a career oriented woman to be a homemaker because of lack of opportunities or circumstances.The minute you say you are a homemaker society will start laying on guilt/pressure on you. The society somehow wants you to be a superwoman who balances home, work, kids, life effortlessly and still manage to look like you have stepped out of a fashion magazine.
The question “You have studied so much and you are not working?” does not help, rather makes you even more irritated. A lady once told me “you look like a working woman”, she meant it as a compliment; I took it as an insult. Is there a way a homemaker is supposed to look like or a manual that says homemakers have to be submissive. The number of times I have been told that I am spending my husband’s money and not mine doesn’t make me want to join the “organized” workforce but does want me to punch the speaker’s face. I sometimes think that rather than beating such people on the head with the stick we should be pitying them. Such people do not value the person for what that person is, but rather how much the person owns or earns. This does not mean that I don’t believe in financial independence. I think it is very important especially for women. Having said that, to negate whatever I do as housework as worthless just because I don’t have a monthly salary account is insulting and demeaning to me.In one of the articles, Chetan Bhagat had written he preferred a working wife since then he could discuss office work with her. To paint all the stay at home mothers as only concerned with home and hearth seems to be unfair to them and their abilities. The stigma hounds and shatters self-confidence. You start doubting yourself and your abilities. Thus when someone asks you for your introduction you add what you are qualified in, as if your qualification and past work experience will impress the other person more than your status of homemaker.
What most of the people seem to forget is that some of us have actually made a conscious choice. Fourteen years back I made a conscious decision to opt out of the workforce and I have no regrets. I can proudly say that I keep a neat house, help my children with their homework and studies (even though I am creatively challenged), try and feed my family healthy home cooked food(even though I don’t like cooking), write blog posts , do needlework , read books , am more aware of the world affairs than average people, volunteer in school whenever I can, however, I don’t get “Paid”. Does that mean my intelligence or my decision-making abilities have been affected? No! Does it mean that as I do not have to handle the pressures? No, I do handle pressure. Does not going to “Office” means I am calmer in my approach to housework and children? Yes!
This is not a working woman versus homemaker debate. It is about our right to choose our own path without being judged or tagged. I know many wonderful women who are handling high-pressure careers and home with grace. I know talented women who are running their own businesses while taking excellent care of their homes. I also know lovely, articulate, decisive homemakers who are enriching lives.
This brings me to the crux of the matter, Acceptance. Acceptance of the choice of a person. A homemaker should be accepted as a person in her own right, for the qualities she possesses and not because she wears the tag of homemaker.