By: Zara Maqbool
A dear friend of mine, a stay at home mom and homemaker asked me today. “Why do I feel guilty if I do anything for myself and where did this guilt come from?” I told her that I think our mothers have handed it over to us and they inherited it from their mothers. And if she continues putting everyone’s needs before hers, she will successfully pass this guilt to her daughters.
Interestingly in the morning only I saw an advertisement where a father apologizes to his daughter for never helping his wife at home and teaching the daughter that she is expected to have a career and look after the home and children too.
So what is this guilt about? I believe that women especially from the sub continent believe that when it comes to being a homemaker, it is their job completely. Looking after the house, cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kids with or without domestic help is their responsibility. If they choose to pursue a career, for most it is considered a luxury they want to avail and has no bearing on their responsibilities as a mother and wife. I do agree that our generation of men is still more supportive compared to our father’s generation. Even then somehow it seems like an unwritten rule that children and home is a woman’s domain. If it’s anything else, most women unwillingly go on a guilt trip, which goes on, and on.
After the longest time I started studying again and I am now pursuing a full time career as a teacher and counselor and the amount of guilt I feel is overwhelming. Before going out to work I am just running around the home ensuring everything is in order, helping the kids with their school work and so on. During office hours its several calls to the house help making sure the sky has not fallen in my absence. Back form work no matter how tired I am, the guilt of abandoning the children pumps adrenaline in my system and I am again running around the house compensating for my lack of presence. If by any chance I miss getting on the ‘guilt bandwagon’ a call from my mother does the job. Her typical phone call includes, “ bechare bache” and the-ah so familiar guilt comes rushing back.
Many times I envy my husband and wonder if he even experiences an ounce of this guilt. Once when I asked him he said, ‘do I have a choice of not working whereas you do. Cause he is the bread earner so he feels there is no choice and I agree with that too. But then when did choosing a career become a luxury rather than a need to grow and develop?
My friend Naush feels, “I am not for husbands sharing equal responsibilities for children and household chores even if the wife works. Should they help? Yes!”
So how do we stop feeling this guilty? How do we convince ourselves that having a career and maybe less at home is not at the expense of people we love? Feeling tired and not wanting to feed the children one day and expecting your husband to help you will not turn you in the wicked witch of the West. Why do we feel apologetic all the time?
I have yet to process my guilt for leaving my kids behind for the first time for ten days. My question is how guilty does my better half feel for the numerous business trips he takes? Our mothers persecute us in so many ways. By making sure again and again that they drill their concept of what the role of a woman is. How she is a wife and mother first and an individual later. How she should always feel indebted to her spouse, as he is the primary provider of the family.
This is how most women are made to think and feel with more exceptions now undoubtedly. But isn’t it high time that we are dealt with another set of cards? Some guilt free one’s maybe?
Story first published: 20th May 2017