We went for dinner to young couples home. Both are smart, efficient go-getters. They have a two-year-old daughter. It’s an ideal family. Luckily, they both get support from two sets of parents. All is well! During dinner, the discussion came up about managing work-life balance. Neeta, the lady looked at her husband Deepak and said adoringly, “Oh, he is such a great help! Without his help, I don’t know how I would have managed to juggle between career, the daughter and home.” Deepak gave her a thumbs up!
Discussion put my grey cell into the act. You must be wondering what is Pramod thinking? All our life Jaya and I have lived similar lives. Taking this forward, we have also been supporting Priya, our daughter, in her initial phase of the career, to look after our granddaughter Rhea. Something was not right! What was bothering me? All seemed well with Neeta and Deepak. Next day in the morning when I woke up, I knew what was bothering me. It was the word “helpful”. The connotation of the word helpful was bugging me.
Here was a couple doing great, each trying to ensure that the atmosphere at home remained least stressful. The term “Helpful” indicated or meant that Neeta was the primary source of running the show and Deepak was “the help”. Is that the right description of this family? To me no. Humans have been running families in a patriarchal society from time immemorial. Men would go for hunting and women would manage home and bear and rear children. By Darwin’s principle of survival of the fittest, the male started becoming better in some areas and the female in other areas. There is one area where the woman has no competition, that is the childbirth! Even the fittest and the most evolved of Darwin’s male will never be able to give birth to a child. Giving birth to a child is no doubt at the top of the pile of things humans do, in the list of tough things in life!
The patriarchal society led to a tricky situation. Ladies have been there in the general workforce for a long time. But in last hundred years, they are taking up positions which were supposedly male bastions. Armed forces, surgeons, pilots, CEO’s, Head of Universities the list is unending. Such positions brought females out of their homes for a much longer duration, and they started getting less and less time to look after homes. Male from the patriarchal society got confused, stressed and did not know what hit him. Like happens typically in some situations, males started taking up roles they were never used to; some would take up the part only when they were told, others would most of the times ignore the need. Non-participation by males in the home activity led to a situation where even some strong women just gave up, others somehow managed it but had great stress all the time due to lack of male support. A tiny percentage of males adopted well, and their situation was like that of Neeta and Deepak. They adjusted well and “helped”! But to me, Deepak “helped” Neeta and Neeta “helped” Deepak in running the home. Somehow, I am not comfortable with Deepak “helped” Neeta sentence. They both helped each other.
I know of boys or men who are good at cooking, washing, changing diapers and what have you. I know of ladies who are terrific in investments, banking, managing cars. Both men and women have picked up activities or chores which were supposedly specific gender dominated. I know of a family where a teenage daughter is equally comfortable with both her parents to discuss her monthly women related issues. It is about the convenience, availability of time that will decide the work. If it is easy for the lady to give the car for servicing she should and will do it. As against this, the man may have to take a long detour to a service station on his way to the office. The child is unwell; whoever has a more relaxed schedule on that day should take up the responsibility. The child has a fever; both parents can and should share night vigil. Our daughter used to wake up early every day when she was a baby. Since I am an early riser, I would spend time with her in those days. It was no big deal. Neither the male is helping, nor the female is assisting. Both are taking equal and joint responsibility for the smooth running of the home ecosystem.
It is well proven that females can take up tough jobs. What can be the way forward to change the societal thinking from a patriarchal society to a society which will give equal importance to both the genders?
The discussion reminds me of the famous idiom, “Child is the Father of the Man.” It is a line from the famous poem by William Wordsworth, “My heart leaps up when I behold the rainbow in the sky!” What does the idiom mean? We pick up all the traits from our personality as children. As the child becomes a man, many characteristics continue to be as they were in childhood. Hence the poet has used the metaphor “Child is the Father of the Man.”
I thought it is important to share the meaning of the word progenitor: A person or thing from which a person, animal, or plant is descended or originates; an ancestor or parent.
Parents need to take special care to imbibe a thought process which emphasises the equality of genders. At the same time, the child should be explained the biological difference between genders. These differences are natural, and there is nothing to be ashamed or proud of the difference. The male child likes to play war games, dinky cars, and female child plays with dolls and houses. Nature has created them to think and behave in that manner. But if a girl wants to play war games and a boy wants to play with dolls, it is ok. But chores in the house should be equally shared. I remember an incident that had happened ages back. We had gone for lunch at a friend’s house. After lunch, my son, who was seven years old then, picked up the used plate and asked the lady where he should keep it? The lady said, “My child, you are lucky to be born a boy; these things for girls and not for boys!” If the child is brought up in this manner, then the boys will always be “helping”!
My friends, many times, the odd behaviour that we see in society is dependent on how you bring up the child! To me I think Neeta and Deepak are a perfect couple, Neeta only needs to brush up her English. Then she would say, “Oh, he is such a great friend and shares all the chores with me! Without him, I don’t know how I would have managed to juggle between career, the daughter, and home.” Deepak would then give her a double thumbs up!