Editor’s Note: This month, that is December 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Modern Love and Relationships, where we invite various articles to highlight how love has been fundamental in our lifeworlds and how these experiences and perceptions around love are shaped by our identities in a modern Indian context. If you’d like to share your article, email us at email@example.com.
Posted by Nivetha Chandrasekaran
How can a woman who is as old or younger than you and who has had, on an average, as much experience as you at life, who has been as much pampered by her parents as you, be expected to mother you—the woman, of whom, you are literally a part? Today, I would like to talk about the frivolous and ridiculous expectation that it is romantic for a girlfriend/partner/wife to be a mother to the male and the glorification or romanticisation of this practice.
A mother is a provider. She, along with your father has given you life. You got your flesh, blood and bones from her own blood. She incubated you, protected you from harm and cushioned you against the dangers of the world. She coddled you when you were an infant. You are a part of her heart having its own life and consciousness.
How is it fair to expect all these from a wife or a partner?
Oh, wait. It would be rude to state it like this.
So, let us romanticise it, glorify it, so that women will want to do it on their own.
Let us glorify and romanticise when a woman diminishes her personality in a relationship and makes more space for the man. Let us celebrate her as the ideal woman that the sanskar and culture and panpaadu of India talks and raves about.
Let us make it be known that a woman who defines herself with respect to a man, a woman who bases her identity on the identity of a man as the perfect, glorified Nari Shakti.
This way we wouldn’t have to struggle with women to give up their freedom; they will give it up themselves willingly. How easy and novel.
Let me make something clear.
A wife or a partner is an equal.
To expect her to take up your mother’s place, or base her actions and values on the role of a mother are downright absurd and ridiculous.
This is escapism on the part of men; escapism from the responsibility of growing up.
This is shifting the onus on the woman to come forward and sacrifice (Isn’t that what mothers do?), rather than taking responsibility like a grown up and settling on a compromise.
Isn’t this attitude the reason for women still serving food for men before eating, doing the dishes themselves even if all people of the household eat using the same vessels, washing the clothes of men even if they are fully grown and capable of doing things themselves?
Isn’t it outrageous that a woman is expected to earn to support the family, come home and do the household chores, raise the children, while even today, all that is expected of a man is being the breadwinner?
And we conveniently brand it as, “Women sacrifice more for the family.” Yeah, right.
I would like you all to understand the meaning of sacrifice. Sacrifice is giving up (something valued) for the sake of other considerations.
Sacrifice is done when there is a choice and the person who sacrifices does it willingly, out of their own agency. But as far as I have seen, sacrifice is the way of life taught to women. Sacrifice your professional life for family, the mother tells the daughter.
Sacrifice your sleep for the child; sacrifice your happiness for the sake of family; sacrifice your choices for the sake of parents’ gouravam or social status or honour; sacrifice your love for the sake of parents’ honour; give up the well-paying job that you enjoy doing because it pays more than your husband; give up on studying or educating yourself, because you appear more intelligent than your husband; shrink yourself so that you can fit the personality of your husband.
God forbid, what might happen if you are in any way better than him! We wouldn’t want to break his fragile ego now, would we?
When it is being imposed, instructed, demanded, sought as a right, it ceases to be a sacrifice. It is an infringement of the individual’s rights.
Can we all please understand this and keep in mind?
Even the women, who have such beliefs, please take note and understand that it is nothing but internalised misogyny, and in no way it is romance.
Let us not glorify the sacrifices that our mothers made or make. It is nothing but a gross violation of their personal space. Diminishing our personhood for someone is never romantic, regardless of the gender.
And a wife or a partner is a fully grown woman, who is a man’s equal. She is not obligated to put the man first or sacrifice her priorities. And it is nothing but blatant escapism to expect them to sacrifice. There are healthier methods like compromise, for a relationship to work than conveniently turning the tables on the woman.
The way I see it, equating a wife or a partner to a mother, is a way for men to relinquish their responsibilities as an adult.
Let us grow up, please.
Nivetha hails from a small town, Cuddalore, in Tamil Nadu. She has completed her Masters in Physics at NIT, Trichy. And she has been pursuing a career in civil services since 2014. She has appeared in the UPSC Civil Services personality test in March 2020. Currently, she works as a faculty at Shankar IAS academy in Chennai. Her interests include reading, writing, travelling and nature, mostly meeting different people and going to different places so that she can have more inputs to write. You can follow her on Instagram.