Step out of your "comfort" zone!
A qualified engineer, Preeti has been managing her home and two children aged 7 and 14 years for the last fourteen years. She has been essaying a role, to repeat the cliché, that entails her to drive, cook, clean, manage, wash, launder, raise kids. The last one being the most demanding and exhausting of all. And between the proportions of spices going into the dishes, chalking out the daily menu, picking up the grocery, providing for the physical and emotional support at various levels to her growing children, Preeti rues about how she has lost touch with her profession. And most importantly with herself.
Doesn’t that sound familiar? The academic qualifications fading away under the files of school fees, health reports, electricity and phone bills and the numerous other documents that go into making of a home. Social reactions to the situation only helps to aggravate it. The response of “I stay at home” to frequent queries of “ So, what do you do?” , often has curious glances thrown her way, making one squirm with a desperate wish to fade into the background.
The first step to escape from this whirlpool is to identify and separate the self from the various roles the women play. This will be possible only when the woman steps out of the circle of expectations for a while to realign with the self. If she doesn’t look for her voice within and listen to it, why would anyone else? It is extremely important for her to find a few minutes for herself and note down under separate headings, her likes and dislikes, and most importantly, things she has always wanted to do. .
Engaging in new activities like learning a skill, exploring a new hobby has many benefits. The first benefit is of course, discovering new facets of the self. A couple of women I know of, raised and married into conservative families, working as teachers in Government schools, have enrolled themselves into a dance class to learn salsa, hip hop and a smattering of other dance forms. I met them in the lift when they were coming to my neighbour who conducts the class. They seemed embarrassed at first to divulge the real reason but I noted the spring in their step and the eagerness brightening up their face, and told them they did not have to make excuses. Sandwiched between the various roles they play, these women have stepped out to explore a wish they had always harboured.
Widen The Circle
It goes without saying, that going beyond the circle of family and colleagues, a wider social sphere is created. And this set of people are drawn together by a passion they share where they grow as individuals through exchange of ideas and discussions. This becomes all the more pertinent for the women who stay at home out of compulsions or by choice. There is nothing more detrimental than being smothered in monotony. The woman must step out of her comfort zone to break the vicious cycle of routine. The first step will come with trepidations, an anxiety of the unknown and uncertainty. But once that step is taken it will be rewarded with a high of being with the self. Rita who turned to blogging to fill her time and find her space, looks forward to the occasional blogger meets and the small get-togethers with her new found, close group of writer friends. She returns stimulated with new ideas and a better perception of herself.
In this entire exercise of looking and adding to the self, there may be a niggling guilt feeling, refusing to let go - the guilt of placing the self before the others, especially the children. Rita did sense the bewilderment in her children, the first time she returned from her meet. Instead of isolating her family, she discussed her outing with them over the dinner table just as they did about their day. Now they accept that their mother needs to go out with her friends to unwind just as they do with theirs.
The children have learnt early, the importance of private space for an individual to grow beyond the roles expected of us to be played. Looking at their mother, they have imbibed the fine balance between taking care of responsibilities and also claiming individual space. Research shows that mothers have a strong influence in shaping the child. So when we, as women and mothers, are sending the right message across, does it make sense to stifle ourselves within the lines drawn by the various roles we play?
By Ilakshee Nath