The New Domestic Equation

Last updated 13 Aug 2016 . 4 min read

After ten hours at work, SHE returned home only to find that her mother-in-law, who was visiting, had invited more visitors. Thank God for Swiggy--they ordered in. But the barbed comments, ‘these days…these people don’t cook…fancy kitchens’ had taken up all of her energy to ignore. SHE didn’t know how Sunil did it. But then, he was a different person when his mother was around: Didn’t help as much in the house, pretended that SHE was a superwoman who managed home and office beautifully while he just brought home the bacon, like he was raised to do.

“I don’t want to be a superwoman,” SHE screamed within. “Damn it, it’s OUR  life, so it’s OUR responsibility. No one is doing anyone a favour by caring for the home. Why are we pretending?”

This predicament is, by no means, unique. India is transitioning. The workplace is a flux. The domestic front is changing even faster. Traditional roles are eroding at varying rates. And not everyone is comfortable with all the changes.

Most women want to work; most men want their wives to work.

Most women expect husbands to lend an equal hand with household work and financial management; not as many men are prepared to do that (especially the housework bit), though they do respect and welcome the wife’s salary.

Affluent young couples live in nuclear units, but need mothers/mother-in-law to mind the babies when they have them. Trouble begins when the daughter-in-law is expected to shift gears the minute she steps into the threshold.

Couples meet at college or the workplace and marry in spite of their diametrically opposite socio-economic backgrounds. Adjustment is nowhere as exciting as courtship. Sometimes, it is just easier to divorce. Men quickly remarry (an observation, not a verified statistic). Women take their time.

The sex is not consistently great. There is hype around it and couples try to be ‘that’ couple with the most rocking sex life. Finding your natural rhythm and equation needs the luxury of time, which money can’t buy.   

And the final nail in the coffin--easy distractions. At work, there is the ‘office spouse’ with whom you share all woes. The emotional dependence is high. Who knows when that might suddenly transform into sexual infidelity? The other distraction is the smart phone, with its more acceptable option of cyber adultery.

This is the story and one can see that the plot sags. Neyha, in her thirties, jokingly said, “Everyone around us is divorcing. We feel left out.” Sent a chill down my spine!

People are unable to invest the time and effort in coping with their changing, complex lives. One way of dealing with it is that people are marrying later, having their kids even later. The conventional brigade shoots down these choices. But the one advantage might be that you are both financially stable and hence, that’s one less worry.

One of the best ways to deal with life is to let it work for you, not the other way round. Flow into the choices offered to you.

Sushmita and Shankar, now in their late thirties, have just adopted a six-month-old baby. They had applied years ago, but they got their baby now. Maybe they’re not full of energy, but they are definitely smarter and richer, and very very happy.

Radhika and her husband (second nuptials for both) chose to focus on careers rather than children and family. They enjoy grappling with the thrust and parry of the business world together.

Lakshmi and Vivek find joy in working for people and society, and following their spiritual instincts. Their children are raised to be as ‘net’worthy as they need to be, not an iota more. They enjoy a natural fun-filled childhood in a home with grandparents, gardens and animals.

Family lives and domestic equations have continued to evolve while we weren’t looking. Rooted in traditional ideas of marriage and spousal roles, we expect a fixed set of things from our partners. Even now, young couples have conventional expectations of each other. Maybe just seeing each other as humans rather than spouses would give us a greater chance at domestic contentment?

image not our own

Madhuri Maitra
Madhuri Maitra published her first two books in 2014. Haiku and other Micropoetry is a collection of short verse on nature, love and life; while Equinox is a novel dealing with urban realities. Madhuri lives in Pune and teaches Film Appreciation in addition to Creative Writing. She also conducts workshops for children and adults. Read more on her website .

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