Friday 3 December 2010

Why full-time motherhood is unfashionable

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the feminist movement, in trying to bring reform into important issues that affect women, has swung too far to the right and diluted the essence of femininity by making it unfashionable, in certain sections of society, to be a proud and fulfilled mother, who does NOT hold a paying job outside the home. Don't get me wrong. I think all women should have the CHOICE - to work or not to work, without any kind of judgement being passed on them. Leaving aside the issue of the millions of women who have a financial need to work outside the home, I personally feel every woman (and man, for that matter) needs to be financially independent and employable at all times (not necessarily employed throughout their lives). However, in a particular strata of society, predominantly middle-class, well-educated/professionally-qualified, the question that gets asked of SAHM moms is "So what do you do?" Subtext: What do you do all day? I hope your children are better-behaved, more polite, more accomplished, and A-graders at school to justify your stay-at-home status!
Certainly, I feel that I got the short end of the stick twice - I worked full-time for almost 2 years after Ads was born when most of my peers who's also had babies around the same time were taking their break. I was something of a puzzle for having gone back to work 45 days after giving birth to my first-born. Now that I am happily unemployed for the last 3+ years, things aren't any better. A few days ago, someone commented that "Whichever B-school you girls go to, at the end of the day you are all doing the same thing" (that is, nurturing and raising children). 
Now, this really bothers me. Not the debate on working moms vs SAHM (which has been done to death anyways), but the fact that being a full-time mother is somehow not enough. There has to be something else that defines me. I'm not sure that is a general need in all women. I might be quite happy to be identified as nothing but a mom for a few years (and a mom is everything, not nothing!), someone else might not - but why does that something else have to be a job or a career? Who are these others to decide my identity or identities?
I think we do ourselves and all other women, a disservice when motherhood is demeaned in this way. When people ask me if I work or if I have a job, I always say, yes I do! It's the most important job there is. And it doesn't matter whether you are a working mom or SAHM, the only difference is how many balls do you have up in the air. 


  1. Loved the articulation of thoughts - feels like you took some of the words out of my head :). Thank you - I felt like I vented just by reading ;).

  2. Hi and hellooo
    Hmmm reading this is making the think worm go berserk in my mind.
    Really, you're so so bloody right.

    There's so much that's "expected" of us, in all the different roles we play.

    And yes, that's the attitude to women -- "ultimately you'll take maternity leave no, madam" is such a constant in our offices.

    And WOW u went back to work after 45 days?! I'm doing one big namaskara man. I was in such distress at 45 days!

    You talk of choice, but as you say, there's no real freedom to determine our choice -- it's so so influenced by numerous cultural and social factors, that ultimately it's not "your" choice.

    Muah muah...very well thought out and written.
    Forever Mother

  3. I can identify with everything you have said here. The 'What do you do' question comes every now and then.

    I have stopped explaining - I have taken a break from work, because it works, because I want to be a stay at home mum - for a number of reasons, and I think that is that.. I was lucky to have a choice - it was totally my choice- thank god for that. And I think all of us make the choices that work for us, as a family. 4 years ago, I would have never thought in my wildest dreams that I would chuck my high flying career, and be perfectly satisfied with being a SAHM. I get pointed remarks about my status trying to tell me that I should not throw my education away in this way.. Like this is not a job in itself. Like all I have to do is sit around and amuse myself!

    Wonderful, wonderful post!

  4. Looked like I touched a chord here:) I feel very strongly abt this, and had to put it down. Thanks a ton for all the comments guys.

  5. What I've learnt is, there are certain people who can't help judging others and subtly putting them down.

    They probably judge person A for going back to work so soon after childbirth, and then turn around to person B to ask what they do all day!

    I would say SAHMs are at least more fashionable now (and more vocal and empowered) than they were in our parents' generation. At least in the West, if not in India.

  6. Madam @Suchi, judging people is something we Indians loooove to do.. Right from deciding between two shops in the market which brinjal is fresher (by merely glancing) and judging why someone didn't get into IIT(he/she must be really a dull person) and judging how well to do someone is by looking at their car. Oh you have a bike.. you must be below poverty line..sic...
    How can we rid this society of this malady??

  7. Aparna... My thoughts exactly!! Only much better articulated than I can ever hope to be :) And then there are those working turned SAHMs who focus all their frightful dedication and energy on their kids as though they are projects to be won :). We definitely dont live in easy times do we? Ok, will go and read the rest of your delightfully well written blog now.

  8. Lovely post Aparna-i have been on both sides of the fence; currently a SAHM to a toddler. This post and many others on this topic prompted me to pen my thoughts on this..


I would love to hear your thoughts :)