A home serves as our refuge, a place for basic needs and so much more. It is where we find solace, rest and comfort. It is a place of protection from the world and all that it demands. With all diverse roles that the home plays in our life, it makes sense that someone’s duty is to stay true to keeping it a home. Homemakers need to cultivate the skills, not just of housekeeping, but the more profound objective of creating a home. The home making is a deliberate cultivation of love, connection and productivity in family relationships. Homemaking is about comforting, communicating and caring for each other, close friends and extended families, as well as the occasional guest. Anyone can keep house; not everyone knows how to keep home. Though indispensable to strong, healthy families, home makers are underappreciated, disdained and misunderstood.
A typical stay at home mother has an exhausting hectic to- do list such as organizing her home, preparing meals, and looking after the children. She does all the errands herself so that her husband can relax when he gets home, allowing him to thrive in the workplace, secure in the fact that the family is safe and taken care of. Such women exist in the millions and are incredibly important to our families and to our society, yet they are underappreciated, hardly respected and live under the controversial name of ‘homemaker’. These women work for the people they love the most. Recognition is not through an appraisal, but happens when the family praises their food. Job satisfaction comes in the form of a promotion or a salary hike but through the tacit gratitude for their willingness to compromise on the career for the good of the family.
These are women who know in their hearts that staying home to raise their children is a good choice for the family. Whether they do it from the outset of their marriage or make the challenging shift from career women to stay at home mothers, it is a choice that is incredibly rich and rewarding. “Mom, I loved what you cooked today or I love the Tiffin my wife makes for me,” is something that can bring loads of happiness to her. Maybe that is where “Maa ke Haath ka Khana” and such sayings have originated. They realize their current sacrifices will make for lasting bonds and a stronger family in addition to a more cohesive community. Certainly, it is not always rosy, after being an independent woman, I am hit hard with the stigma that is associated with being ‘just’ a homemaker when I am asked what I do.
Yes, I may now be dependent on my father for money, but then he is dependent on me for so many things such as a well-maintained house, healthy and tasty homemade food, lovingly tending to my mother, grocery shopping, paying bills, entertaining guests and so much more. A homemaker is a powerful, influential position that should be held in awe, not disgraced. Let us hold the hand of every woman who finds contentment in making home and family a priority and tell her that she is not less. She is more. She is valuable beyond words. Every day, I unlearn a little of what I was taught about career and relearn the art of maintaining home, cultivating relationships, hands on caregiving, family traditions and all the aspects of nurturing.
We need to validate the role of the homemaker and the work that goes into it, instead of perpetuating the myth that the work that takes place in the home is somehow less meaningful, less valuable, and less important. Through the simplest tasks such as mending those buttons on that favorite shirt, baking a cake to celebrate, making that special dish that will bring the family together at dinner or simply chatting with the kids about their day. Without these domestic acts, without the homemaker, there would be no home. This, of course, is easier for me to say this, as I have gone the corporate route and I am content in the feeling of ‘been there, done that’. However, I have met quite a few conflicted women attempting to do it all, frantically trying to juggle commuting, workloads and deadlines, plus the stress of keeping house and raising children.
Many women work solely for economic reasons and that is certainly an excellent reason. However, the two-income family is a trap for many. It encourages people to think about family solely in terms of economics, when in fact, breadwinning is only part of the equation. Gender roles in the past brought harmony to most households since women and men could take care of each other in their own different ways. Equality does not mean sameness; female nature is inherently different from male nature. Trying to act against our nature means us playing at being men, and of course, we make poor men; harmonious gender relations are dependent on men being men with all their masculine glory, and women being women with all their feminine power and the vulnerabilities that come with it.
If relationships are cultivated in love and we each play to our strengths and work in tandem, both parties can live together in harmony, in loving homes, loving marriages and loving families. When we work against each other, we experience a breakdown in marriages, as statistics show. For decades, feminists have belabored the idea that work should be central to women’s lives. We need to remember that we are always replaceable at work, but we are never replaceable at home.
Syeda Salma Tahir is an ex banker holding an MSc degree. She is a freelance columnist and can be reached at email@example.com