ISSUE Do marriage and motherhood mean the waning of a woman's individuality?
F ive years after giving up a successful career in advertising (to look after her twin babies), one morning Sonia was jolted with the thought that she had only been playing the roles of a mom, wife and homemaker and that she had snuffed out the individual in her. She didn't remember her interests any more; there was no time for pottery or painting, she hardly met friends. She had morphed into a stranger who had not kept in touch with her inner self.
Does a woman in the current-day context of marriage in India have to give up her identity to be a homemaker or feel guilty about following her career dreams? Says Prachi Sharma, who works in an MNC: “All around me I see married women who lose themselves, trying to be the ‘perfect' wife, daughter-in-law and mother. My mother is a homemaker and I have never seen her interests precede my dad's or mine. And, I always thought that's how a happy marriage is. We all are programmed like this from childhood.”
Preeti Pais, a mother of two, agrees. “It is hard for a woman who is a multi-tasker, and who wants to maintain both her family as well as her professional identity. But, I feel it is possible to retain your individuality while being married. I think it depends on your partner and who you are – you can either be submissive by nature or willing to work hard to retain your individuality.” Bringing in a different perspective, Ashwini Gupta, mother of two, says, “Losing one's individuality is not bad. While a woman may be brought up to pursue individual excellence, she can, after marriage, learn how far teamwork goes. I believe in joint families. Although the way it operates may be skewed, it can achieve wonders when each member looks to ‘give' rather than ‘receive'. Also, as you move from individualism to collectivism, both professionally and personally, you are enriched.”
Says Sai Balakrishnan, currently pursuing her PhD at Harvard, “I agree marriage and raising children are necessary for an individual's growth — the togetherness, friction and disagreements are necessary to smooth out our selfish, ‘I-centred' traits and make us more giving.” She adds philosophically, “A great analogy on marriage is it's like putting two rough stones together in a jar and shaking it. At the end, the stones are smooth and perfect. But in most marriages across the world, it's the women who give a lot and so get ‘too smoothed out'.” Of course, giving is enriching, fulfilling and rewarding, and most women give up so much of themselves once they become wives and mothers. But after a point, if giving means losing one's personality, along with one's self-esteem,then that's a wake-up call for introspection.