2 words that set me off
A familiar label/term, one that we live with but somehow one I don't agree with, as it stands to mean. I prefer 'moms who work outside of home too', though it obviously is a mouthful and not as pithy.
Reason? Does anyone know a mom who doesnt work? Moms work irrespective of their professional status. inside outside day night Sundays Thursdays and yes even vacations. As a mum who took a 3 year break from full time work to look after her baby, I can vouch for the sheer effort involved in being a 'stay-at-home mom'. I did freelance on the side somewhere in the middle of the hiatus, but was still far from the usual sucker in the 9 to 5 grind to which I returned a year or so back.
I know moms who have given up jobs to concentrate on their kids and their home - they're working 24/7. they do miss the water-cooler talk, the highs a career can give you...but have shifted their focus on the home and hearth. what seals their decision to stay at home is the lack of a support structure (parents, inlaws or even a good daycare). they're among the most hardworking people I have ever met or heard of. and then to hear them and others like them being dismissively addressed as housewives or stay at home moms, makes me wonder.
I have had the chance to get acquainted with the life-stories of the domestic help that I have hired (one of the many blessings of being in urban India, yes) off and on. Young women, married young, with 2-3 kids (4 in one instance), not very educated, working to earn a living which runs the house and educates the children, the husband, more often than not, a jerk who spends his money on alcohol or some such. they hope and dream of a better future for their kids, especially their daughters. saving a measly amount every month, working 3-4 houses in a day and fighting their daily battles. hanging on to rotting marriages only for the sake of their children.
come to think of it, thats pretty much the story in middle class urbania too. moms work, juggle deadlines, irate bosses, petty politics at the office, come home, work on their kids' homework, feed them and prep them
for the next day, and if there is a fracture in the marital bone, what holds the splintered joint together isthe kids.
its funny, across the financial and class spectrum, the stories are the same. the battles, though varying in intensity, are as many.
During the course of my work, I had the chance to visit the state of Uttarakhand twice on field visits. On both occasions, I met some amazing women from the rural areas.
Ordinary 'housewives' who were on an average, educated upto 8th grade, and who, apart from looking after their homes, also play a vital role in the state's rural healthcare scene.
They are called the ASHAs - an acronym for accredited social health activists (incidentally, ASHA in Hindi means hope).
These unsung community health workers are the link between the government's health mission and the public. Each day these women set out from their homes and go around their communities, spreading awareness about modern health care practices and the services provided by the government. Doubling up as outreach workers of sorts, they also they take expecting moms in their area to the health facilities, ensure that they go through the whole antenatal, delivery, postnatal routine. They propagate modern family planning methods, ensure the children get the benefit of the routine immunization program etc. Without them and other community-based volunteers like them, most of the flagship programs of the government would come to nought.
They are compensated for their work of course, say for each delivery that they help get done in a proper health facility instead of at home, but the sum is paltry compared to what they achieve or try to, at least.
For all their invaluable service, they do not get recognized enough, monetarily or in terms of respect. In most cases, their husbands and mothers-in-law can't for the life of them understand why they need to set out every day, since it obviously doesnt bring them much in terms of money. Its an uphill task for them to stay motivated and to want to make a difference.
They still go out and volunteer and will continue to do so. Doing their bit to make their corner of the world better.