First of all, I would like to wish everyone a happy ‘International women’s day’. Though it was Russia who unknowingly set the ‘March 8’ trend, the first glimpse of it was seen in 1909 when women took to streets in New York city demanding better working conditions.
Today, I would like to discuss with you all an issue that haunts us on a daily basis, but regarding which we don’t do much since we are made to believe that it’s trivial in the bigger scheme of things. I’ll present you with a few scenarios, imagine yourself in the character’s place and tell me what you feel.
It’s a school morning in a normal household. A primary schooler is sitting at the dining table, throwing tantrums and refusing to eat his breakfast. His mother, packing the tiffin boxes for the husband and the child, takes one look at the clock and rushes to the dining table. At first, she’s coaxing the child to eat and when that fails to work, she switches to scolding. Just then, the school auto honks outside. Realizing that the child is running late and to not get the other kids late as well, the mother rushes the child, puts on his shoes hurriedly and carries him to the auto, all the while scolding him for always being late. Now, imagine yourself in her shoes. As you watch your child leave in the auto, what’s the immediate thought that hits you?
A woman is working in the office, well past the office hours, so that the company’s new project could get completed before deadline. As her eyes are on the laptop screen and her fingers are typing away on the keyboard, images of her 5 month old baby she has left back home under the care of a nanny flashes before her eyes every other minute. What would be that crushing feeling you would feel in that instant if you were in her place?
A single woman has gone to a store to treat herself with new bags and clothes for securing a promotion for which she had pulled out all the stops for the past 6 months, when she overhears 2 middle aged ladies behind her discussing how difficult it is in terms of finances, to raise a family in this day and age, and how the youth have only themselves to think about with no worries whatsoever about anything or anyone else. Hearing this, she pauses midway of reaching for the bag on the shelf, and a thought immediately springs up in her mind, what is that thought?
A woman’s parents are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their daughter and son-in-law for the couple’s first festival celebration post wedding, when they receive a phone call from their daughter, explaining apologetically that they won’t be able to come as her in laws have asked the couple to accompany them to their family temple for a special puja. The parents, though sorely disappointed, assure their daughter that it’s fine and that they look forward to spending the next festival with them. If you were that daughter, what’s the immediate thought that hits you when you cut the call?
You are a doctor who came out of the ICU and is now standing before the family of the patient that you had been trying your hardest to save for the past 1/2 an hour. Their eyes are on your face trying to decipher the news about their loved one, praying, wishing with all their might that the news would be good. When you deliver the bad news that’s gonna change their lives forever, and you watch them crumble right before your eyes, what’s the first feeling that knocks you over?
GUILT. Yes, Guilt! That nasty but powerful feeling that all of us are familiar with. It makes no discrimination in terms of caste or creed. Guilt is not all bad parts and no good parts. Guilt is good after you have behaved badly with someone (and you should feel guilty about that!). But guilt can also be as crippling as, for lack of a better word, ‘hell’. We have all been in at least one of the above mentioned situations. After sending off the child to school, the mother feeling guilty throughout the day, and telling herself that she isn’t as good a mother as others for berating her child, even when it’s warranted sometimes. Or guilt hitting a mother like missiles for trying her best to prove herself at work when she has left her young infant back home. She’s doubting herself, wondering if she is even as capable as her colleagues at work just because her thoughts go back to her baby frequently. No matter how much a doctor has tried everything under the sun to save her patient’s life, the moment she sees the anguish unfurl on the relatives’ faces when she delivers the bad news, guilt hits her and makes her question her very education, even leading her to wonder if there was anything more that she could have done. And every girl has felt at least once, that drowning sense of guilt when she put herself first before others or did things for herself.
Studies have shown that women are more prone than men to feel guilty. Why? Because, from childhood, we have been exposed to and are made to believe the ideology that a woman has to be perfect at everything. Whether it’s at being a housewife/mother/career woman/daughter/wife, she should be nothing but perfect. She should be able to prepare perfect rotis, she should have Pacific Ocean’s depth worth of patience and she should always put others before herself. When we are hammered repeatedly that this is how a woman should be, as perfect as a brilliant cut diamond, we are bound to feel guilty repeatedly in our lives, for we are humans not Gods, and no human is perfect.
We can’t expect the society to wake up tomorrow and suddenly be all supportive for ‘real’ women. So, what can we do? Firstly, I can’t stress enough the mammoth value a ‘Woman supporting another woman’ brings to the matter under discussion. Because a woman’s struggles is truly understood only by another woman. And secondly, our mindset also plays a key role here. It’s not easy but whenever I am racked with guilt, I try to adopt the mantra – ‘I AM NOT PERFECT’.
My mantra is, repeat after me, I WAS NOT PERFECT TODAY, NOR WILL I BE TOMORROW. So, I will not let ‘if only I did things differently’ to suffocate me. This is the best that I could do and I AM OK WITH IT. I am not playing the lead character in Ekta Kapoor’s serial, so I will not allow myself to feel guilty for putting myself first before others at times. I am flawed, I am gonna make mistakes every freaking day. I’ll do my best to learn from my mistakes, but I refuse to feel guilty for being a flawed person. I refuse to feel guilty about circumstances I have no control over. And most importantly, I refuse to let the society hold the placard of ‘a perfect mother/daughter/wife’ to my face every time I make mistakes, because ‘No, thank you, I am perfectly content being an imperfect woman’.