Women have been notoriously marginalized throughout history. We only got the right to vote in 1918 and it took a whole war for them to start entering the workforce on a regular basis in 1921. Hooray for the progress, but somehow, we’re expected to do a full time job and manage an entire household, take care of kids and keep everyone around us fed and happy.
Growing up in a female dominated household, women were always both the breadwinners and the decision makers in my household. I’m thankful for having such amazing and strong female role models in my life, but it also exposed me to the reality of how people romanticize the struggle of hardworking women.
I’ve seen a lot of conversations happening about how ‘today’s girls’ just can’t keep up with the women that raised us. When I was 6 months old, my mom took care of me full time during the day, made dinner for our house of 6, cleaned from top to bottom and still worked a 5 day work week on the night shift. To be quite honest, I have no idea when she slept or had a moment to breathe. Most people hear that and think “good for her, she balanced it all!”, but all I can think of is the amount of stress she must have been under and how that affected her mental health.
Women are constantly praised for juggling such hectic schedules, but the reality is that all that juggling takes a toll. 19% of women experience mental illness such as anxiety or depression compared to 12% of men. Women of colour sadly are even more affected with 29% of Black women, 29% of mixed race women and 24% of Asian women experiencing mental illness. Women still account for 80% of caregivers across Canada and also are exposed to more risk factors of stress. The increased number of burdens with balancing a personal and professional life takes a toll on both mental and physical health.
In today’s modern world, there’s definitely been a bit of a shift in responsibility at home, but the cultural differences in many South Asian households still hold women to a standard where they have to do it all. Many of the next generation romanticize the struggle of their mother, placing them on a pedestal of how every South Asian woman should act, despite how unfair the expectations on them are.
So what do we do?
Firstly, it’s time we stop glamorizing the life of women who put everything aside to live for everyone but themselves. Women deserve help. They deserve breaks. They shouldn’t feel as if they have to constantly live a life of burnout just because that’s what the norm has been.
Secondly, it’s time we start being more supportive of women who are making choices that people may see as against the norm. It’s okay to have a nanny or a maid to help around the house. It’s okay to decide not to have children. It’s okay to not live with your in-laws. It’s okay not to have dinner ready for your husband before he comes home. It is okay to live your life in whatever way you choose and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. It’s everyone else’s job to start being supportive and positive about women putting themselves first.
Finally, every movement needs its allies. I’m looking at you men! Take things off their plates. They’re your children just as much as they’re hers. It’s 2022, gender norms shouldn’t even exist anymore. Step up and I promise you there’s going to be growth for everyone.
Change takes time, but every conversation is a win. Thank your mama for all she’s done and then find a way to give her a break.
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