Working Woman. Interesting words that. What do they mean? The logical conclusion would be a woman who works. Woman. We all know what that means. So lets stick to the other word and find out what it means.
Work says Answers.com, is physical or mental effort or activity directed toward the production or accomplishment of something; scroll down a bit and it says the verb means, to exert one’s mental or physical powers, usually under difficulty and to the point of exhaustion. To the best of my knowledge that about describes what I do day in and day out.
But lets see how good this definition holds in real life.
We have moved to a new locality. I have just finished helping with the unpacking and tidying up. I am sweeping up the debris and move out to the verandah. My neighbor’s head pops up from behind the wall.
“Hello” she says.
“Hello” say I.
Contented chattering for some time.
Suddenly springs the question, “Do you work??”
Well, what did you think I was doing with the broom? About to jump around with it held aloft going “Hoomba Hoomba!!” invoking the Rain Gods?? (I honestly don’t know if screaming Hoomba Hoomba appeases any tribal Rain Gods!)
Now lets move to another scenario.
My husband’s friend, newly posted in to this town is coming home for dinner. He arrives soon enough and there is much talk and merry making. Dinner is served and lavish praises showered on my culinary efforts. Munching contentedly on the after meal meetha saunf, the gentleman asks, “By the way Ma’am, do you work?? My wife does you know!”
Hello, do you think I had a magic wand like Mrs Weasley for dishing up that sumptuous spread you just had??
If you think these are isolated incidents, pray let me correct that erroneous notion of yours. This is only the tip of the iceberg! I have been asked time and again if I work. Do I what…work??
I have been stumped by this repeated question, “Do you work??” “Do you work??” It’s a wonder that I still have a crowning glory left and it has not all been pulled out! Once I even looked up the dictionary to find out if the meaning of the word had changed since the time I had studied it in school so long ago. No, the meaning was the same! People’s perception of what constitutes work seems to have changed!
The aam janta seems to perceive a Working Woman as one rushing off to some distant office in the morning. She may be a bank official, a civil servant, an engineer, a doctor, a clerk, a typist, a sweeper, a construction site worker! Teachers are workingwomen too. Even the ayah in the Aanganwadi is a workingwoman. But the full time parent and homemaker is NOT a working-woman!
Why?? Coz she doesn’t get paid?? Talk about unfairness!!
I wonder if any one has coined a new name for the work SHE does??
A famous woman’s magazine for the woman of substance once had the gall to suggest that homemakers not waste (waste??)their time doing unskilled labor that an ayah could very well do and utilize their time for something better.
There you have the catch! This is unskilled work, best left to the maids, huh, while you go seek higher things?! You do then admit you need someone’s help, so that you can be free to pursue your dream!! But then, that someone’s work is not worthy of respect?? So wither goes dignity of labor anyway?? The same thing was packaged in a different way when a cousin of mine told me that her husband asked her to do something worthwhile and leave such (unworthy) work to the menials. Unworthy work, right??
Well, the point is does someone have the right to prefer doing that ‘unworthy work’ (ahhh, there you use the term ‘work’ even if it is unworthy one!!) and not be asked imbecile questions like, ‘Do you work??’
The worst offenders seem to be the NRIs, friends and relatives from the US. Having shifted base and soaked in the new work culture, they seem to have forgotten or pretend to have forgotten what its like back here. They also give the freedom of choice of an individual, the go by.
Trrring…. Trrring…. goes the phone.
“ Hello Chechi! How are you??”
“ Hey Amar/ Akbar/Anthony! How are YOU??”
Blah blah blah… the conversation goes on and on. Then it hits a rough patch.
“Chechi! So what do you do??”
I scratch my head. Do??
“ How do you keep yourself busy??” the hearty voice continues.
I HAVE to ‘keep’ myself busy?!! Aren’t I busy already?? I scratch my head again.
“Well, there’s my house work you know….”
“ Arrey! But what do you do the rest of the time??”
What rest of the time??
“Chechi you must DO something! Don’t waste your time!”
Hmmm….. Am I wasting my time when I do the work I like??
I AM doing a lot of things. I get up at the crack of dawn (Hmmm…. Errr…. may be a little later). I do suryanamaskar and some yoga; make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the family. I tidy up after my children, do the dusting, sweeping and mopping the floors. I polish the brass and silver, bathe the dog, put the clothes to dry, fold them and iron them. I do the shopping for my home. Sometimes there is looking up of a sick member of the family to be done. Meanwhile, mails have to be answered, blogs to be read and written too. I may decide to make a decorative pot or engage in etching a design onto an aluminium sheet to be painted and either hung up or gifted away. In between I snatch a few minutes for a Sudoku puzzle or read something. Right now it’s the The Book Seller Of Kabul by Asne Seierstad. In addition there are n number of other jobs, cleaning the bathrooms, fighting the dirt in the nooks and crannies, visitors to be entertained, visits to be made, children picked up…….
Is that enough DOing, I wonder to myself as I just smile and shrug off these passionate pleas from Amar/Akbar/Antony. What they as well as the desi upadeshaks fail to understand is, I LOVE MY WORK! Period.
What I want to explain is:
I am a homemaker by choice. I thought about my priorities in life and decided that I would prefer to be a homemaker with more time at my disposal than money in the bank. Its my life and after all I have the freedom to choose what I want to do. I don’t have anything against the so-called force of working-women of which I am not a part. I wish them well in their chosen life. I respect their decision and the priorities that they have spelt out for themselves. If they can combine home and work and come out a winner, “Good for you!” is what I say to them. I will be the first one to cheer them with an “Attagirl! Well done!” But do not point your finger at me and classify me as a non-worker. I work too, you know. Unless the Oxford dictionary comes up with a new term for the work done by a homemaker, it describes what I do too! Do not give me that condescending smile or the patronizing look. I love my work just as you do yours. Remember (this is for the men too):
EVERY HOMEMAKER IS A WORKING WOMAN TOO!!
Reposted from shail-mohan blogs @sulekha.com
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You’re right, how people perceive “work” has changed considerably over time. For me, “work” turned out to be something I didn’t really like to do; something I was forced to do; something set in a banal grey office, between the hours of 9-5 (or longer), from monday to friday (or longer), doing the same set of tasks, attending.. meetings (I can barely type the word).
After the corporates tried to suck my soul, I came to my senses, quit my job and started my own venture called – funnily enough – “Nonworkers”(which is obviously how I stumbled across your article). Non-work meant the opposite of work as I knew it.
And I don’t miss “work” one bit. In fact, I *hope* to never have to go back. Obviously the experience is different for everyone, but could it be that these “workers” just wish they were you? 🙂
Jen, thanks for the comment. Well, I wonder about that too, if the workers wish they were me??!! 😛
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You hit the nail on the head Shail!!
House work is indeed a most thankless job (No wonder I run away from it to something that, well, pays 😀 )
And home-makers are the hardest workers. They work over-time, correction, they work ALL the time and they are taken for granted.
I think it takes a lot of courage and stamina to decide on being a home-maker.
Kudos to you (I seem to be saying that a lot, isn’t it ?! 🙂 )
Hey Noor, glad to see you here! 🙂 Lol, actually I really wonder what people mean by work. I onc told my husband that in the future it would be politically incorrect to ask anyone “Do you work??” of course he didn’t see my point or agree with me. But I certainly feel it is not proper to ask someone if they work. A homemaker may be doing less work or unpaid work compared to a career woman. But it is still WORK! 🙂
Shail, A standing ovation to you for this. Very well said. Me too face “Do you work ” or “Joli Kittiyo” (from those already who knew I wasnt working ) . They cannot imagine how i could have done my post graduation and not ‘work”.Like you said of course I work, the cleaning, cooking, washing…. tends to infinity)plus I write for the web in my extra time after the household chores. Initially I used to answer people I work as a freelancer, they dont get it, so I explain I write articles for the web and I do this from home, and then they give me this patronizing look.( because according to them sitting in an office from 9-5 is the only “real work”…
Thank you *takes a bow* Where do you write?? Please let me know 🙂 I’d like to read.
Yeah, I have never understood this definition of ‘work’ when it comes to homemakers. The maid also is said to ‘work’ when she does the dishes, washes clothes, cooks or sweeps. But when a homemaker does these things and more…… Surprise!! Surprise!! …it is no longer becomes ‘work’!! Strange, isn’t it?? 🙂
One lady was so caustic in her comment when I posted this at sulekha.com. She said homemakers don’t do anything special, that the ‘working’ people do double the work. Lol, I agree she must be one hell of a ‘great’ person, being a ‘working’ woman and doing double the amount of work. But apparently her language skills are pretty poor since she seemed to have no clue about what this post is really about. 😉 😆
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