The irony of being a working woman is that no matter how much you earn, you still have an unpaid job as a housewife to return to. It is because you are not a mere wife to your husband but to your home too. It is said that without a woman, the house feels empty because she is the one who fills it with joy and also the groceries. The latter gets counted less.
Women are accountable for bringing joy, peace, and happiness to a home, even without feeling these emotions themselves. So it begins her struggle to become the perfect housewife.
When girls are married and step into another home, they are expected to let go of where they come from and adapt to a new ‘home.’ It gets more difficult within inter-caste marriages because what she loves cooking is not so willingly accepted. She has to learn new methods of cooking the same dishes to suit the taste and preferences of this family. Eventually, she gets there. But is she the perfect housewife? No, she doesn’t dust the home every alternate day.
There’s this woman, who knows how to sweep the corners, she knows how to wash the clothes, she knows how to clean the utensils without wasting too much water. So what she ends up doing? She works at other people’s homes to do the same. She works as a housemaid because she needs to educate her children. She toils in five houses daily and then returns to her own to ensure it is just as spic and span. Is she the perfect housewife? No, she makes her mother-in-law cook.
Another woman I have heard of tends to her little one and readies the lunch box for her husband every morning. She fulfills the daily tasks of being an entertainer for her toddler, cleans a bit when the child’s asleep, finds time to talk to her friends, and manages the home when the guests arrive. Is she the perfect housewife? No, she only does it because she has the help of her housekeepers.
No matter how much you do, how long you do, and how willingly you try, being the perfect housewife is a tedious task that is always understated. But unfortunately, we live in a society where we glorify being excellent at managing the home and yet find flaws in someone trying to get there.
Every house has so many little aspects that make it a home. Unfortunately, some of us are oblivious to it until we shoulder its responsibility. Every married woman strives to become the perfect housewife and silently curses herself for not knowing so many things that are supposedly so basic for our daily survival. We rely too much on our mothers to worry about when the gas runs out or how many days will the rice grain be sufficient for the family.
Is my mother the perfect housewife? No, I agree she is not. Because despite cooking for more than three decades, she still does not know how to make round chapatis – another requisite in the perfect housewife checklist. Is your mother the ideal housewife because she can cause soft, round rotis(round flat bread)? Maybe or maybe not. Ask her if she feels so, and she will list her home management flaws. The most common complaint is having no time for herself.
It blows my mind to know how we, as women, are expected to learn and master everything that involves the kitchen. If I have learned cooking, I also need to learn how to store the raw material, I must know how to change the cooking gas, and I should keep a tab on oil consumption in the family. Moreover, I am responsible for everyone’s health, and I need to remember that my maid will not be coming next week. I also need to know the exact water measurements for making a cooker full of rice and the right pinch of salt when cooking for a group of ten. I should know how to store lentils and finish the soup packets before they expire. I also need to have a plan to keep ants and lizards at bay during summers and ensure none of my food is left uncovered for the flies to feast. I must defrost the refrigerator weekly and clean the spilled water left underneath. I am tired, and as I wipe my sweat off, I look to the ceiling to see cobwebs. It’s the next on her weekly agenda. My thoughts are interrupted by the pressure cooker whistles, and I recall if it is the first one or the third one. The spiral continues.
Am I the perfect housewife? No.
I always wonder who is the perfect housewife. What does she look like? Does she even exist? Because this society has always seen a version of the ideal housewife somewhere and wants it to replicate in their homes. Because everybody agrees that no one is 100% perfect as a person, but in a role of a housewife, you need to be 110%.
When discussing gender equality, we should find some space for equality in the kitchen chores. It is the first step to moulding the perfect househusband.
Writer by day, an overthinker by night. I let my thoughts flow through my writing. As a definite misfit, I let my words speak louder than my actions. Welcome to my journey of sailing through emotions and experiences, with words as my paddles.
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