This question might seem strange, even churlish, in today’s times to many people. Yet a recent social media comment made me think twice. Without wanting to demean any one, I quote “If the man of the house is earning sufficiently, and there is financial stability, for a few lacs, why do women need to work? They should stay at home and take care of family.”
This got me thinking, do women work just for money? Is that what people believe? Is it true? Even if it is, is it only women who benefit?
Why does anyone work? Is it only for money? Yes, financial independence is a huge component of why anyone works. Making ends meet, providing for family, building an aspirational lifestyle, saving or the future, saving for children’s education, saving for one’s old age and medical exigencies. These are all the practical reasons. And then there are reasons unique to every individual. Reasons that make a person get up in the morning and feel that they are fulfilling a larger purpose. Irrespective of gender, every human being feels the need to contribute, feels the need to be valued, feels the need to make a difference. Whether one works in the corporate sector, development sector, runs his or her own enterprise, works from home, is a gig worker, or is a homemaker, every human being needs to feel valued, needs to feel his or her contributions are making a difference. A mere chromosomal difference between X and Y does not change that.
When women work, not only do they become financially independent, they have a huge influence on the larger society and the nation. Their income contributes to the family income. The family lifestyle, savings, children’s education, old-age funds, all get positively impacted. Cash in hand and hence buying capacity improves thereby impacting the economy. The impact of increasing participation of women workforce on the GDP is well documented. When the GDP of the country improves, it is not only the women who benefit, the whole nation benefits and all those naysayers who say women should stay at home also benefit.
Then comes the conundrum of parenting. There are many who believe that the primary responsibility of parenting lies with the woman. Right from the birth of the child, nursing the child, to toddler care, to helping with studies, to taking leave around boards. Well, it takes a man and a woman to create a child, and the responsibility of raising a child should also be shared. Today, many fathers want to play an equal role in parenting, want to attend PTMs, want to attend school functions, play a part in getting homework done, and organizations introducing paternity leave is a progressive step encouraging new fathers to also partake in childcare in early stages. When a woman plays an equal part in contributing to the family finances and overall wellbeing, the man has to play an equal role on the parenting front. Children are not born with the any ‘bias’ towards any one parent. It is we who instill the bias in the child by not providing equal time and attention by both parents in early years.
End of the day, every woman is a human being first, with the right to choose her own path, with the right to express what she wants to do, and go after it without hesitation, without the fear of being judged, without the hindrances of what society believes she must do. There are no right or wrong answers except for what are her aspirations, and what she wants to achieve in life, And she is answerable to no one but herself!