News Karnataka
Sunday, September 19 2021

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The stressed Indian woman

Just recently I saw this Malayalam movie, that made me sit and take notice of things that have been going on for eons now, still running in our own households and yet we have somehow turned a blind eye towards it.

Well, how often do we talk about the women of the house- the home makers?

It’s interesting how life overturns for a woman once she is married. Myself been married for almost two years now, I could personally see and experience many changes, both positive and negative around me. But little did I personally think of trying to understand the root cause around it: why are we so stressed?

If we are to look at researches done so far, pretty much most of them do agree on one thing- Indian woman (married or unmarried) are experiencing tremendous amount of stress. Cases of depression and anxiety among them are on a rise. Burden of managing the societal expectations, rigid cultural norms, loss of financial independence, overlooking all the work coupled with little social support is what has made us Indian woman vulnerable to many emotional and psychological issues. The figure below just highlights the gamut of emotions that women experience from time to time.

Being a psychologist, I do come across many such stories. During the course of preparing this article, I also spoke with a diverse section of married women as well, just to get a wider picture of it. Here’s what the women had to say about it…

Burnout:

Most of the people assume that being a stay-at-home wife is easy, that there is nothing much to do. But it’s far from the truth. Carol*, a mother to a 10-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter has this to say.

“The exhaustion and fatigue at the end of the day is damn real. I mean to look after the house, kids, elders of the house- cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, looking after my garden, doing office work from home, following up on my children’s assignments, giving the medications to the parents- managing everything with little to no support is demanding and hard. The concept of sharing the work load is not there at all.”

Low self-worth

50-year-old Suman feels it’s a thankless job. She mentions, “You know, sometimes I feel they don’t see me beyond the role of wife/mother. All I should do is look after the house, prepare their favorite delicacies and wash the utensils. Often it goes unnoticed… what we do, maybe because they always see you as the one to provide and take care of them. All efforts are at making their life better, while they forget I never get someone to do it for me.”

Physiology and psychology

Menopause and pregnancy are two critical phases in a women’s life that is marked with physical and hormonal changes that in turn have an influence on the emotional experiences of a person and presence of support and guidance can really make a difference in the person’s life.

56 year old Savita* said, “I remember around the time of my menopause. I was experiencing a lot of these changes that come with it: both physical and emotional. I had no idea back then what was happening or whom to share my feelings with. I just felt so isolated during that time.”

Harita* explained her pregnancy experience sharing that, “it was a journey that I wasn’t prepared for. I was already physically exhausted; emotionally, I just felt so angry, irritated and anxious all the time. It felt like no one understood me. It really helped me to speak with a counselor back then and get a perspective on it.”

Financial dependence:

Though most of the women today work after marriage, there are some households that still restrict woman on the same. Preeti* who was doing a part-time job before she got married adds, “The point is: it’s not merely a job for us. It gives us a feeling of autonomy and control over our life. We contribute to the house and also do what we want for ourselves. Nowadays for everything I have to ask him and I miss that feeling of not having to ask.”

Further highlighting on the relevance of financial independence, here’s what Devi* who retired as primary school teacher a year back adds, “How do I put it into words… well, it took me good amount of time to really adjust that I’m not earning anymore. Sure, after all these years of work, I did deserve the break and I’m picking up on all the things that were left unfinished, but you know the subtle restraint while shopping or looking twice before buying even basic items tends to remind me of it.”

Me time:

Women in general turn out to be the primary caregiver in the family. They are so involved and dedicated in managing their new roles and responsibilities, that they often miss out on looking after themselves. Anita*, a mother to a two-year-old child adds: “I love taking care of my family. It’s an absolute joy and I take pride in raising my own family and looking after them. But yes, there are days when it gets tiring. My day starts and finishes with my husband and our daughter alone. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing nothing great with my life. The feeling of insecurity gets to me. But yes, I really wish and look forward to going back to my passion: dancing, soon.”

Marital expectations:

32 year old Arshia* has been married for almost seven years now. She and her friends meet often over coffee or lunch dates. Recollecting her own as well as her friend’s stories, she states that, “After the whole honeymoon phase of the marriage is done, you start to take notice of the little things changing around you. Honestly, managing the expectations can be quite daunting. Probably with time and experience we do get our way around it or reach to a middle ground. I’ve been lucky enough to have an understanding and supportive family. But I know it can’t be generalized. Some of my own friends are still having a hard time and are stressed with it. They are still struggling to manage their emotions”.

So how do we help?

Many women struggle is silence because they’ve learnt to either suppress it or ignore it. Even if someone does open up, the first response to it is usually dismissal of the experiences or passing it off as a being dramatic/crazy/attention-seeking. Arshia pitches in saying, “I think what women really want is to feel supported… having an open mind and heart to listen to what she has to say, to share the responsibilities, stand up for her.” Suman shares, “I feel good when my husband or son help me with household chores.” Carol adds, “Just getting a day off from all the responsibilities would mean a lot to me.” Savita asserts that, “no matter what the age of the woman is, she should have a support system: friends/ cousins/ husband/ children- someone to talk to and not feel alone.”

Well, each woman would have something to add on to it. But, to just wind up and culminate the essence of the article, I’d like to say that…

“I hope the next time you look at your mother/wife, you look at her from a newer lens- that of seeing her as a human as well. An individual with her own wishes, needs and desires; and not compartmentalize her as someone meant to look after you and manage the show”.

Look out for her, take care of her.

Priyanka Bantwal (enrichyourmind.in) is a Psychologist and Researcher. She specializes in elderly well-being, perinatal mental health, anxiety, depression, anger and stress management. An avid writer, she has been writing blogs and articles as a medium of generating mental health awareness and psycho-educating people.

*names have been changed to protect the identity of the people. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Priyanka Bantwal

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