Becoming Microwave Madam – Chapter 1
She didn’t realize she’d been conditioned to think a certain way. That he too, like her, had been conditioned by social and cultural expectations. Because one often looks at them as the norm.
She didn’t realize. Until those ways stopped working and both of them wanted change. And when efforts to ease housework and demolish barriers that created chores, were met with subtle criticism or ridicule – mostly from other women.
Both of them were aware enough to know that small changes at home could provoke unwanted advice from family, friends and neighbours who thought they knew better. And so worked together for change quietly. Until the changes grew into habits that were starting to be new ways. Ways maybe, that the next generation would need to discard in order to find pathways in THEIR new world.
There would come a time when the new ways made life so much better that they were difficult to hide. And that’s when she would face pushback. I say she because it was how it went for her. It might have been different for others but then, this is her story.
They left him alone. Because, I think, they had respect for his role in the family and his career. It was different for her as they felt the importance of her career was need based. Important when the income was needed but a low priority and to be discarded without thought when income wasn’t critical or other factors needed attention. But he didn’t think that way.
He wanted a wife who had something in common with him, someone he could talk to as an equal. There was a togetherness in each supporting the others career and hobbies, that both enjoyed. And many did not really understand this. Many didn’t realize that the new ways made him happy.
They would notice years later that she had time for herself, something that many Indian women of her age don’t have. The dual role of being a home-manager with a busy career, still somehow made space so she could get adequate rest. They would think she was lucky and would miss the organization that this needed. And therefore would have little regard, and even a disrespect for it. And she would need to learn to speak out and stand up for herself.
What would be visible to them was that she had a support system. It would be very different from the early years of marriage when she became the support system for the family, but didn’t have anyone to support her when she had need.
This new path would make them uncomfortable I think, because they’d never been able to create support systems for themselves. And they didn’t, I feel, have the skills needed to see that tiny changes over time bring huge gains. Their many attempts to achieve this failed because for them, it had to be all or nothing. And huge changes pushed by just one member of the family often fall flat.
She would to learn the skills and the attitude needed to work small, over time. Working within boundaries her husband was comfortable with. Waiting patiently during years of struggle when her resources were low and being patient needed faith and effort. Holding on until those small changes brought ease to both of them. Until this developed a momentum of it’s own, and brought a willingness to explore the boundaries of customs and traditions. Because real social change isn’t about one person getting their way, but about finding ways that work to bring ease and happiness to everyone within the family.
But all of this change would happen later, as she slowly learned how to make it happen. Yes, it was her efforts that started this process within the home and kept it going. It’s not that her husband wasn’t interested them. He was. Very much so.
But a man who sees himself as the only permanent earning member of the family, with long working hours and a terrible commute has his own struggles. And often little or no resources to think beyond making his work day as comfortable as possible so he can live his dream and enjoy his hobby-turned-career.
This is a long story that took years to unfold and I’ve wandered quite in the telling. I need to start at the very beginning now.
I invite you to read all chapters of Becoming Microwave Madam and understand why many women give up their careers and stay home.