They Can’t Shape Her

Exploring Patriarchy – Chapter 29

They can’t shape her in their likeness,
can’t swallow her whole.
Can’t figure her out as she won’t keep her dreams small.

She doesn’t want the comfort of the walls that they chose.
Or their self-inflicted constraints.
And their “Don’t walk down that road.”

They feel she takes risks
and they can’t understand why she’ll fight for the right to rest
they worry the price is too high.

She won’t live with regret that she let time pass her by
and she’ll make her mistakes, but she’ll take comfort in knowing she tried.

MM had seen quite a few families where elderly disfunction runs high. Much of it supported by tradition where elders express love by allowing younger women to serve them. Even when they are well enough to serve themselves, and on days when it’s obvious the younger woman is a caregiver who is struggling. And who copes by taking one day at a time.

She’d seen elderly getting rid of their maids and helpers so they save their children the expenses they (the children) incur on paid support systems. And she’d seen these things happen during times the family had a tremendous need for support because someone was unwell or needed care while recuperating.

The elderly in the India of today grew up at a time when income levels were lower. Frugal living was a necessity and not a choice one made. Families in those days were large enough that care could be shared. And Neighbours were involved in each other’s lives and were a support system to each other.

Times are different now. Support systems rest largely within the family unit with occasional support from relatives and family friends. The average income level of today covers a fairly high level of expenditure on celebrations, holidays and clothing. MM had seen this even among families that struggled to pay for the extra tuition that is a necessary part of education here in India.

She had seen many families with average income levels who live simple, and therefore have enough for some expense on support systems for eldercare. Support systems that are necessary as they help the home manager cum caregiver support those in the family that work hours that are often quite long and spend four hours a day commuting to work. Support systems necessary for caregivers who work.

For home managers, keeping one’s career going isn’t always about income. Sometimes it’s about doing something one enjoys. About getting a break from the chores and caregiving. And about having a slice of life that one can hold on to when children grow up and when elders pass on. And about having some level of financial independence and a potential career as a safety net for oneself and for the family because life is so uncertain.

MM felt that families and the community at large often forget that caregivers need care too.

I invite you to read all chapters of Exploring Patriarchy and walk with Microwave Madam as she explores the impact of patriarchy on her life and on society. And looks for solutions.

Published by Anitaelise

Anitaelise teaches piano lessons at Anitaelise Piano Studio and writes poetry and essays at The Relaxed Housekeeper. The blogs - and are written and owned by her and published in accordance with the copyright notice at the footer of each blog.

2 thoughts on “They Can’t Shape Her

  1. Absolutely the truth! In the past (even in America) the extended family made sure the elders were cared for without overburdening any one individual. As industrialization took workers away from home for often long hours, it fell to the woman to care for the elderly, the children, the home and often to take in additional work (sewing, mending, baking/cooking) to make ends meet. As more and more girls followed to the cities there were fewer hands to help. We now have the issues of elderly forgotten and warehoused in nursing homes where they get a minimal amount of attention…


    1. Thanks for writing in Murisopsis. Yes, I did want to express that in my post. But also, to express the very high expectations placed on women who are home managers and care givers in many families I know.

      There are no fixed working hours and no holidays. It is common to see adults who have never ever done their fair share of chores here, because many of the middle class and upper class have maids – and these adults can have very high expectations and think chores and care, and even managing the Indian maid, is effortless.

      There’s so much of praise for the Stabat Mater – the suffering mother – and a veneration of the sacrifice of women and mothers. Less praise, even a lack of acknowledgement, and a fair share of criticism, of the exceptional skills of women who manage to fulfil their roles without self-sacrifice.

      It is common, among quite a few familes, that the elderly want their children to make the same choices they did, not realizing the impact a lack of community has. And that the standard of living has changed.

      Traditions too – it is also not unheard of, that elderly capable of getting themselves water, might demand a younger woman does that for them out of tradition that this is respect. This even on days care giving is tremendously high and visible and the woman care giver is struggling to cope.

      The expectation of gender roles that come from family traditions in some communities in India is very high in my opinion. And yet there are other communities in India where it is traditional for men to share chores and care giving to the extend their working hours permit. Or where men who break tradition and do chores and help with care because they see it is too much for one woman in a nuclear family to do all. India is a mass of contradictions.

      Sorry for the long reply and for taking so long – I had so much to say and wanted to think on it a bit 🙂


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