The 21st century has been pretty good to us women, so far. We’ve gotten to the top of the professional ladder. We’ve become CEOs, CFOs, and entrepreneurs. We’ve donned multiple hats with flair and ease, and we’ve even become game-changers. Interestingly, somewhere along the way, we seemed to have picked up this label – the independent woman.
What does this term mean, anyway?
Popular opinion says that the independent woman is someone who is able to pay her own bills, live on her own money, and take care of herself without depending on anyone else for financial support. But there’s more to this label than just financial independence. An independent woman isn’t afraid to put her dreams and her goals first. She’s capable of voicing her opinions without feeling guilty, and she’s comfortable living a life by herself. More importantly, she respects and supports other women.
However, the term “independent” can often be misleading. People tend to assume that independent women aren’t keen on being in a relationship. The stats seem to support this belief too, since women are getting married later in life. So, while independent women aren’t averse to being in a relationship, it appears as if they don’t really want to get married. This is mainly because of how marriage tends to demand so much of a woman.
Here’s how the life of a woman changes once she’s married.
Right from the time a prospective groom is on the cards, a lot is expected of the woman. Let’s take a look at some of the many ways in which her roles in society generally change once she’s married.
She’s expected to adapt to her new family
Women are often expected to adapt quickly to the ways of their new family. In most cases, the newly married woman needs to let go of her own well-forged habits and adopt the ways of her in-laws. Learning to do familiar things in a new way can be incredibly unsettling, particularly if you’ve always done things a certain way. Brides are also expected to behave with a lot of restraint, especially when extended family visits. All of these factors can make a woman’s new home feel less warm and welcoming.
She bears the responsibility of the household chores
There’s no denying that men have increasingly begun to participate in the rigmarole of household chores. However, in most families in India, it’s still something that’s frowned upon. And although many families have embraced the concept of sharing household chores or hiring help for cooking or cleaning, the onus of ensuring that the errands are run correctly invariably falls on the women. Even working women are expected to do more than the bare minimum at home.
Her career aspirations often take a backseat
Women are far ahead in their careers now than they’ve ever been before. Yet, most married women find that their careers begin to take a backseat once they’ve tied the knot. While men are expected to push harder at work, women are expected to slow down. The society tends to look warily upon women who place their careers ahead of other accepted priorities like taking care of their family or having a baby. This can be a major and unwelcome change for independent women who want to get ahead at work.
There’s that relentless question – Any good news?
Many newly married women will tell you that their greatest nightmare is the endless barrage of sly questions and hints from extended family, all pointing at having a baby. With gender roles changing significantly, an increasing percentage of married women are preferring to put off having a baby for a few years after their wedding. Having a baby can also interfere significantly with a woman’s career graph, since most employers tend to pass off the promotions due to them in favour of single (or even married) men.
She’s left with little time for herself
One of the greatest changes that a woman goes through is a drastic reduction in the time she gets for herself. Between responsibilities at work, meeting commitments towards her family, and handling the chores at home, there’s barely any time for working married women to unwind and take a breath. This can eventually lead to a burnout. Sadly, many women are forced to let go of their jobs to restore balance in their lives. For independent women who’re passionate about their careers, this can be a tough sacrifice to make.
So, what needs to change to make this situation better?
Seeing as how marriage can require so many changes of a woman, it’s no surprise that independent, career-oriented women are putting off getting married or are deciding to forego it altogether. If there’s anything that needs to change, it’s how the society gauges and invariably judges independent women.
The solution, like the problem, is complex. For career-oriented women who do decide to get married, it helps if there’s less pressure on them to do things a certain way. The usual wedding-baby-family trajectory needs to be rewritten, so each woman can chart the course of her life in a manner she sees fit. It also helps if we, as women, stop judging other women for choosing to do things a certain way. After all, to each their own.
Saikrupa Chandramouli (Author)