“Why do you have to put so much pressure on yourself? Just relax, and do what is absolutely necessary. A healthy mind is the first requirement for a fulfilling life. Then follows a healthy body, healthy relationship, good career, and healthy life. Just focusing on making your career healthy, you are missing the most important parts of life”, I advised one of my woman colleagues. She was patiently listening to advice, and I felt she understands the point which I am trying to convey as well.
She was quick to respond, “So that others succeed in career, be proud of their achievements, and I am seen as a looser. So that men continue to rule, and women remain their subordinates forever. So that working women continue to suffer and never get their due respect. I understand these mindsets very well. I have seen my father, brother, friends, husband, and now you? How unapologetically, you tell me to drop everything and accept my defeat.” She responded with a lot of aggression and could see the anger that she was suppressing as she was in the cafeteria.
Manisha and I are good friends of her for many years. We have a ritual, a fixed time for a coffee break when we come to the cafeteria and spend time talking to each other. She has become one of my best friends, and she understands me better than any of my friends. I know she wanted me to listen to her challenges, and that helps her. My advice makes her feel like a loser or victim, which she doesn’t wish to at this moment.
She has been going through tough times for the past few years. Her ailing in-laws, touring husband, two kids who are in junior school, her reputation as the best cook, best mom, best daughter-in-law, and best wife burden has buried her sole desire, since she chose MCA in college, to be the best software engineer. This is the third year she is not getting promoted as Sr Software Engineer as her colleagues and competitors can give more time at work, take up more action and prove their value more than her in the past 3 consecutive years.
She can not let her ambition die as the best software developer in the community, and that makes her angry, frustrated, sad, and helpless, but she is unable to give away her duties that she has assumed over the years. She feels cheated by everybody around her and can barely find any well-wisher. Everybody preaching her to give up something, but she is not ready to give up.
Women are multitaskers, women make a house a home, nobody can cook like my mother, nobody can nurse the way a woman of the house does; these tags and stereotypes have left very little room for women to live their own life. On top of it, nature has given her the divine responsibility of childbirth hence the monthly menstrual cycle, which takes many productive days from her life to live freely and at will. Even after all these, she still excels. This shows how super capable women are.
I hear men complain women not being able to spend long hours in the office or frequent requests for leave or work from home and how unfair it is for the men in the same team to take all the workload. We make a comparison between men and women in those 8-9 hours at work and conveniently ignore the remaining 15-16 hours. Those 15-16 hours define what would be the quality of the 8-9 hours at work.
Despite all these challenges, many women stretch themselves beyond their physical and mental limits and excel every day in every field they are in.
Look at your working mother, sister, wife, or daughter. The 8-9 hours they were at work was as tiring as your workday is, it is as stressful as your workday is. If you need time to sit and relax at home after work, if you need your house to be in order when you are back at home, if you do not want any responsibility dumped at you after a long workday, then its true for them as well. It will be unfair to say it’s not valid for homemakers. They go through similar or much more tiring and stressful day managing the house.
Okay, then what should you do?
Just spend time listening. Do not give advice, how to manage their life or day or what they might be doing wrong or where they are lacking, but listen to them, Bring your empathetic self and listen.
If your loved ones see an empathetic you eager to listen to them, even if it means the lady in context doesn’t want to speak, and you are empathetically listening to her silence, listen. It will take away all the pain and hardship and infuse a tremendous amount of positive energy for her to feel better and face the challenges.
If she enjoys working on 100 different things, let her do it. Do not advise! Just listen!
Of course, help in household chores, childcare, cooking, and anything possible so that the workload is distributed.
She is super capable; provide the ambiance for her, lend your valuable time and ear, and Listen!