During my morning social media scroll I came across a story that truly made me reflect.
It was a captivating and very well written piece of work, so I do recommend reading it fully, but here is a gist of it:
A pregnant woman with 2 kids is evidently upset as her husband is packing to go on a ‘guys trip’ with his best friends during a long weekend. She is silently fuming. He doesn’t understand why, gets irritated, and leaves without saying goodbye. She spends the weekend in distress and tries to make it eventful by hanging out with the kids, bonding with her mother in law and making a new friend. He comes back, and convinces her that she actually had a good weekend because she got to experience all those things. And then somehow the lesson of the story became that it is okay to enjoy time away from each other.
By the time I finished reading I felt confused. Was I missing something?
Was the issue really about learning to spend and enjoy time alone (which I do agree with), or was it the fact that his time alone was away from kids and family members while somehow hers included both of those things?
That his was without the responsibilities that come with taking care of children, or doing the daily household duties or being careful of what you say to your mother in law – and hers was exactly that?
It may have been a fictional story but this is a reality in many households. We are always seeing men away on trips within few years of having kids, but I don’t think I have seen any women doing so.
When can I hear about a woman, a mother to be precise, going on a trip with her friends while leaving the children to her husband and family?
This may happen in non-desi cultures but even then I don’t think it is common.
With subjects like this, people like to bring up gender roles to justify their stance. They say that in most of these households, men are the sole providers so they need a break to unwind from the stress of having a full time job. Maybe I do not understand the pressure of being a sole provider for a family with kids but I can understand the stress of working full time while worrying about paying the bills. And I do not believe that is enough of an excuse for a man to leave his pregnant and clearly upset wife to go hang out with his friends.
It makes me wonder if the rise in number of women who are deciding not to have children is based on the unequal division of labour they have witnessed throughout their own lives.
No doubt that having children greatly affects the lives of both the man and the woman, but somehow I always see women losing out more. Women who can no longer work. Women who no longer have the energy to pursue their interests. Women who are struggling to balance household chores. While the man’s problem is that he has come back tired from work and wants to ‘unwind’ and sometimes maybe take weekend breaks away from family life to refresh himself.
Spending time by yourself or with friends is a completely healthy concept. In any relationship, we should encourage individual growth. Getting married to someone does not mean your whole life should revolve around your spouse and children, it does not mean you cannot still hang out with your friends and pursue your interests.
It is easy to say these things but difficult to actually live them, when there is still such a gap in the understanding between men and women.
I would not have written this post if the story had ended with the man:
– Acknowledging the emotional pain she went through all over the weekend,
– Not invalidating her feelings by changing the whole scenario.
– Accepting that while her weekend with family was not as horrible as she expected, she should also have the opportunity to hang out with her friends or go on a short trip like he did sometime in the future.
The fact that he helps with the dishes and takes the children out for ice-cream so she can nap, is not enough. He should have made some productive move to better the situation, to remind her that she is just as deserving of a break as he is. Instead of saying she ‘had a better weekend than many other women’.
(At least one person will come after me saying I’m generalising, I know this is not the case in all families and yes not all women want to go on these weekend trips with their friends. I’m talking about those who do, and those would like the option to.)