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Settling for Less, or Stigma? It’s the ‘Modern’ Woman’s Dilemma

15 November 2012 2 Comments

Aditi Aryal

Aditi Aryal

“This is when support becomes important, and lack of that distorts everything else including our self -esteem, morale, and confidence.”


I knew her as a modern urban woman, for everything that the phrase refers to today. Highly successful career-wise, she was an inspiration to all the younger people who knew her. A defiantly married lady, she was known to have a very happy marital life, and the skills to balance family and work wisely.

The next time I met her, my memory started to seem fallacious. What I had known and heard of her seemed to be deceiving me. After talking to her for some time, I found her to be a lot different from what I had known and expected. She was now confused, indecisive, struggling to keep up with her job, and almost on the verge of a family breakdown.

Does this woman sound familiar to you? This is not an uncommon tale. People do have ups and downs in life. We are forced to live up to the social expectations or alternatively put up with stigma.  This is when support becomes important, and lack of that distorts everything else including our self -esteem, morale, and confidence.

For some reason, social stigma and pressure prove more fatal to women than men. We are not just talking about a few disrespectful labels here and there. Family breakdowns are usually seen to be a result of ‘her’ career obligations or high ambitions. To add, it is she who needs to compromise everything. Also in the context of a not so liberal society like mine, it is a fact that usually working women are akin to multitasking robots.  It becomes unforgivable if they fail to balance things. They are treated as devoid of all emotion and humane senses . It is never understood that unwanted situations in the workplace could disturb her work at home or vice versa. If the family members do not understand and support, there could be a bitter case of misunderstanding or blame-game.

For women to be successful, I assume that a healthy relationship with a spouse in addition to freedom to choose, express, and do what they want is very much important. Encouragement, mutual trust, respect, and own spaces could make things better. There, however, exist situations where women do neglect their household responsibilities due to high career aims. This in my point of view is still acceptable if there is an alternative, probably a house-keeper.

Nghe along the Barun Valley, Nepal. Photo Credit: Dhilung, Wikimedia Commons.

Women today are much more educated, more forward, and are in line with men. Many aspire to become as successful as their fathers or husbands. Compelling such women to stay at home and take care of the family could be unfair to what we call an egalitarian society. Though we might have been almost out of the dowry system or similar unethical practices, this is what I see as the evolution of those unfortunate happenings.

Women are much more empowered as compared to the past. Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go in order to grow. Following history, all successful countries today have had women working towards success and contributing a lot. Had they been forced to stay at home to cook and wash, they would probably not be where they are today.

Many women have separated from their partners because they were forced not to succeed. There are cases where competent wives are harassed by the husbands. Other times, the family responsibilities become so high that women simply cannot give what they could to work. This is one reason why women can never be as successful as men, and are always looked on as subordinates. This is the invisible glass ceiling and the male ego causing sadness and miseries wherever they exist.

Women are capable of holding positions just like men. They just need the opportunity to grow, and this is what is lacking. Emotional downturns occur usually because of a non-understanding partner, who does not let them grab the opportunities they gain with difficulty. Therefore, we are all left with a dilemma. If their partner is not supportive, should women always lose their positions at work and adhere to social expectations of being meek, submissive, and docile, as their label pertains, or become defiant and rebel towards what is rightfully theirs?


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2 Comments to “Settling for Less, or Stigma? It’s the ‘Modern’ Woman’s Dilemma”
  1. Prem says:

    Well written Aditi. Keep it up! Cheers

  2. Ruth says:

    I had this problem. When I had my baby, I had to leave my job working with horses. I had to find part time work because my husband wasn’t well-paid, and wanted to keep his fishing hobby which proved a financial burden. When I began working I realised I was interested in using my brain, perhaps getting some qualifications, to find more interesting part time work. He was angry even at the idea of me working at a university, never mind studying at one. As his behaviour went from angry, through agressive, to actual violence, I tried to get him to go to couples counselling with me. He refused. I plucked up the courage to ask him to leave. I am now working on a PhD, my daughter is 13, and sees her father about once every two months as we don’t live nearby. Escaping his abuse which continued long after we separated, was the best thing and the most difficult thing I have ever done, because I was frightened for my child. What I learned was to ask for help; to make it possible to ask him to leave, I asked neighbours and my child minder to look after the baby for me while I asked him to go, and to check on me every half hour to discourage the violence, until he left. As the door slammed behind him, I locked it, put the chain on and did not open it until my friends brought the baby to me. I will never forget that first moment of freedom. This happened in 2002, in Cambridgeshire, England, in a white, British, non religious, mixed class household.

    Whether it is possible to keep such a relationship going I do not know. I think it takes someone more confident than I am, less frightened for their child, less cowed. My advice is to not become cowed in the first place. At the first moment of repudiation of your ambitions; stop the partner right there, give them the choice, to be happy with a busy, fulfilled wife, or be single; a side-issue of the future; a bad example; or worse, a man with a frightened, crushed, unhappy wife, and resentful children, all of whom will despise him in the future.

    Above all, ask, ask, ask for help from other women you can trust. You are not alone.

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