I come from a service family with a set of liberal and forward-thinking parents, who, however, always upheld the norms of society. They inculcated in us three siblings the importance and necessity of a good education over the fluctuating value of money. I repeatedly heard my parents say, “Education is the best investment we’ve given our children.” Despite a comfortable lifestyle, service class resources were always limited, yet we were empowered to the best of our ability to chase our dreams.
My mother was not a working woman, but we never seemed to lack whatever we needed, most of all, love and emotional support. Of course, times were different then; life was simpler, expectations from parents weren’t high, and our needs were few. But the healthy mix of love, laughter, and discipline holds me in good stead even over half a century later today. I did work for a while before marriage, and what a feeling it was! Being able to spend without thinking, to be able to buy things for the home, or just the feeling of being able to contribute in my own way gave me immeasurable joy and unwavering self-worth.
And then began the tread of ups and downs – more downs than ups, if I’m being candid– and I began to see with clarity the value of being a working woman, which I, unfortunately, was unable to achieve then. Maybe things would’ve worked out differently for us. Indeed, my children would’ve been financially more secure, but to counter the absence of which, I enriched them emotionally, and I’d like to believe that has played an intrinsic role in moulding them for the future.
I firmly believe, married or not, our daughters need to be financially independent to stand on their own feet and contribute towards the family income. With it, not only comes a sense of selfhood and achievement but an immense sense of responsibility and agency in the face of all odds. Children, too, learn a lot from working moms– they begin to value and respect hard work and learn to contribute in their ways towards household chores. However, just like everything else, this has a downside. On the one hand, we command greater respect by adding to a single income, and yet we also no longer feel the need to mould and adjust to circumstances at home or to improve the marriage. We start believing we can make it totally on our own, which upsets the delicate balance between Yin and Yang. Not just the money but also the warmth, care and concern we, as women, possess is equally nourishing. And yet, the home may feel complete without the presence and balance brought by the man of the house.
The best gift to give to our children is to encourage and empower them to be financially independent, to go after their dreams, and to use their education and ability to the maximum. We need them to understand that to grow taller and taller, our roots need to go deeper under the gravel so that we stand firm, grounded and unshakeable.
I may not have been able to work when I needed to the most, but life has given me a second chance. My daughter encouraged me to start working, and lo! Here I am, now at 70, with so much to look forward to at every new dawn. It feels like emancipation in its truest sense because I have achieved not just what my parents strived for but also a sense of completion and a well-lived life by and for myself.