Here we are in the 21st-century and the conclusion seems to be that women have come of age. The issue of women working has been sorted out. There is no reason to scream about the cause through columns and forums, though there is room for improvement in terms of policies and benefits for working women. But for women to work is now a way of life. Come to think of it, we tend to glorify the 'superwoman', she who can perform the balancing act of managing a career as well as the home.
Yet, there is another woman who is rarely in the public eye or discourse. What would you think of a woman who works 24/7 without pay? She is not entitled to a sick day leave and there is no fat bonus for her at the end of the year. Even an award for exceptional work is out of her reach.
Her job responsibilities involves everything from counselling children and the occasional adult to cooking, managing finances, scheduling, housekeeping, managing staff if it exists and maintaining family ties. She performs the myriad roles of being a party host, doctor, a soothsayer, manager, tutor and supervisor.
What of the status of a homemaker in this day and age? Does it ever cross your mind? What is it like to be her?
When did we start addressing her as a homemaker instead of a housewife? What difference does it make, if it does? It may seem like mere semantics. Merriam Webster describes a housewife as "a married woman in charge of her household." A homemaker is defined as "one who manages a household especially as a wife and mother." So, not necessarily a wife and mother. This definition leaves some room open enough to include a male -- the term house husband, after all, is rarely used -- or someone employed to manage a household and do household chores for others, as for the sick or elderly. The word seems to be more gender-neutral.
Most of India follows a patriarchal family system, although there cultures where women are given more prominence - Meghalaya is a matriarchal society, for example, and Kerala has matrilineal communities. Indian mythology exalts a woman as she who takes the family tree forward. Traditionally Indian women were given the status of grihalakshmi (wealth of the house or the home's goddess of wealth) and grihashoba (the glory of the house or a symbol of the family name and prestige). It is said that gods reside where women are respected, honoured and protected.
We live in times where the conspicuous is celebrated and the inconspicuous is taken for granted. Maybe it's time we reflect on our roots and truly value the priceless and endless efforts of the unsung homemakers. And appreciate that the time that she could have spent to earn and further her career, she selflessly devoted to sowing the seeds for and nurturing the careers of others. Most successful men and women in society have their mothers to thank -- many of these mothers were homemakers backing and encouraging their children. They didn't just make homes, but created a harmonious environment that could nurture bright individuals to become key contributors in not just society but the country. They are the backbone of the smallest unit that makes this society. This is an ode to all those homemakers who make dreams possible for others.