It was Tulasi’s 20th annual school reunion in the evening. She was excited about meeting everyone after ages. That afternoon, her boss asks her if she can stay back for a while to work on his presentation due the next day. Her heart sinks. She calls her friends and lets them know….” maybe the 25th year…”, she says.
Gayathri was just putting on her shoes to go to the gym when her husband announced he was going to be working from home. She had to make some arrangements to ensure his needs for the day were taken care of while she was away at work. Gym can wait, she thought and untied her shoelaces.
Anju who’s based in Pune has been invited for a two-day training programme. It’s happening in Darjeeling. One member of her team is already on leave. The training can wait, she thinks as she wistfully looks at the exciting programme and the names of people who have confirmed….
Prioritising our own needs over the needs of others – this was one of the dilemmas that emerged from the 8th batch of our programme for women leaders, SheLeads. We discussed how women tend to put themselves last, believing that their role of a care-giver needs them to think and behave in this manner.
In each of the above cases, the woman believes it is her responsibility to deal with every situation. Food cooked only by them is good enough for their family. Every parent-teacher meeting, play and dance recital needs to be attended by them. In the workplace, many a woman leader is known for insisting things are done a certain way. The beliefs that women have been conditioned with emerge loud and clear.
Could Tulasi have let her boss know she had some prior commitments or Gayathri let her husband know what he needed to do? Could Anju have delegated adequately and still made it to the programme?
If one were to replace these names with Tanmay, Guha and Aman would they have made the same choices?
We all need help. Women somehow find it difficult to ask for it because they might be conditioned to think they are shirking their own responsibilities if they are leaning on others to get their work done.
Each woman who says no to something she wants, believes she is doing what is right. Each time such a sacrifice is made, gratification due to avoidance of guilt is experienced. What is not so apparent is the adding up of little things that finally lead to aches and pains and mental agony.
If caring for others is what is important, does it not make sense to do it with joy rather than a sense of duty? Focusing on one’s own needs therefore cannot be selfish or a luxury but a necessary hygiene factor for the whole family!
It is not easy to find that fine balance between self-care and care for others. Women therefore need to equip themselves to be able to do their best without guilt. Getting parents, in-laws, siblings, employees and teams to pitch in or hiring a cook, a driver or a tuition teacher can be game changers to one’s efforts in this direction.
Today, elderly mothers of young men and women are questioning their own world view. They had sacrificed their career growth, their time and their interests, to ensure their children are well taken care of. Today they find the apple of their eye (who never set foot inside the kitchen) is happily helping his wife wash the dishes and mop the house.
When women respect themselves, it encourages others to do so as well.
What sacrifices are you making today?