Home or Work?

In the mid-nineties we see women in every walk of life, from a housewife to a corporate board member in the Fortune 500 companies. If already ahead of them, they are getting opportunities to compete with their male counterparts. They can exercise the choice to stay home or work for a career.

Some women prefer to manage their marital status simultaneously with their career. The ability of a woman to do well lies in the perception that she can handle household duties and other tasks with strength and endeavor.

It is a common perception in India though less so in Bombay, that the young Indian women - studying or settled in the United States - opt overwhelmingly for professions at the cost of home. Having lived in the United States for over five years, and graduated with business as major, I doubt the validity of this perception.

Tabassum Sayeedi, a female biology major student at George Mason University in Virginia, when interviewed about her goals and views about marriage and career, said that "any woman can work if she desires to provide financial stability to her family and a better future to her children." If she got married during her education then she would take care of her husband and kids. Unless she needed the money to support her family she would not work. in order to have a more stable and balanced relationship with her husband she would spend more time with him.

Tabassum thought that women should continue to have the choice of working (outside the home), caring for their families or combining work and family responsibility.

Shazia khan, formerly at the Northern Virginia Community College doing pre- business administration, when interviewed about handling marriage and career at the same time said that if she had to choose between marriage and career she would choose both to some extent. However, there would be a varying percentage on the time and energy she spent on the household tasks and official matters.

Shazia firmly asserted that if she got married then nothing in the world would be more important to her than taking care of her family and when the children grew up then she could always return to being a working woman again.

Questions might be raised that once confined to her home and settled, would a woman like and be able to go back to the office work. Would these women prefer to have a hectic life once they are used to a living comfort. Does work imply merely a regular paycheck or is it doing something that gives a woman a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction?

Nurturing children is also a job only it is not a salaried one. Then how does one distinguish between what is fulfilling and what gives financial independence? The issue is highly debatable and women have different opinions about the subject.

Society places high emphasis that the modern woman should have knowledge in every field, as if she is some kind of a wonder woman. She is expected to know everything from daily kitchen chores to office work and more. This enabled the modern woman to promote herself to taking on tasks that were done by men alone during the past few decades. Where there is a will, there is a way, holds exactly true in the case of women who prefer marriage to career or vice versa.

When Neelam Yadav, a student at Howard University in Washington DC was questioned about her future married life, she said that she would prefer working part time and devote more time and effort to her family. She felt that a woman's first responsibility is towards her home rather than work. Miss Yadav asserted that women should work only if financially demanding situations arise.

A graduate from Madras University now settled in the US feels that it is the responsibility of both the husband and the wife to help each other out in terms of household chores and shopping needs. She completed her Masters in Economics after her marriage and asserted that it is difficult to combine marriage, education and work.

However, it is possible and she managed to do it. She is going to be a mother soon and she thinks that her priority is to be a wife and mother and if time allows for anything more she would like to work. She has decided to discontinue work for the time being in order to give her undivided attention to her first born.

Some women enthusiasts think that a woman should and must work if she can because if she remains at home she would be wasting the knowledge she got through education during her early years of life. It is a waste of human resources if she does not work even if her husband is rich enough to support her and the entire family.

But, letting children learn and reinforce the values of sharing, co-operation, teamwork and not vandalizing, is not a waste - it is an investment in human capital. And as the history of recent economic development shows, it is not the material and physical resource of a country that explains sustained growth, it is the quality of human beings. It is the experience of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore that testifies to the critical nature of human resources. To be law abiding, healthy and to have happy adults in a nation is an asset.

Otherwise, nations like USA are witnessing increasing rates of failed marriages, children born out of wedlock, children who do not know of their fathers, divorced parents failing or not wanting to pay childcare costs, children suing their parents and seeking parental divorce, children killing parents, alienation within the family, children growing into anonymous adults, gang warfare, crime and full jails and correction homes. Can these social features co-exist with sustained economic growth of a family?

Psychologists point out that many women would be happier if they directed more energy into working and less into trying to live vicariously through their families. No general public action, however, seems preferred and individuals want to find their own remedies.

Indian women in the US, particularly those who are old enough to make a choice, are truly revealing a preference for a mixed life, but home is surely the first priority. If there is a tradeoff, they want to be good mothers first. Of course, they will prefer to be good computer programmers as well.