Adjustment – The magic word?

Couple of years back, we had friends staying over, and as usual, we spent the better part of the weekend, talking.

One of the topics that came up was of their niece who had just started working. Apparently, the family was trying to get her married off and she was being rather stubborn -according to them. They were lamenting about how girls these days have ‘fancy’ ideas and have their own demands before getting married. On asking what these demands were, it turned out that she wanted to continue working after getting married. The family was trying to get her to ‘adjust’ because obviously ‘getting married was far more important than having a career’.

I was shocked to hear this from a seemingly modern couple. They went to explain that they even tried to make her understand by giving my example. ‘My example?’ – was my reaction. Apparently they said that even career women like me gave up their jobs and adjusted. I tried explaining that I did not ‘adjust’ – it was my choice – I worked when I wanted to , I took a break when I wanted to, I was not made to ‘adjust’ at all – by anyone. I did not adjust, I just took a decision based on a lot of factors, but I certainly did not ‘adjust’.  All she wants is to have that same freedom. Why should she be expected to give up her way of life? Why not look for a man who has the same expectations as her. Why expect her to enter a relationship starting off with compromises and adjustments that she does not want to make in the first place. Of course, that fell on deaf ears.

It makes me wonder why a man can lay down expectations of wanting a working wife( or a non-working one, for that matter), but a girl having the same(or similar) expectations is told to adjust? If anything, I would think that it makes more sense to have all these thing on the table – right at the beginning, than expecting one person to give up all their expectations, and then have a frustrated life- all their life?

Last time, in India, I met a newly married girl. She had got married within the same community, near her parents. Her mother wanted more for her. She was hoping that her daughter gets married outside the community so that she gets a different life, but that did not happen because the mother does not have much of a say in matters like this. This girl, after her wedding, is now confined to wearing sarees, she can’t ride her scooty anymore, she can’t step out of the house without her in-laws permission. And to make it worse, most girls, apparently get a little freedom when they go to their parent’s place, but because her parents live in the same town/village, she has to go around with a ghunghat even when she visits her parents! And when she voices her frustration, she is asked to adjust, because that’s what married women have to do. She is told that she will get used to all this after some time. It wouldn’t surprise me if the cheerful, bubbly girl is transformed into a woman with hardly a smile on her face, the next time we meet her. Her husband’s life on the other hand, continues just as before.

Another girl, I know, married into a joint family. All the ‘family’ responsibilities came onto her. Including waking up before everybody else, cooking, getting breakfast ready, and even taking a bed-tea to her sister-in-law! On the weekends, her husband would go out with his old friends, while she stayed at home, looking after her in-laws. And this girl, in question was a professional, before she gave up her job because of all the pressure on her. When her husband went abroad on work, she was asked to stay back to ‘look after her in-laws’. I wonder how they would have managed had their son not been married? Oh wait – that is why they got him married! To get a care-taker! Is she happy with her life? Well, lets just put it this way – I would not have heard about all this, had she been happy.

The reason ‘adjust’ and ‘adjustments’ have become a dirty word, so to speak, is because more often than not, it is the women doing most of the adjustments. More often than not, a woman is expected to become part of a new family, take up responsibilities, live life according to other people’s terms, while her partner gets to lead his life just the way it was.

On the other hand, if both partners were to adjust, compromise, and work towards their marriage, one would feel less annoyed with the word – ‘adjust’. Of course, life is full of adjustments, compromises, but people would be happier doing it, if they did not feel forced into it. None of us will get everything on a platter, and we all have to work towards it, in some way or the other. All of us are fine with certain adjustments, but might draw a line at others. I guess a happy relationship is where both partners are not expected to make those adjustments, that they don’t want to make. So if a girl is clear about having a career, then don’t make her ‘adjust’ and get her married off to man who has made it clear that he doesn’t want a working wife. What is the worst that could happen? She might get married a little later – isn’t it better than a life time of unhappiness for both partners?

Like I tried explaining to my friends, if I had been forced to leave my job, I would have felt frustrated and annoyed. Today, because I have the option, I feel at peace with my decision. And if more women want that, the choice, – what is wrong with it? Unless both partners feel happy and secure  in their relationship, it can go nowhere. And an unhappy relationship affect both partners equally. Eventually.

This is my contribution to ‘The Great Adjustment Story‘ at http://www.womensweb.in.

Boys, no? They are like that only!

Thanks Blogadda and IHM for the Spicy Pick!

There is this lady who I know. A nice lady, but she has one habit(should I call it a habit, well, whatever), that drives me a little crazy. The title of this post is one of her favourite sentences.

She is a mother of a 1.5 year old, and she keeps talking of how boys are wild, and how boys cannot be disciplined, and how it is muuuuch easier to bring up girls. I wonder on what authority she speaks, given the fact that she does not have one of each.

All this is also tempered with references to how her son is the favourite of his grandparents’ because he is their only son’s only son! That is a another story for another day.

Her husband is no better. He once told us that our daughters(another friend with a daughter was present as well), eat food outside , without any problems – because they are girls, apparently boys do not do that either!

Everything is blamed on the child being a boy. If he refuses to sit in his stroller, which by the way, there are plenty of other reasons for, it is because he is a boy – and more ‘active’!

If the child refuses to share, he is a boy after all, and he has a ‘temper’ if he is forced to do it.

Their attitude  makes me wonder how that child will turn up in a few years time. Right now, he is an adorable little thing, doing stuff which every child his age does – irrespective of gender. One time, he was playing with something, and his mother tried to take it away – and he showed his annoyance at that. I have seen loads of little children doing the same, but in this case, the parents proudly say, ‘My son has a temper!’. They actually sound proud of the fact. It is another thing that he had no temper – it was just the way most children that age would react. Even if a child does behave in an ill-tempered way, at that age(he was 8 or 9 months old), I would just ignore it, and in an older child, would probably explain to the child, that it is rude, rather than proudly gloat over it.

Another parent tells her 4 yr old, that he should not be hitting girls because they are ‘cry-babies’. So it is perfectly fine to hit or bully other children- just not girls, and that too because girls are cry babies! What are we teaching our children? And these are all educated parents. Clearly education has no chance in front of the age old discrimination between girls and boys. And not only do the believe in it, they are ensuring that their little children grow up with ideas like this in their heads. I can’t help wonder how this boy is going to react when grows up and has to work with women or even worse, report to a woman at work?

Every time I see the way some parents handle their children, it just makes me understand why so many little boys are badly behaved – they are just not taught that it is wrong to behave that way. Even when parents do scold them, it is with an indulgent smile saying, ‘how else can you expect boys to behave?’ So as the child grows up, he learns the nuances. He is free to ignore the half-hearted admonishing, because of the tone accompanying it. I feel, that even a young child can understand the tone that we speak in. When we mean business and when we do not. If we are firm, and we show them that we are ready to carry through what we say, they will listen. Maybe , not the first time, but if they get a consistent message every time, it will just be a matter of time before a child(irrespective of gender), learns what is acceptable behaviour, and what is not.

On the other hand, girls, I feel are told to ‘behave’ from the time they are little. There is another family I know who refused to cut their 3 year old’s hair because apparently she needs to know how to have long hair – after all she is a girl. She was just a 3 year old! This was not even about misbehaviour – but acceptable standards for girls! Girls misbehaving is a no-no, but boys – what can we say, they just don’t listen!

If the girls are well behaved – then it is purely because they are girls – their parents’ parenting methods have nothing to do with it, of course! Girls come programmed with good behaviour!

Long back, before we had Poohi, we had been to an party with some of husband’s old colleagues. All the couples except one had girls. The lone boy was being called the ‘Kishan Kanhaiya’ of their group. This boy, I think around 2 years of age, was going around terrorizing(hitting, grabbing toys) all the other children, while his parents looked on, smiling. I was shocked, but nobody else seemed to find that odd. Later, as time passed, I would hear gossip about how naughty that child was. People started avoiding them because their children refused to play with him. His mother had a second child – a girl, and she turned out even naughtier- throwing all their theories of boys being naughtier than girls right out of the window. She surpassed her older brother in naughtiness. She would copy everything her brother did and more. Eventually, when this little boy went to school, he would return with complaints from her teachers every single day. His parents were at their wits end, when suddenly he changed – almost overnight, he became the most well behaved boy. My friend says that people could not believe that it was the same destructive, ill-mannered child! Apparently, when he learnt that good behaviour was rewarded at school, he picked it up. This boy just needed to be guided in the right direction. Clearly, his parents had sent him all the wrong signals, he was never told, properly, about acceptable behaviour. Isn’t it sad, that a child had to learn all this at school and not at home? If you ask me, the parents are doing their children a disservice by not teaching them how to behave. Which child would want to be unpopular at school? Do parents want their children to be avoided by others?

If I had a penny for every time I hear a parent gloatingly complain about their little boy.. Ever wonder why we never hear a parent of a girl gloating about how she refuses to listen? Because I have seen badly behaved girls as well – but have just not hear heard their parents being proud about it! And what of all those well mannered boys? Are we saying that they are not boyish enough if they listen to their parents or do not go about beating people or are taught to share and play well with other children? And there are plenty of beautifully behaved boys!

While I do understand and appreciate that there are some differences in the way girls and boys behave. My little one, with no prompting from me, goes straight to the jewellery section, if she manages to catch sight of it. She loves pink, and is princess-crazy – despite my best efforts. At the same time, she recognizes the make of cars, she loves playing with trains on train track, loves to pretend at being Bob the Builder. I do think all this is a combination of environment, genes and natural aptitude.

There are boisterous boys and girls, just as there are quiet and calm, boys and girls. Why can’t we take each child as he/she is, and not as a sub sect of their gender? Yes, for sure, there are gender differences, but I do think gender has nothing to do with wild behaviour or misbehaviour. Badly behaved children or children who refuse to listen, are the way they are because of their parent’s parenting methods.  Can we please stop blaming the gender of the child for their (bad)behaviour?