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HOMEMAKING & CAREER: SEEKING A BALANCE
Motherhood In All Her Forms
"While a father is superior to ten learned priests well-versed in the Vedas, a mother is superior to ten such fathers." (Mahabharata)
In Vedic times women achieved high status. Many worked inside and outside the home. They were Acaryanis (female teachers), Rishikas (females sages), swamis, philosophers, priests, striganaih dhanvibhih (women archers), saktikis (female spear bearers) and yoginis (female yoga practioners).
Some of the most well-known female scholars and Rishikas were: Ghosa, Lopamudra, Romasha, Indrani, Sulabha, Maitreyi and Gargi. Some of these women were married and some were single. They studied texts and performed rituals. The wives of male sages and teachers were often sages and teachers of equally high abilities. Lopamurda was a guru to the guru of her husband, Agasthya, a well-known Sanskrit and Tamil scholar, for example.
Today many women work inside and outside the home in a number of countries all over the world. More and more women are being educated, not just in Kerala, India but in many other locations worldwide.
Seeking a balance as a homemaker, community organizer, spiritual teacher, employee or employer is something which requires commitment by both partners in a marriage. Recently, successful women were studied to see what made the difference in their success. The number one important ingredient was a supportive spouse who supported the woman emotionally and helped with tasks inside the home and with child care for the children. This was also found to be true for men who were successful, too.
Balance becomes possible when a true partnership exists between the spouses. Equality and respect are very much based on the idea of true partnership and companionship. This is the ideal in marriage found in the Vedic tradition. "A woman," according to the Vedas, "is invited into the family 'as a river enters the sea' and 'to rule as a queen', over the other members of the family." (Atharva Veda xiv.i. 43-44)
Equality was one of the most important ideas in the Rig-Veda (Book 5, hymn 61): "The wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore, both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular."
I remember how my parents worked out their balance. My mother was a homemaker, but her back was delicate, due to a severe curvature of the spine. My dad did housework like the kitchen floors and cleaning the bathtub because of this. He hired an ironing lady before my teen years. My mother taught all children (male & female) to cook and do housework by our teen years. We made our own breakfasts and lunches in high school and college. She made the evening meal. We all did lawn work and put dishes away. I got paid for ironing clothes. My brothers would vacuum the rugs and carpets. My dad still washed floors and bathrooms. When my mother had migraine headaches, he would cook the evening meal, which often my mother froze on the freezer for this situation. My youngest brother and I took care of the my younger siblings when my parents had their monthly date at a nice restaurant.
My sisters and sisters-in-law have a different situation because most of them worked inside and outside of the home. My parents did child care and also some of my brothers and brothers-in-law are seriously involved with this, too. All of them have helped each other in various ways from snow removal, to painting, to lawn work. Even my sisters and sisters-in-law have also been involved with such tasks.
The idea here is to support each other, the whole family. Whoever can help with tasks should pitch in. Communication is very important in working out these details. It is good for all genders to learn how to perform all tasks they are capable of accomplishing. We do not have to fit into some stereotype of what someone else has decided we should be. I have one sister-in-law who owns a hair styling business. I know a wonderful Hindu woman who has a child care business out of her home. She is an example of a homemaker who brings in outside income by working at home.
In some households the woman brings in the most income and works outside the home. Some men in the creative fields, like photography, may work at home and take care of the children during the week.
Being flexible and creative is very important in balancing the two spheres for each partner in the marriage. When one person is doing too much, this in unhealthy. This is when you need to sit down with your spouse and see if a better balance can be worked out. This is a challenge in many marriages. One survey revealed that even in modern times men are not doing their fair share of housework. Most do 30% of housework when the woman works outside the home. This is where we need to see a change for the better for women. No woman should be exhausted doing too much. It is better for the marriage if she does less when this happens.
Remember that "women are devas, women are life itself." Women are divine Shakti on earth, as my guru says. Motherhood is very highly respected in the Vedic tradition. The Taittiriya Upanishad states, "Let your mother be the goddess to you." Do wonderful things for her on Mother's Day, yes. Realize that the best gift is helping her be all she can be every day of the year.
JAI SHRI MOTHERHOOD! JAI SHRI BALANCE! JAI SHRI CAREERS!