“All women households”- 25 January 2012

Three generation women lived together – grandmother, mother and daughter. There was no male member in the house since quite some years and was an exclusive female household. The two adult members were working for a living as they had to support themselves and that would tell on the child many times. Who would sacrifice the time for the child in case of emergency such as ill heath, school related demands was an issue that the two senior ladies would conflict on- would the grandmother be kind enough to take leave and care for the child or would she not. The mother’s job was less flexible in nature and she would find it difficult to spare time and the grandmother could but would not as she was still very ambitious in her own career and would not be too willing to spare time to care for her grandchild in times of need. She also had an attitude that ‘she has done enough of her duties in bringing up her daughter single-handed and now would do no more. She wanted respite’.

The mother was the one who suffered the most- being stuck between two generations. It was hence the mother who had to take cognizance of the needs of both generations. That was proving tough on her mental health. The physical strain of doing a job, being responsible for the family and running the show successfully was quite a tall order for her, more so, because of the attitude of the grandmother, which was dominating, demanding and unrelenting. She many times felt frustrated, helpless and hopeless in the situation. The mother could not put any demands on her own mother and nor could she expect any help from her daughter. Being single she had the dual and triple responsibility of taking care of all three along with her job which was being compromised all the time. Another important economical angle for the mother was that she was living in her mother’s home as she did not possess property of her own. That made her dependent upon her mother and hence submissive. She was forced to listen to her mother’s dictates. She had no place to go as her husband had left her with no property and had left debts instead which she was still struggling with. ‘Curse her good-for-nothing husband and curse her fate’ was her inner cry at most times.

The daughter had her own legitimate growing needs and demands. She was growing up with a lot of negative emotions and skewed up attitudes. She was quite insecure about her future and pretty negative about her life. She became flirtatious in her behavior with boys as she realized her own power of her physical beauty and prowess. She began flouting all social norms as her home training lacked the control, discipline and watchful eye a young one needs. She became rebellious, independent and head-strong. A good thing one might think but along with this came other attitudes such as poor  family values and low levels of tolerance which is much required for adjustment anywhere whether family or society. The daughter was going astray. This may not be the case of every home that is all- women with no male member. This is one case study which highlights some interesting dimensions.

This could be the scene in many homes in modern times where women are facing the double bind of being the sole bread winner and running the house too. Single headed women households are soon becoming a common enough feature and the stress is showing. They face extreme economic, social and psychological hardships. With no property to call their own, with low incomes compared to men, with social stigma and social attitudes, they have to fight it all. A battle it is- on all fronts. There is a great need for social awareness for such households. Building community houses for social support, having crèches and child-care facilities for such women and providing other social welfare measures to them would go a long way in providing the much needed support. This is a vulnerable group and needs serious thought and action.

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