Monday, September 21, 2020

Opinion: Should married women go to work?

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The question of whether married women should take up jobs or not has attracted much attention lately and there are sensible reasons for advocating both the courses of action: going to work and not going to work. It would be fair to assume that this is by and large a middle-class problem. Amongst the working class, there is no taboo on women – whether married or single – taking up jobs outside the home whether it is in the field or the factory.

It is a normal practice for women to be helpmates in earning money. As working has ordinarily been associated with the need to earn money, the problem has not arisen amongst the rich classes.

This question, because it is associated with the middle class, has two important aspects to it: first the notion of respectability which hinders women from taking up jobs once they are married, and secondly taking up a job means spending time away from home and may thus interfere with the smooth running of a household and the bringing up of children.

When men feel that their wives should give up a job simply because of marriage, the idea strikes one as ridiculous.

This kind of attitude detracts from the pleasure of doing a job for its own sake and reduces it to a mere material contract. When a married woman takes up a job, why should it reflect on the husband’s ability to maintain her and his family or affect adversely his sense of respectability? Working outside the home besides providing an opportunity for self-expression also helps in the growth of personality.

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It gives a woman a much-needed sense of independence and self-reliance. Some men also object to their wives taking up jobs because they feel that when women work in offices or libraries they have to mix with other men and this somehow sullies them or poses a threat to their integrity. This is not really so and most balanced and mature women should be capable of taking this in their stride.

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And even if this is true then the remedy does not lie in segregating women from men or treating them as a different species but in educating menfolk towards decent behaviour. If a man respects his wife and the other women he meets or works with, this problem of social behaviour would be solved.

As long as working outside the home is not detrimental to the health of the lady concerned there is no harm in working. It is true that tradition has defined the role of a woman as a mother and as a wife and many women grow up to think that their sole duty lies within the house but in the present-day circumstances this is no longer practicable. Besides economic help which a working woman provides, there is an extra dimension to her character which makes her a better wife and mother.

Because a working woman comes into contact with the outer world and is likely to have a wider interest, she can help to create a healthy atmosphere in the home. With her increased knowledge and better understanding, she can also make a better mother. A woman who has to stay away from her home for considerable stretches of time and who has only limited time for her children will ordinarily try to do her best for them and to make the best of her time with them. If she has some imagination she can do a great deal for them.

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Women need jobs as much as men for a well-organized home does not need the housewife’s presence the whole day long and children also grow up, go out to school and later to work and they get married, thus leaving a big gap in the mother’s home. Thus marriage and mother-hood have no right to enslave a woman for a lifetime if they cannot provide the necessary degree of response. A job becomes a burden when it is undertaken under compulsion, or in ill-health, or if it makes claims which are difficult to fulfil. Otherwise, work should be a pleasure.

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Married women may find it difficult to take up jobs when they have very young children. In order to help solve this problem many employers are willing to provide part-time jobs and are also willing to allow two women to share one job. With the growth of opportunities, many married women have been able to start small industries or business which need not take them away from home.

With most governments insisting on limited families and with husbands willing to share household duties, the present age is prepared to accept a married woman who works. And women themselves with better educational opportunities are willing to accept the challenge of a job alongside marriage.

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