“Our work has never been appreciated by society” laments Mrs. Nahar, wondrous housewife and doting mother of two. Being an army officer’s wife meant that she had to make many compromises through the course of her adult life and then motherhood added to her responsibilities. She could not follow through with some of the many goals she had set for herself and in her voice today you can detect a sense of deep longing.
The transition of a woman starts from her infantile days as a young, carefree girl frolicking in her father’s home to when she is gradually groomed and ready to graduate onto becoming someone’s wife and a mother in her husband’s home; this had been the traditional psyche inbred into our heads about the roles of a woman. But, there are powerful misappropriations with that statement and the use of the term, ‘husband’s home’ belittles the illustrious role of women today.
A female is of equal substance in the semblance of the world and she goes through all the stages of life as do the male species. But the art of homemaking and being a stay-at-home-mom is the privilege reserved only for our species, not forgetting the miracle of motherhood. Then why is it that being a housewife is viewed negatively in society today? The popular explanation of traditional idealists is that in today’s dog-eat-dog world, money is everything. Mercenaries are aplenty and a person is adjudged to ‘have substance’ based on the money he or she earns. Being a housewife does not yield monetary returns so the profession is deemed unworthy of respect and merit.
En contraire, Mrs. Nahar argues that housewives are one of the more important resources of any nation but they need to be engaged in activity to avail of their full potential. By the time the morning rush is over and everyone has left for school or work and she has cleaned the morning mess, she becomes free for the day for a wide time frame of 11 am to 5 or 6 pm every weekday. “The backward mentality of condemning housewives is counter-productive and it is shame that our work is not appreciated by society”. They feel neglected and harbour resentment is her opinion and she says the in her role as a housewife, she knows that others like her should receive the credit which they are long due.
The tale of Mrs. Nahar and her eventual ease into the role of becoming a housewife is an enchanting one. She was enrolled in Dhaka University completing her Master’s in Philosophy when she got married to her husband. At the time, she was living in the quaint Rokeya Hall university residence and her husband, who was in the Bangladesh army, was posted in Jessore. Bangabandhu had just been assassinated and it was a confusing and torrid time for this couple. She was continually haunted by thoughts of her husband’s safety while still in the Hall and having completed her studies, she rushed to his side.
Hers is a story of love and compassion; she pushed aside her dreams for her husband and chose willingly to be by his side during the tumultuous times that arise for a young nation. “He was directly in the line of action of fire and I had to support him.”
She soon learnt however that being an “army wife” meant much more and she had to move around constantly when her husband was assigned different posts across the country and the life inside army messes was very refined and polished. It came with tremendous responsibility and she managed to thoroughly engross herself in samities-charitable organizations officiated by other ‘army wives.’
She also tried to intermittingly to teach in schools or work in banks but she could not keep them up for too long because she would have had to move again. Then, the birth of her son and eventually her daughter eased her into the role of motherhood and took up more of her time.
But the role of the ‘army wife’ continued and she continued serving on the samities; in fact, her adult daughter today says that she always felt as though her mother was a working mom because she was always so busy.
Then, after her husband’s retirement, she became detached of her travails in the army messes and she was now, succumbed to remain home all day. By now, she had mothered two highly successful children who had managed to stand out in their respective fields and she had more time to reflect on what could have been.
She thinks back on what would have happened if she could have worked in noted Bengali daily of yesteryear, Shongbad if her conservative family had not held her back. She had dabbled in slight student politics in university life and held the position of the Rokeya Hall unit’s vice president. She has fond memories of the times she spent in that memorable university residence churning out atta rotis for victims of the 1976 famine.
She had witnessed politics and the birth of the nation in front of her very own eyes in the university and her insightful message to women of today is that: “make sure you follow your dream.” She does not mean a dream that is filled with money because being one half of a married couple, your husband’s money is your money but think in terms of a dream that speaks to you; something that you need to do which you will not regret later.
She loves her children and her husband and she loved the work she did at banks and schools but she says that being a fresh-faced girl in Dhaka University, you build yourself up to expect great things. “Perhaps I expected too much out of myself that I had already set myself up for a possible pitfall and today, I feel as though I have not accomplished anything of magnitude.”
However, all is not sordid because if asked if she would have done anything different, she says “No, not in a heartbeat, I love being a housewife or more appropriately, a homemaker.”