Snippet of a conversation I had last month which lingered on my mind:
A female relative (who will remain unnamed) meets me after a long time and says to me “I always tell my daughter to be like you. I use you as an example of who she should become. She should be less like me and more like you to be successful in life”.
And the only response that I came up with at that time was “I get what you want for her but are YOU ready to pay the price for her change?”
You see, in a society where patriarchal norms dictate the majority of choices that women are allowed to make, to choose to be independent is not easy. To choose to put your career first is not only frowned on, but actively discouraged. The average woman may have a job but to have a career -that she puts her time, attention and energy on, that’s inconvenient.
The problem is women themselves are the gate-keepers, the purveyors of these patriarchal norms that limit choices and options. When a woman succeeds against all odds, a high number of those in opposition will be women.
To be independent, to be free to make her own choices, is to also be willing to let go of these bonds that hold us back instead of propelling us forward and THAT perhaps is the hardest job of all. To a mother it feels like a betrayal when her daughter decides that she does not want to make the same choices that her mother did, because she aspires for different things in life. To a sister, it might feel like competition, what was good for her is not good enough. To in-laws, its a hallmark of how poorly the woman has been educated by her family on her duties and responsibilities as a wife and daughter-in-law.
These are not easy hurdles to overcome. They are not impossible either. However this transformation of going from someone who complies with all, to someone who lives by his or her own standard is not a straight or easy road. Its full of dark twists and turns and soul-wracking decisions. A complete uprooting of all that one believes in, before one becomes something more.
In the end worthy as it is – sometimes the jagged edges of those cut-off ties will come back to haunt, to cast a shadow on an otherwise sunny day. And it’s in those moments that her daughter will need her to stand by her and validate her choices with her support.
This transformation is a choice and I hope she has the courage to make it for the sake of her daughter.