South Asia’s Good Girl Syndrome

I was talking to her about fishing for compliments from the men in our lives, and I told her that men are usually clueless, so usually it’s better to just ask them straight away… And said yes I know. I asked him (her husband) too if am I a good daughter-in-law!? And he said yes, you are a good enough daughter-in-law, you fulfill your responsibilities very well. She then proudly declared she doesnt even let anyone in the house drink water by themselves too, she is the one who brings it to them. She’s such a good daughter-in-law. 

Well good for her but I was a bit amused by her description. She was more concerned about her family image than her spousal or personal image. TBH, she’s just like many other married South Asian ladies, for whom being successful in life has become synonymous with being a good daughter-in-law, or so they have been taught to believe. It’s funny that while the focus remains on their marriages and their married lives, it’s more about  being a good daughter-in-law than being a good life or a good mother for that matter. And being a good person,  a successful, open-minded confident, outspoken person who knows what to do in their lives is an odd thing out. 

In a society where the reason for most men to marry is that “mum is getting old, she needs some help”, no wonder the wife is seldom thought about outside her pre-designated circle of duties. A woman is good enough till their is food on the table, ironed shirts in the wardrobe, and the kids’ homework is done on time. The emotional development, the psychological satisfaction and the personal social interaction of the females is a grossly overlooked arena in our so called family set up. 

The good-girl syndrome has plagued our society, where good girls dont question, and dont answer. They bow down their heads to the patriarchy, and often to other women too. And a good girl keeps the sanctity of chadar aur chaardeewari (household). In the opinion of general populace, having a career of her own by choice defies that apparently. If she harbours her own identity, her own financial stability, her psychological satisfaction, or her emotional tranquility, that is somehow bound to affect her status as a good homemaker girl. Because we don’t think our girls are capable enough to handle both. Or worse, we’re afraid they will handle it good enough.

And the irony is that this is not a blanket approach. The majority of the society has different criteria for their daughters and daughters-in-law. We’re talking about good, educated, reasonably stable households. They want both their daughters and daughters-in-law to be educated. But daughters so that they’ve a good future ahead of them, they make something of themselves; and daughters-in-law so they make good part of the family name. Where they’d praise their daughters for being intelligent, hardworking, high achievers and master multi-taskers for maintaing the work-life balance, suddenly the life has too much of work to do to leave room for anything else for the latter. Not even genuine appreciation, as well, this is what every good girl does anyway, doesnt she!? 

The society needs to stop confusing home-making with house-keeping. Marriage is a relation that is to provide a lifelong friend for yourself. Where two people help each other grow together and individually. The warm hearts and relations in the family are more important than the warm food. And a happy girl is a good girl. A better wife, a better mother, a better daughter-in-law. Let the partners in marriage decide for each other’s happiness first. The duties in the house will get decided about and done by themselves. 


Five Worst Things To Say To A Toddler’s Mum

  1. It is nothing new. Motherhood is supposed to be this tiresome.

When a mother is telling you how tired, fatigued out and deprived of sleep she is, she’s not looking forward to hearing from you that yeah…big deal! Chances are she already knows there is no escape, every mum has to give in herself and it is supposed drain you out. She is not looking to have your stamp on it though. She’s slaving away her days and nights. It means a lot to her. Do not belittle her sacrifice like that.

Frankly, tell someone that you’re running a fever and flu and you feel like you’ll die any second and you’re told that yeah every cold is like that. Suck it up. And tell me you don’t want to punch them straight away for their insensitive, uncaring comments. Yeah, mums feel exactly like that.

So next time someone wails about her unending chores and ever increasing stress, the best you can do is offer some physical help. If you’re family or a close friend, may be you could baby sit for an hour and let them sleep through it. If you cannot be there for them, offer some consolation in the form of words. And if you can’t even do that, nod and smile. Nod and smile. Do not crush her soul with any unappreciative comments. Partners and mothers in-laws and over judgemental ladies please take note .

2. My baby does not eat or sleep even that much.

Ladies this is not a competition… When a mother tells about how her baby does not eat well or sleep much, she is not actually looking to compare that with your baby. Babies are just like persons, everyone is different. And every mother’s struggle, although being same in essence, is still different. Do not weigh out who’s the better baby or mother for that matter.

3. I or someone I know had it worse.

You might have twins, or an elder child, or a large family to cater for, you may be working two jobs, or some other responsibilities, but that does not mean it makes any other person’s struggle, and parenting abilities any lesser, even though they might appear to be complaining a lot. We’ve all been on the other side, or will be someday and someone who’s clearly trying their best does not need to be reminded that there are better people out there. A little boost of confidence goes a long way.

4. You look dull.

Thanks for the compliment, really, Stop!! Nothing could break a woman’s heart more than knowing she is looking less than good. We all know new mothers have little time to give themselves. While some are lucky to have well kept houses, kids and selves, not everyone can afford a good night’s sleep or a visit to salon to keep up with themselves. And when you sip your latte with your manicured hands thinking this is no excuse to carry that worn out look around, please refer to point no. 1.

5. Your newly gained kilos suit you ok.

Let’s say this is something you shouldn’t say to any woman ever. Unless you yourself aren’t looking to shed those pounds, or unless you can say she’d not look better in her slimmer self, (and who doesn’t), please don’t compliment her with words that both of you know aren’t true. In fact refrain from unsolicited comments on weight issues altogether, to anyone, man or woman, at any point. You don’t know how sensitive the issue might be and how important it is for their self-image or self-esteem. If you must compliment your friend for something the next time you see them, see the point above.

All A Girl Wants….

I have always been an avid reader. As far as I remember, I would always have something to read in my hands as I would sit in front of TV, or just chilling randomly with my folks. I couldn’t ever fall asleep without a good number of pages taking me into the slumber valley as I lay in my bed. As all things change with time, so did I. Books and novels got replaced by my smartphone. Long, thrilling, engaging fiction got replaced by cooking recipes, tips and tricks of having, feeding and raising a baby and a ton of other mommy blogs and portals. Mommy blogs, where mothers from all around the world talk about kids, and cooking, and cleaning, and home decor, and relationships, and whatever it is they want to talk about any given day.

Subscribed to a ton of blogs, and reading a lot more through their facebook feeds, I realize how similar mums are the world over. There are thousands and thousands of different women out there, but as mothers, as wives, as partners, they are all the same. We are all the same.

And the biggest thing that brings us all together, in this big virtual sorority forum is our need to have an ear to us. Regardless of our stories, our circumstances, regardless of the size or the dynamics of our families, our education or professions or social status, our choices and our compromises, there is one thing a woman can never be without. The desire to talk it out. Whether it is the simple happiness of baking a good cake, or the disappointment of having a ruined one, she has to tell it to someone. Women sharing how to help babies sleep during afternoon, that one ingredient that cleans all the nasty stains, the perfect recipe of a fried chicken or a new mason jar DIY idea, it’s not just information. It’s these ladies pouring their hearts and tiny portion of their lives out. It is these ladies being heard. (I must admit a lot of things in my life are easier now thanks to listening to countless lovely ladies out there sharing their wisdom).

Bless all the women out there working hard to make the houses homes, living the life that would make others’ more meaningful, or maybe I shouldn’t say ‘others’, because whoever is worth giving up the life we initially decided about is actually not other, but our very own like no other… but reading so many takes on relationship and homemaking, parenting and studying and cooking, I wonder if the let out the internet provides was available to all of us before it too?


How many of us have the satisfaction of pouring out our days’ highlights in words, not through a blog, but through lips. While we run around kids and kitchen, and many of us balancing it with a profession too, at the end of the day, how many of us would have the time and the contentment of sharing our tiny accomplishments, our minor worries, our stupid hopes and our even stupid fears? How important it is for a woman to talk it out..and how can one make oneself heard, and felt, and accomplished and satisfied at the end of the day? Whom do you de-stress with? Who is your gossip partner? Who do you look forward to sharing your day’s story with? Maybe your husband, or daughter, a friend, colleague or a neighbour? What gives your day’s story closure? How do you let out the narrative and be re-energized to go on for one more?