Shawwal / Dhu'l-Qa'dah 1423 H
Volume 16-01 No : 193
Camps \ Workshops
Career or family? Muslim women have always lived in this dilemma. But today, a large number of Muslim housewives are re-discovering their careers and defeating depression, points out Mohammed Hanif.
In a city like Mumbai, where space crunch is ubiquitous, the nuclear families are being reduced to Micro families where even an addition of even a single member leads to further microcosm. Undoubtedly, it leads to emotional trauma and the most vulnerable are the Muslim housewives. Having sacrificed a lot including a prospering career, many Muslim housewives suffer from acute bouts of depression.
According to Shahida Khan, a psycho-analyst, many times, the pressure of bringing up children in the urban set-up is taking its toll in the nuclear families. “ Many housewives come to me to discuss the red underlining marks in their children’s report cards, of ‘enriching relationships’, ‘building self-esteem’, ‘dealing with depression after a career was lost to motherhood’. The story repeats itself in other psychiatrists’ clinics in Mumbai and even in civic hospitals’ OPDs (Psychiatry)”.
“The number of housewives seeking help has definitely increased in the last few years. Their problems are not new, so this trend has more to do with the increased awareness initiated by the media,’’ says Dr Anand Nadkarni, a psychiatrist with the Institute for Psychological Health (IPH). So what are the issues that bring housewives to the medical counters? “Mostly, they concern relationships - with the husband, parents-in-law, children. Parenting is a high-stress job. Most mothers come with sons and daughters. Others come when these relationships have worn out,’’ he says. Besides, there are women tackling depression. “Women who decided to let go of careers for full-time parenting often see themselves faced with considerable unoccupied time some 20 years later,’’ says Nadkarni. Civic hospitals are reflecting the trend too. Though statistics were not available, a psychiatrist from a major civic hospital said that their department has been observing a steady rise in the number of housewives who walk in for OPD counselling. “The issues generally are occupational, marital, inter-personal relationships, financial etc,’’ the psychiatrist says, also attributing the rise to increased awareness. “We have women coming in and telling us the feeling of emptiness as their children are leading their own independent life,’’ the doctor adds.
But one trend that stands out is the small, but rising number of housewives who approach psychiatrists not because they have any problems, but because they are seeking to develop themselves. “Like seeking a counsellor’s help to build confidence, increase self-esteem, efficacy in work and the like,’’ says psychiatrist Harish Shetty. “Women in general are more open to seeking help for issues of mental health than men are,’’ he says, agreeing that increased awareness has caused this trend. So, when 45-year-old Rukshana Shakil felt a bout of depression after the marriage of her two children, she decided to re-launch her career as a freelance jewellery designer. “Before marriage, I had a flourishing career as a freelance jewellery designer. But I had sacrificed it as per the wish of my in-laws. Now, both my children are settled and I find myself lonely. So my husband gave me permission to re-start jewellery designing like before,” she said. Like Rukshana, more and more Muslim housewives are returning to their career which they sacrificed for the upbringing of children. “Housewives crowd all workshops on anger management, assertiveness, building relationships and the like,’’ says psychologist Savita Apte. “Some are also here to get over the emptiness of their existence.’’ Says Advocate Farah Khan (38), who consulted Shahida Khan after she suffered severe depression as her two sons left for Australia for further studies:
“ Looking after children and fulfilling their needs was the motivation which kept me going and helped me overcome the trauma of abruptly ending my career. Now both the sons have gone abroad and I find a vacuum difficult to fill. Hence with the encouragement of my husband I am re-starting my practice, to overcome the emptiness in my life,” she said. For those who have a understanding husband and in-laws, the journey back to career is smooth though with lots of hard work. But those whose husbands are conservative and not very accommodating, the depression becomes worst.
Dr Tehzib Shah, ceased practising as a doctor, after the delivery of her first child. Both her sons are now doing engineering in Karnataka. Dr Tehzib finds herself with nothing concrete to do. “I asked my husband Tahir to allow me to practice, but he counter argues saying what’s the need as he earns enough to take care of all their needs,” she said. “After a phase of the depression, Tahir gave me permission realising what practising means to me, not just a profession or a vehicle to earn, but an urge to do something constructive befitting my qualification”.
In many cases, the insecurity of the husband becomes the hindrance in accommodating the spouse’s desire to work. “The male ego dictates that if the wife becomes financially secure, they will become too independent for their comfort”, said Shahida Khan. Ironically, even after decades of living together, most of the couples failed to understand each other’s needs and earn respect and faith. Marriage has various stages and one has to work on to make every stage work. Perfect harmony between the partners is essential so that depression does not creep in.
Zaid Baig, a hotelier and his wife Malika have developed the perfect understanding. Married two decades back, both of them together manage a restaurant. When their children took over their family retail glass business, Zaid began to spend more time at home. “I realised how difficult it is adjusting to life when one finds nothing concrete to do. My wife who had learnt catering by attending cooking classes suggested the idea of opening a Thai restaurant. Initially I was very apprehensive, but watching the confidence of Malika, I agreed. She managed the kitchen by arranging professional cooks and suppliers and I, the administration and customers service. Today, we are doing better than even our family business managed by our children,” says Zaid. Observing her husband’s depression, it was Malika who arranged finance and rented premises. “Since I had worked as an accountant for one year before marriage, I did not lack in confidence. I feared that if I do not take concrete action and do something, I may lose my husband to depression. Now together we are managing the show,” she said.
Depression is one of e-age’s most dreaded and fast catching up ailment. The best way to beat it is to take the cue from these spirited women who have the courage to re-discover themselves and defeat depression.
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