Sarthak was playing on his play station when I returned from office.

“Hi mom!” he shouted without taking his eyes off the sinful gadget.

“Hi son! How was your day?” I asked, as I advanced to plant a kiss on his forehead.

“Wait, wait! You will ruin my game,” he yelled at me, shaking his head away from me.

“Sarthak!” I cried. “Can’t you leave your game for a few minutes when I’m meeting you after so many hours?”

“Mom just two minutes, please!” he pleaded.

“Ok get me a glass of water dear,” I said in a tired tone.

“Why are you bothering him for a glass of water? Trina, go and get a glass of water for your mom” directed my mother-in-law.

Trina, my six year old ran to hug me and then marched towards the kitchen.

“Mom, you will spoil Sarthak with your protective love. He is ten years old and you still don’t allow him to participate in household chores,” I protested.

“He is a boy, Preeti. Why does he need to learn household chores? His wife will be there to take care of him when he grows up,” she said in an irritated voice and walked away.

Sarthak grinned on hearing the words of his grandmother while I muttered under my lips to conceal my annoyance at her remark.

After few hours I called for my husband, as I was about to lay the table for dinner.

“Sameer, can you please help me lay the table? Dinner is ready.”

Even before Sameer could answer, my mother-in-law sprinted towards the kitchen, uttering the words, “Sameer you take rest. You must be tired from office work. I will lend a hand to Preeti.”

I couldn’t believe her. He was tired and what about me?

Hadn’t I reached home too after slogging in the office entire day but here I was cooking meals and tending to kids’ needs?

The next morning, I told my husband to drop the kids to bus stop as I had excruciating menstrual pain. As Sameer picked up the school bags, my mother-in-law’s eyes widened.

“Won’t you get late for office if you go to the bus stop?” she immediately poked.

“It’s ok Mom, Preeti is not feeling well. I’ll quickly go and drop the kids.”

“Give the bags to kids and I will escort them to the bus stop. You can catch up on your newspaper,” she directed her son as she handed over the bags to children.

I quietly witnessed her discriminating behavior.

My mother-in-law was very clear in her mind about how the male members of the family superseded the females. Her words and actions often offended me and made me feel inferior but I never confronted her out of respect.

However, when her male favoritism started impacting my kids’ mindset, I decided to set some parity rules in the house.

It was time that my kids understood that both of them were equally important members of the family- none less, none better. It was imperative to teach them gender equality lessons through our actions at home as I neither wished my son to consider himself as superior and treat the opposite gender disrespectfully nor did I want my daughter to accept herself as inferior to her male counterparts in the society.

“Mom can’t do this without your help!” became my anthem for ensuring their participation in little ways like cleaning the room, serving the guests, laying the table for meals, putting things at the assigned place etc.

I had to regularly reinforce with words like, “Mom and Dad both are the pillars of the family,” or “We both work for the happiness of the family,” or “We love Sarthak and Trina equally so both of you should help in the family tasks.”

The best thing with children is that their innocent minds take the shape of the moulds they are set in.

My mother-in-law found it difficult to swallow that I chanted the #Eachforequal mantra all the time. She even showed her resentment by saying “God knows where is the society headed. In our times, men were the ruler of the house but nowadays women want to stand tall against them. I wish I don’t live to see the day when women will rule the society!”

With the kind of grooming that had been given to my husband and its constant reiteration by his mother, I didn’t expect much transformation in him but he appreciated the changes in kids that were slowly becoming visible.

Gender equality has to begin at home. The changes that we wish to see in the society have to be initiated at the ground level. I hope my children will be a drop in the ocean towards that affect.

©Vandana Bhasin

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