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The changing flavour of caregiving

Anna Chandy, Sep 3, 2016, 10:58 IST
Earlier, a system of a joint families prevailed. But with nuclear families, people do their tasks themselves, handle their own money, and if they feel a particular emotion, they bottle it up as they have no one to share it with. Especially housewives, who have to stay home alone all day long, end up internalising it.
Why has depression become so commonplace among individuals today, especially among the womenfolk? There are several reasons pointing to it, a pivotal one being the fact that the Indian society is going through an era of transition. Many factors and characteristics of the society are changing. Let us take a look at how these seemingly innocuous changes are affecting our mental health in a serious way:

Joint families to nuclear families
Earlier, a system of a joint families prevailed. But with nuclear families, people do their tasks themselves, handle their own money, and if they feel a particular emotion, they bottle it up as they have no one to share it with. Especially housewives, who have to stay home alone all day long, end up internalising it.

Definition of success
Growth and success get measured by money and profit. Women are recognised in the society by what they get monetarily, by their ‘visible’ image and their ability to wield power, unlike in older India, where growth was equated with psychological development and spiritual evolvement. It used to be more about looking inwards to move upwards.

Relationship breakdowns
This is not as simple as a gender issue or feminism. Relationship breakdown happens because of partnership breakdowns. In relationships, individuals have their individual goals, needs, aspirations and timelines. They are unwilling to negotiate, mediate, or give up something of theirs for the relationship, as the self or the individual becomes more important than the relationship or the larger system. Sometimes, when the woman is earning more than her partner or is more successful than him, it leads to a break up.

Identity crisisWhen women come from a particular background and move into a completely new environment (especially post marriage), they have a high need to belong in their new environment. And in order to achieve this, they end up discarding everything that anchored them in the past. It is possible to have both the old and the new. One can belong without letting go of what anchored them. One can blend the new with the old. The past will provide anchor, and the new elements will provide growth, both of which are essential.

Achievement orientation stress
Everything is about achievement — how much a woman achieves, whether they have achieved, whether they are good enough. It’s about how much they earn, are they busy enough, are they using every moment available to them productively. There seems to be a constant paucity of time. People are in competition with almost everyone – peers, colleagues, siblings, and partners. Anyone they know, they are in competition with. Life becomes a constant race, and therefore psychologically the brain thinks this is a minefield and the bomb is going to go off anytime.

Fairy tale syndrome
Women want to have it all – good and comfortable life, attractive and compatible husband, children, more money than they can spend, professional stability and growth, recognition, a happy family life. Nothing is negotiable. And then they feel unhappy when they do not have this picture perfect life. The social and emotional support today is much lesser than what it used to be.

It’s unfortunate that the society has reached a time where people are so busy and so focused solely on themselves that they don’t even have adequate care to give someone. Or to look around and notice someone who is trying to tell them something’s not okay.

In today’s world, people don’t know how to get their ‘care needs’ met. Earlier, they used to get it from the family system. And it is taking a while for them to understand that the family system has collapsed and that they need to replace it with a professional system, just like medical support.

But what happens is that they do not know how to use these services because they are used to the old family care system. This is a care crisis that can be solved with the help of professionals in the care giving area.

People now need to move to professional care, because care is critical for everybody. And with this transitioning society, one needs to look for care from previously unexplored sources. To also understand that care may not be offered voluntarily, one may have to explicitly ask for it, which is a whole new concept.


(The author is chairperson of the board of trustees, The Live Love Laugh Foundation)

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