Balancing roles of Mother, Breadwinner and Homemaker

Radha, an artisan from Nirman, is bringing up 3 teenage children alone.  Her husband is in Dubai for work.  She is an active member of her group, manages her household and looks after her children.  The biggest tension she says is dealing with her son who does not listen to her and her daughter who wants to dress like her friends but according to Radha, it is inappropriate.

Many of the artisans face similar issues.  So as part of the Global Dialog development program, SHARE encourages artisans to participate in Stress Management workshops each month. These workshops are conducted by Dr Arun Naik, a psychologist as well as an engaging speaker. Dr Naik started conducting these sessions in June and describes the journey of the last 7 months as “an exercise in communication.” At the beginning, he says, “we had no reference point and had to construct our own unique model. Along with the women, we decided to choose topics that were relevant to the women. The topics themselves are never presented in isolation – they are all linked. And the key to the exercise is to understand these links.”

  Dr Naik explains that “development” is the main objective. He elaborates that stress is never just mental because more often than not it also manifests itself in a physical form.   Kaveri Sawant, an artisan from Arpan, saw a marked improvement in her knee pain after her sessions with Dr Naik and yoga sessions at SHARE. She continues to practice yoga at home and says, “It helps keep me calm and also relieves my pain.”

Among the women, stress leads to tension which often leads to anger.  This emotion can interfere with their interactions with others, especially their children.   “The most common cause for worry among the women is their children and this is exactly why we conducted two sessions on parenting alone” says Dr Naik. In these sessions he used real life examples, suggesting appropriate ways to deal with different situations. Radha, mentioned above, has benefitted greatly from attending these meetings, sometimes along with her daughter.  She has three adolescent children whom she is raising alone while her husband is away in Dubai for work. She says, “My relationship with my children improved after I learned how to communicate regularly.”  Dr. Naik had specific suggestions to help her deal with her 11-year old son’s concentration problems in school.  Now she has a chart on which she awards a blue star if he did well on some task and a red star for any time he did not follow instructions.   This method has done wonders for her relationship with her son, who is now motivated to earn as many blue stars as possible, and the whole stress of scolding and reprimanding has been taken out of the equation.

Dr Naik points out that one challenge in conducting the workshops is the fact that most of the women are not used to writing or cannot write. He says, “We have to depend largely on verbal interaction. I try to explain everything in the form of incidents or real life situations, so that the women retain what is said in the workshop and visualize it better.” Explaining one such situation to Lakshmi, an artisan from the Sahara group, Dr Naik took her through a step by step imaginary conversation between her and her daughter, to show her that she could get her daughter to agree with her simply by the power of suggestion, without losing her temper and resorting to ultimatums.  Lakshmi says that she finds that the doctor’s trick of counting backwards from 10 to 1 in some situations has helped her keep her cool.

Dr Naik explains that most stress can be avoided with calm and reasonable communication. He feels that as part of a “Global” Dialog program, his goal has always been to initiate a healthy conversation between him and the women, and between the women and their families and coworkers. Effective communication, he says is the key to managing stress and living an anxiety-free life.

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