A friend asked her husband if she had life insurance. He didn’t even look up from his latest smart phone and said– what’s the use? She didn’t say anything then but she thought to herself:
“Really what is the use? I don’t earn any money. What is the use of insuring my life? If he dies we will lose the only earning person and we need to replace him with cash.
What do I bring?
I gave birth to the children, breast fed them. Lost my job in the bargain cos the corporate sector doesn’t look kindly upon a work life balance for working mothers.
Cleaned them and fed them and played with them and kept them from dying on an almost hourly basis. Sang to them, entertained them, read to them, bathed them, dressed then, took them out to the playground. Pushed swings, stood below the slide, sat in the sand pit. Rolled balls up and down. Assembled dolls houses and made paper dolls. Cleaned, fed and sang to sleep again.
Took them to play school. Picked them up. Cooked special treats. Read some more and sang some more. Played some more. Accompanied them to all the birthday parties. Sat through ridiculously loud music, ate unhealthy food and got them home sticky but happy. Planned special treats for them, sat through Disney movies and then Harry potter. When one was 10 and the other was 6 finally I could think of working as a volunteer at the playschool from 10 to 1. But two months into that my mother- in- law fell ill.
So I had to give up and stay at home to supervise her care. We kept a full- time carer but there was still so much to be done. Special food, supervise the bath, the toilet, the cleaning, prevent the stealing, read to Ma-ji every evening, take her for her clinic visits.
She passed away after 2 years. By that time I had been unemployed for almost 12 years. I had not updated my skills nor attended a single training programme.
Then my older child developed some academic difficulty. I needed to help with her studies and also get the other one to do her homework. There was no time to even go for my evening walk any more. I joined a yoga class but my morning maid couldn’t come after 9 am so I had to give that up too.
What do I need life insurance for?? What is my life worth?”
I listened to her. She was not unhappy, or ranting, just thoughtful. Introspective. Telling me through her recounting the story of countless educated women who had to give up their careers because of the expectations that they would manage the household and be an unpaid care giver to everyone in it, coupled with the complete lack of contribution by the husband or other family members to anything domestic except the earning.
It wasn’t going to make her feel better to know that she should blame the patriarchy and neo liberal capitalism for her unfulfilled potential, although that was true.
Instead I told her – You know what? The value of your life simply cannot be measured in money and hence it is not possible for you to have life insurance.
She smiled, knowing that I was trying to put a positive spin on things.
Just then her phone pinged. She looked at it and showed me the message.
‘Happy mother’s day’ it said.
From her bank.