"Sharing The Load" During Coronavirus Lockdown
Created by Reshmy Warrier Updated on Apr 13, 2020
Our country is in lockdown. And here we are in a situation never faced before. For a moment, let me take this opportunity to touch upon a subject that is playing out for real in most households. Maids have gone on indefinite leave. A lot of what we considered as basics look like a distant dream. And you have to make do with what you have. This may mean children, older people, Mommies, and Daddies working from home and if it is a larger family, then, even more, family members and a ton of daily, mundane household chores to get by with no horizon of an end to the lockdown.
Our generation has grown up in households where gender roles and differences were indeed demarcated. In most cases, the Daddies were the breadwinner while the Mommies were the homemaker and child caregiver. Today, 48% of the workforce in India is women. And what has that translated into? The role of the woman has expanded. She is not just a homemaker but also a breadwinner. But has the role of the Dads changed? Answer still in most households is a 'No'. Men have stayed put in their patriarchal roles of breadwinner because they are not “cut out” or "brought up" for managing homes. Or as some may say, maybe they “earn more” and hence more entitled to stay put in their original roles.
However, that is not because women do “lesser” work at their workplace. The harsh reality is that it has probably only become tougher for a mom today to be the superwoman she seeks to be. Or take the case of the woman who chooses or is forced to stay at home. In that case, she takes 100% responsibility for home care.
I think today is a better time than any other day to relook at mindsets and gender roles. Especially since the load has increased, also it is that much more difficult with every member more who are part of the home lockdown.
Our Home Care & Childcare Indeed Only The Role of A Mom?
Is this the right example we are setting for our sons who will expect the same special treatment when they grow up? Are they going to be "brought up" in the same manner? Honestly, I think we owe more than that to our children. They need to learn independence and strength. They need to learn how to co-exist and share the load, be their sons or daughters.
As parents, now more than ever, we must introspect on the examples we are setting for our child. I see many jokes and memes floating around on social media where men joke about entering the kitchen or partaking in household activities that are completely alien to them. And subconsciously, we are conditioning our children to believe that a woman’s rightful role is homemaking while a man is of a breadwinner.
Now let's understand this better and whether it makes sense to hold onto that today or in the future. Have we really set up our children for successful and healthy relationships by letting these mindsets breed?
First of all, it is important for every member of the household to be cognizant of the fact that roles need to be revisited from time to time to ensure we are evolving as a family and as a society. Responsibilities of taking care of a house, the young, the old, and taking it forward as a unit is not the responsibility of the “mother” alone. It has to be shared. No one person is more entitled than the other. There are various chores in a house that can be done by young and old alike, Moms, and Dads alike. Also, for households with a young child, it is even more important to get the child to start helping without feeling burdened by it.
What You Can Do in Daily Household Chores?
As someone in the household who hasn’t participated before, here is what you can do (applicable to young/old, moms/ dads) -
- The word “help” needs a rethink. What we need to add to our home vocabulary is the word “share”.
- The question to ask - What can I do today that will make me an equal party in taking care of the house or children?
- If you do not know how to do something, it is ok. But it is never too late to learn. So don’t forget to ask for help in learning something new from other family members.
- With the internet now, there is nothing you can’t really learn or do to surprise your loved ones.
- Do all chores so that it is flexible and easier for the other person. Don’t be that person who says, this chore is not for me or some such.
- One can eventually divide chores by day or by people. But it should not place an undue load on any one person. That is all.
- Most of all, learn to appreciate the toil that goes to ensure you have clothes to wear and food to eat. It was mostly a thankless job in the pre-COVID World, unfortunately. Let that not be true anymore.
- The best gratitude that you can show is by actually taking the load off the backs of the people in your family.
Last but not the least, while we pray that COVID-19 gets contained and the lockdown gets over, please do extend the good habits you learn today for yourself and your child.
| Apr 17, 2020
The notion that "this is not my job" is a mindset, often inherited in India - I don't know about other countries-. It is unfortunate. There is no such thing as "my job" or "your job" except in offices where duty lists are drawn up and given to the desks, which also carries the omnibus clause "and such other duties as may be assigned by the Manager/supervisor from time to time. Nobody has so far protested about this saving clause(for the "management"), not even any trade union! If kitchen work is the job of the women, why is it the world over the kitchen work in large, medium and even tiny restaurants and hotels or other eateries by whatever name called, largely handled by men? Do these "chefs" handle the kitchen work in their homes too, is not known. One of my colleagues in office who had come along with me on a tour on official work, once told me that he does not wash his clothes at home (there were no washing machines then). "Why should I do it, it is not my job!" he averred. I was amused. I did not agree. In my house, each one used to wash one's respective clothes, except those of children which used to be washed by one or the other of the elders. A home is not like an office. At home, the work is "shared" by mutual recognition of the fact that running a home is the joint responsibility of all. I also find some strange habits of people. Many Indians working in foreign countries do their domestic work without any "domestic help". But once they come to India, they badly need one! Why? In a large number of households the womenfolk themselves are steeped in the belief that their men should not be burdened with domestic chores except eating and sleeping! They are mainly responsible for the mindset which has taken deep roots in our society.
| May 04, 2020
Gender role stereotyping and discrimination starts at home. A conscious reorientation and analysis of our narratives are definitely helpful in catching these invisible threads that weave out these prejudices. Great article, great tips! I'm sure this has led to rethinking in the minds of the readers as to where we are going wrong in not just the way we are bringing up our children, but, where we are sowing the seeds of biases into their heads. Thank you for making us think!