Life is not fair, get used to it, and quotes Bill Gates. The recent COVID-19 Audrey has affected our economic, physical and mental well-being in unprecedented ways. The lockdown has compelled not only the women but also other members of the family to stay at home. This change in dynamics of the house has, ironically, doubled the burden for women as they work-from-home and work-for-home. They are expected to do all the household chores early in the morning and then complete the office works. The boss, showing no empathy, burdens them with extra work since they are working from home. The woman is perceived to step into the shoes of a mother, teacher, friend and partner, employee, or a therapist of the family all at the same time. Alas! There is no option left rather than transforming oneself into a ‘Syndicating Superwoman’, who manages both additional work pressure and household chores.
The situation takes a wicked turn when even domestic helpers are not available to manage household work. The entire responsibility of cleaning, mopping, washing dishes, babysitting, etc. is not shouldered on the woman. Where the lockdown has given more time to some, it has also taken away the women's free time. Where but the lockdown is a vacation for some, the woman deserves a vacation after the lockdown. But in reality, once the pandemic ceases, office awaits her with overloaded work.
The debatable question here is that, Where is the man in these hard times? Why don’t they put forward their supportive hand? What’s keeping them from doing household chores? How is it that their behavior is in contrast to their belief in equality? Are they lazy? Or is it they are reluctant to do unpaid work? While the family permits women to work and become financially independent and empowered. At the same time, she is left alone to do the unpaid household work.
The blame can be easily placed on the Indian society and its orthodoxical norms; where the women cannot evade her housework and men taking part in the same is a novelty. But we often forget that it is we the seemingly ‘educated beings’ who nurture a patriarchal society. The stories of a man assisting his partner in daily chores depend entirely on individual temperament. Men’s associate themselves as the bread earner of the family and tend to equate work with monetary gains. Further, they are bought up with a mentality that men are not meant to work in the kitchen. Hence they generally refuse to share the work, thereby showing no empathy towards the overburdened women. Also, women have a trust deficit with their partners when it comes to managing home. The belief that they can do the work faster in the better, taking over men’s share of work.
Even the statistics have a sad story to portray. According to the Economic Survey, 2020:60% of women in India between 15-59 years of age are engaged in full-time household work, while the female labor force participation in India has reduced from 33.1% in 2011-12 to 25.3% today. Also, another staggering statistic from World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020, India ranks poorly at 112 out of 153 countries when it comes to women’s disadvantage compared to men in health, education, economy, and politics.
It’s now or never
It’s the need of the hour to realize that while juggling between caring and earning, women have to face various challenges. It’s not easy to complete all your office tasks and at the same time ensuring that your house is not a total mess. Performing multiple and conflicting roles and accomplishing them is only possible with the support of other family members. Couples should spare sometime to have an honest conversation and divide work according to one’s strengths, collaborate and swim through these hard times. The men should be coached on performing household tasks while not expecting to do everything with perfection. Dads should take active participation in teaching their kids and playing with them, thereby strengthening the bond with kids. This pandemic has made us realize that not every valuable and selfless is paid and there’s no shame in doing any unpaid work for your own family.