The movie Dangal filled us all with pride.
And one cannot help but beam with pride at the accolades the Phogat girls brought in. Girls can achieve anything if they set their mind to it, even if it means tearing into a male dominated arena and emerging like shinning stars. While we always applaud the rise of girls in various areas, one thought has always bothered me.
What happens to the household chores?
Over the years, women have moved in to take on various male-dominated areas, but who is going to take over the household chores – namely looking after the house, cooking, taking care of the kids, laundry, buying groceries, vegetables, etc? (At least in India, these strictly fall under a lady’s domain.)
Well, the easy answer is – the maids, who are again women. These maids do their own household chores and then their madam’s. While madam has a backup in the form of a maid, the maids do not have any backup as they get empowered to become the earning members of the family. There are few smart ones though. I know of a maid who had got a help from the village for her chores. How soon before this becomes a norm? Ladies filling areas left vacant by ladies! How far can this go?
Mindset: Household chores is a woman’s responsibility
When I spoke to few friends about why this is happening, the reason we all concluded was – mindset. All of us have grown up with this belief that women are meant to take care of household chores. This thought has been ingrained so firmly that women are attuned to taking charge of the household responsibilities, while men without a moment of hesitation make way for them. And let me emphasize here that it is not just the men, but even the children expect a mother to champion most of the tasks at home. Why? Because that’s how we, our parents, and generations before them have been brought up. Never have we been taught that household chore is each family member’s responsibility.
By nature, men are providers and women are nurturers. However, with nuclear family and double-income being the norm, women have begun to assume the role of providers too. At the end of a hard day’s work, whatever said and done, a woman has to cuddle her baby and ensure that she has had a great day at school to feel completely satisfied. While sincerity is a norm, women are also ambitious in nature. This implies that they want to excel in every area of life – be it at the personal front or in career or as a daughter, as a friend, as a singer, as a dancer, as a baker – the list can be endless. They want to explore more and seek perfection and excellence in whatever they undertake to the maximum extent possible. And with not much support choices available in terms of daily chores, they go onto become non-stop multitasker and jugglers!
Perception: Household chore is thankless
In many cases, men have showed their intent to share the household chores. But these chores come across as thankless – doing the same things over and over again with not much satisfaction. Breaking glass ceilings may be very challenging and exciting for women, but the same cannot be said about household chores for men. While women march on the path to empowerment, recognitions, accolades, promotions and salary hikes define her success, but in household work, there is no such benchmark. Imagine, an excellent rating for doing the laundry diligently for a month – the clothes shone and the collars sparkled – or a 5 –rating for ensuring their 6-year daughter completed her homework, had her dinner and went to sleep on time every day! To add to this, most of the time, men’s performance in this domain is judged by women who, by nature, are extremely particular about these chores and quite difficult to be satisfied, leading the men with not much job contentment.
So now, we have women who are enjoying being providers but eagerly looking forward for support in household chores, while we have men who are trying their best to contribute but may not be excelling in their efforts as well as women may have done in the male-dominated areas. (Here, I have not considered men who strictly believe household chore is not their job.)
And with the world opening up numerous opportunities for women, the need for support has never been this great and urgent.
In such a scenario, where may the solution be? Well, the answer may lie in:
- bringing about a change in the mindset and
- in respecting household chores.
Change in the mindset
This is what every family can begin believing – “Household chore is every family member’s individual responsibility.” A breakfast can be fixed by a man while a lady is preparing the lunch. Or children can make their bed and dust their room while the mother is packing their tiffin. This is irrespective of whether a lady is a house wife or an office-goer. In a family of four, let’s say individual tasks take 10 minutes of every member’s time, but in case the members choose not to do them, it easily goes on to rob the lady off her 30 mins. Think about it! Chores when shared no longer become a burden on the lady, leaving more time for her to do worthwhile things.
Respecting household chores
When men, children or other family members decide to take over some of the chores, women will have to highly applaud this gesture, and appreciate their contribution. Even if they are not satisfied with the way the work is being done, women can choose to respect the fact that they are trying to contribute and be more accommodative. After all, by respecting their efforts, household chore may finally get the respect it duly deserves, and ladies the support that they have been eyeing for. A note for women: Even other people can choose the apt potpourri for the washroom. Just trust them!
(The views expressed here are strictly mine and you may tend to differ)