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Isn’t this adage relevant even today? Did you know that the world average, of the household work done by women is a whopping 68%? This is regardless of their 'status', i.e., whether they are Housewives or they Go-Out-To-Work or Work-From-Home or are Stay-At-Home-Mums. Whichever club they subscribe to, women do 68 out of 100 tasks/chores that need to be done, to run a household and its routine uninterrupted on a daily basis, worldwide.
Ironically for Women who don’t go out to work, despite the huge quantum of contribution made by women at home, they are called 'Housewives’ or 'Homemakers'. And once the babies arrive, it mutates to the perceived cooler Stay-At-Home-Mum or SAHM.
"What is this hullabaloo about work I say? What do women do at home all day? What’s in a word after all? And what does Gender have to do with it all?" I can hear the husband inquiring, in my head.
Everything, I say, because a woman has to do it all! The Full Monty I am afraid, even though the tools change based on the geography. All combinations of housework exist in a typical household today. From budgeting and managing finances to coordinating play dates and birthday parties; from cooking, cleaning and queuing up for water to going to the Parent-Teacher Meetings; from taking the dog out for a walk to bathing the kid and making the daughter’s plats for school; from running a load to packing the school lunches, from grocery shopping to kin-keeping (sending birthday wishes, calling and enquiring after relatives, sending get well soon cards and flowers for an unwell aunt); from homework supervision and pruning the bushes to care for the sick elder, for the poorly infant and visiting doctors, from dropping and picking from music classes to folding, ironing, sorting, tidying up, de-cluttering. Phew! An exhausting, endless list of activities, no wonder women are always so busy and so tired.
Interestingly while the SAHMs or Homemakers, work all day, they don’t have a ‘job’. A job is what you do for a part of your day, work you get paid for and one where you are expendable even if your business card reads CEO. Housewives work for themselves (family), they don’t get paid and they work all day. Usually because of a mix of ‘they want to and they have no choice’.
What happens to a Woman-Who-Goes-Out-to-Work? She works the now famous “Second Shift”, not only before she leaves for work but also after she comes back from work. However, when men go out to work, things change quite dramatically. It transforms into an all-encompassing animal to which all at home must subjugate. The housewife, the homemaker, the SAHM; even the Woman-Who-Goes-Out-to-Work, are all in attendance because the man of the house has returned from work! He has the gendered luxury to de-stress, to go straight to the Idiot Box to ‘Unwind’ whereas the woman starts her, unpaid ‘Second Shift’. Maybe that is why some women find cooking therapeutic, because once the woman is in the kitchen she can breathe deeply; almost yogi like, count to ten (thanks to the Self-Help books on ‘Anger Management') and cope with the question that’s looming in front of her, Why can’t I put my feet up and catch some Homeland or Game of Thrones, despite returning home after a long day at work?
Whatever a woman’s status, there is #NoAaramFromGharKaKaam! (No respite from housework). Household work continues to be ignored, unrecognized, unpaid and hers. And Gender has everything to do with it. (If you have any doubt left, please Google images of Household Chores on the World Wide Web and see whether a woman or man is doing them).
If you examine the Indian data, you will find that it is outright ridiculous. In our country, an appalling 87% of household work is done by women, which means that Indian men do only 13 out 100 tasks at home!! As per McKinsey Global Institute’s 2015 Report ‘Parity in gender’, the share of women engaged in unpaid work relative to men has a high correlation with female labor-force participation rates, i.e. the more time is spent by a woman on household work, the less are her chances of getting employed and paid and contributing to the economy (needless to say the betterment of the family).
In fact, it is fascinating to see the most progressive minded women, who stand up for every aspect of Gender equality, not insist for an unequivocal division of household work. This could be so for a myriad number of reasons, like our conditioning or our higher standards of cleanliness or simply a compromise to keep the peace of the house. This in turn reinforces the same stereotypes and societal beliefs outside the house, with the children, at school, at the workplace, in a meeting or a seminar, leading to a ripple effect. In addition it keeps women away from the workforce and unable to contribute to the economy. Imagine what our GDP would look like, if the time and energy of 60 million Indian women were freed up, they were able to reboot themselves and they start ‘Paid Work’?
Besides, isn’t a family a team? What happened to teamwork people? It is time to take stock of a woman’s work that goes unsung and unrewarded, and is never done. It is time to take the gender out of the household chores.
Let reboot ourselves, friends.Lets us start the #GharKeKaamChallenge:
1. Become conscious of the chores/tasks that being are done in our homes and by whom.
2. Let’s gender swap these chores, for two weeks and evaluate the outcome.
And do remember to share your findings and stories!
Anupama Kapoor, the original rebooter