As a child, I had working parents. It was a routine for us to come home and eat rotis
prepared by either our dad or mom, depending on who out of both came earlier, for lunch. Growing up in an environment where the lady of the house was working and where the man of the house helped with the household chores too, it just seemed the natural way of life for me, Men and women share responsibilities, right? Gender equality.
It is only when I got married that I realised that what happened in our household was a rarity, not the usual state of affairs everywhere. I married into a family where men did not even get up for a glass of water, entering the kitchen was, by far, a distant possibility. The women did the household chores, all of them, Maybe that was because all of them were housewives and the roles therefore had been demarcated, I thought. The men took care of the tasks outside the house while women were in charge within the house. But I soon learnt that what maybe had begun as a division of labour had now resulted in permanent labeling of tasks as a 'man's job' or a 'woman's job' and the fact that I was a working woman seemed to have no effect. Thankfully, it did not take my husband long to understand that I expected his participation in handling the household chores and he started sharing responsibility, saving me the trouble of having to argue and prove my point. For the rest of the family, it was just frowns...the new member was 'manipulating' the son of the house.
That is the situation in most of the households. The men feel that their job is to cater to supplies and fix things and the kitchen and laundry are the woman's domains, working or housewife. The son-in-law shall be served a hot cup of tea when he returns from a day's work while the arrival of the daughter-in-law shall be awaited so that she returns from work and directly enters the kitchen to prepare tea for everyone. I ask why?
We became modern enough to send women out in the world and walk shoulder to shoulder with the men, but at home, we still want them to prepare perfect dinners and wash clothes. Makes sense? Doesn't to me at least. Here's my two pennies worth take:
- #ShareTheLoad of your working wife!!
The next time you stand up in a meeting or a gathering and espouse gender equality, don't forget to remind yourself that gender equality begins at home. Your wife faces the same stress at work and gets equally tired. If you don't have energy to do anything after work, how does she? And if she can work a couple of hours after work at home, well, you can too! If you can afford, hire help. If not or you don't want to, share the responsibility of household chores. The work will get done faster and you will be able to spend some quality time together, both while doing the chore and after it. It is a reason good enough! And I did hear this....
- #ShareTheLoad of your housewife!
Even if your wife is a stay-at-home homemaker, your duty ends after 8-10 hours while she works 24x7. You can give her a breather by helping her with the laundry or helping out with other household chores. Try working around the house one day, doing what she does...trust me, it is not as easy as it looks.
Even if a woman is a housewife, she deserves a little time off.
I have seen many women, especially working ones, who toil from morning till night and crib that their husbands don't lend a hand at home. I feel they are wrong too. Why not ask? Instead of being gloomy at not getting help, tell your man what you expect of him. Sit down, talk and divide responsibilities among you. More often than not, I believe, it will work.
Often, we hear a woman give the excuse for her husband who doesn't help around the house, 'He tries to help but makes such a mess, it takes me longer to clear it. It is better I do it myself.' Let him make the mess. Let him make tea and leave the containers open on the shelf. Let him do the laundry and spill detergent on the floor. Ask him to help you in clearing the mess afterwards. He will soon start doing it fine. If he is willing to learn and help, encourage him.
Do not pass on the stereotypes!
I saw this advertisement the other day and it reminded me of an incident
My daughter was playing with my friend's son and came running to ask for a glass of water for the boy. I was happy to see her being hospitable and praised the gesture, to which she replied,'No, I told him to go and take it himself but he said it is a not a boy's job.' I was shocked.
'There is nothing as a boy's or girl's job. Take this glass for him, not because he is a boy, because he is a guest in the house and don't forget to tell him this.' My daughter smiled and took the glass happily.
Children see and imbibe what they see. We cannot bring up our children with hypocritical ideologies of gender equality and gender stereotyping. What children see and observe in their homes is what they imbibe; let us give them an environment that harbours and encourages equality, not only in ideology but also in actions. I plan to do that for my daughter.
-I bring her kitchen sets, but I don't tell her that she must learn cooking because she is a girl; I tell her that everyone must know how to cook basics to be able to be independent, whether it is a boy or a girl.
-I shall teach her to wash her own clothes,not because of her gender, but because everyone must wash their own inner wear. When she sees her mom or dad put the detergent in the washing machine, she shall understand that laundry is just one of the jobs at home that mums and dads do.
These gestures may seem small but they shall go a long way in removing the stereotypes we are fighting today. The dramatic change in gender norms that occurred in careers over the past decade needs to make appearance inside our houses too. Let us pass on the legacy of equality to the next generation. I am doing it, are you?