The moment I rush into my home or even before that, I have thousand things running through my mind. What has to be cooked at home for dinner? How do I clean the dishes when I’m dead tired? Are the toiletries exhausting in a few days? What groceries do we need to stock before they finish? The list is endless.
No doubt women do get some help from husbands with household chores but, keeping a tab on everything in the house, from coffee powder to toiletries, involves constant attention; a lot of thinking and planning goes into it. There is a ‘household gender gap’ where women who pursue a career have loads of work welcoming them when they reach home. Women work in double shifts; household work counts as their second shift.
Women do the emotional and mental work of maintaining the house and taking care of kids. They are constantly doing intellectual work and process information like researching about teenage challenges, child growth, finding the best paediatricians, etc.
They are worrying if their child is grasping and progressing well in school. They are constantly planning, organising and delegating to ensure that the house is kept spick and span. Getting in touch with the plumber to fix leakages, planning for breakfast, lunch and dinner, deciding who would attend the parents meet, etc. Every kind of planning involves time and efforts.
Globally women are doing work for which they aren’t getting paid. Melinda Gates observed this disparity when she travelled around the world with her husband Bill Gates. She chose to respond and share her views on this disparity. Every year Melinda writes a letter, which outlines their philanthropic priorities. In 2016, she dedicated a part of this letter to the burden of unpaid work that women bear.
She expressed her concern about the household work that women engage in, much of which is naturally thrust on her. Melinda in a letter addressing teenage audience says,
Unless things change, girls will continue to spend many more hours than boys doing unpaid work. She points out that this is the norm because society assumes that household chores are a woman’s responsibility.
It’s quite simple to understand but, no one delves into the issue though everyone notices it. It’s an open secret that no one wants to speak about. When a woman is busy cleaning the house and cooking for the family, consequently she has lesser time at her disposal to do paid work.
In rich countries, women might involve taking care of laundry and in developing countries, it might be pulling water out of the well or chopping wood. Whichever country you consider, household chores are supposed to be done by women.
In fact, men would be better suited for some chores as they are physically stronger and equipped to do them. If they take it upon them to do these household chores, they will have to give up on their leisure time and activities.
According to the study conducted by OECD and considering other sources, women spend more time doing household chores as compared to men in nearly every country.
Finland is one of the most progressive countries on the gender issue front. But, even Finnish women who sweep, scrub and change diapers spend around 137 minutes daily as compared to men who do it for just 91 minutes. Melinda Gates mentions that around the world women spend more time on unpaid work; on an average 4.5 hours, while men spend less than half that time. In India, the scenario is discouraging; women spend 6 hours, while men spend less than an hour.
This gender gap leads to women getting robbed of their potential. We have to think carefully how can this scenario change? It will, only if we teach our kids gender equal values. But, if children watch their parents and learn that there exists no gender equality amongst their parents, how would it affect them?
If this extra work is shared, the burden on women will be eased. Only then will they feel a bit relieved to return home. It would then be interesting to see what they put their minds into and how they use this time. This is the indifference towards daily efforts of women that even a word of appreciation doesn’t bother for them.
Women’s mind should not be fogged with values that ask them to feel obligated to take up the full onus of household chores. With this gender gap existing in every country, clearly the revolution towards establishing a gender equal society has just been started and we have a long way to go.
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