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Work From Home and Work For Home

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

Art through Getty | Katie Martin
Written by Mekhla Mithal

According to a report titled “Predicament of Returning Mothers”, released by Ashoka University, ‘Seventy-three percent of Indian women leave their jobs on giving birth’. Even among those who manage to return, 48 percent drop out within four months of rejoining the workforce. For many reading this article today, this won’t come as a surprise. However, it’s not just having a baby and motherhood that leads women to pull themselves out of their careers but an unequal distribution of work inside the houses.

The multiple roles expected out of women that could include anything ranging from being a mother, a homemaker and an employee, all at the same time, often compel even the most resolute of women to drop out of the workforce. And this pandemic, which has led to the increased responsibilities on women- of children along with the accelerated amount of house chores, has indeed bitten a lot many careers so far.

We can witness the changing attitude of society; the gradual support for people of all genders to pursue a career and a more accommodating attitude toward gender identity and fluidity. However, when it comes to the domestic front (daily chores and work load) most traditional values and gender roles still persist.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data of 2019, women in India spent 352 minutes per day doing domestic work, 577% more than men (52 minutes per day). The widening of this gap during the lockdown won’t come as a surprise considering all members staying at home 24/7 only heightens the workload being handled by women.

With schools and daycares shut due to the pandemic and classrooms being virtually set up at homes, the duty of the mothers to take care of their children along with the household has increased even more. Moreover, this scenario has turned out to be especially more stressful for women of several households, as a result of non-availability of house-help and indistinguishable pressure of both ‘work from’ as well as ‘work for' home. No wonder this unfair and unequal distribution of chores led a working mother from Mumbai to urge the Prime Minister to encourage men to do an equal amount of house work as women, at least during these testing times.

From cooking and cleaning to taking care of the elderly members of the family, women undertake more unpaid household work than men do for a month of paid work- which isn’t accounted as an economic activity or even respected for the most part. As a result, a large number of women miss out on an equal opportunity of full-time jobs or enough time for rest and leisure. This indirect pull out of women from the workspaces is catastrophic not just at an individual level but also for the society. Indeed, the first step is to challenge the gendered distribution of work within households, from an early age itself. As for parents raising young boys, they need to include their sons in household errands instead of simply calling them ‘women’s responsibility’.

In a household with young children, there is absolutely nothing other than breast feeding of infants that a man in a household cannot take responsibility for. From cleaning to cooking and taking care of the children, a man can do an equal share of work as a woman does along with equal considerations of his career. This load on women and the hard work they put both inside and outside their houses doesn’t just need to be talked about but also shared in reality at all times and not just as a token on Mother’s Day or birthdays.

A homemaker, often, isn’t given the equal respect of her working counterpart. They’re not seen as strong or feminists. But feminists don’t exclusively reside outside the households, in work places and rallies- protecting women’s rights and fighting for equal opportunities in work places and educational institutions- but also inside humble homes, where the need to implement the ideals of feminism in reality is of utmost importance.

While modern households do teach their young children about equality, western culture and liberalism, they should also practice the same by not discriminating the chores on the basis of gender. Young fathers especially need to step up to take equal responsibility within the homes to not only set a good example but to also provide a helping hand to their wives, who shoulder the duty of many errands whilst fostering their children all alone.

With workload increasing for both men and women in workplaces as well as households, it is time for both to shoulder responsibilities together and do away with the conscious and (sometimes) unconscious gender biases that still prevail within many of us. It is time to draw the true meaning of equality from within our homes and inculcate these new set of values in our children from a young age. It is indeed time to not only accept but implement this new normal that is founded on the principle of what equality and partnership truly means.

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