#Opinion

Time To Normalise Sick Leave For Homemakers

Pay for household work
Sick leave for homemakers – I don’t know why we don’t discuss this enough. Yesterday, I saw my mother exerting herself in the kitchen while also complaining about the pain she had in the abdomen. Even though I told her to rest, she didn’t listen to me and kept on saying, “If I don’t cook, what will everyone eat?”

At that time, I just couldn’t stop myself from comparing my work life with my mother’s. If I suffer from fever, I have the liberty to take a day off, rest and join back later. But do homemakers, who are usually women in our society, have that freedom? Why isn’t sick leave for homemakers considered important?

What happens at my house is not something out of place for people who reside in this society where homemakers are never provided with their due credits. Just a few months ago, a picture surfaced on the internet where a woman could be seen cooking in the kitchen while being on oxygen support. So it is clear that disrespect towards housework and homemakers is a common phenomenon in our society. But what is the reason behind it? Why isn’t housework valued as much as a paid work?

Why housework is not recognised as a paid job

The major reason behind this is the stereotype that housework is the duty of a woman which she should fulfil without fail. Often, housework is posed as a service in return for the safety and security that women are provided by the men in the house. And just because housework is related to femininity, it is not valued as something that requires respect and paycheck which are reserved for everything that is ‘masculine’. You will often hear people say that housework is easy, that it requires less time and labour compared to the paid jobs that men do.

Even if some people do recognise the hard work that goes into household chores, they slide into the same stereotype by pedestalling women as an idol of sacrifice and their work as an example of selfless service. Women also internalise this idea and push their limits to be sacrificial and selfless in order to prove their worth in the family and society. They ignore their health and always prioritise the welfare of the family.

But let us understand that housework is not easy. It requires as much mental and physical labour as a paid job. In fact, when calculated and compared, housework is like a never-ending loop in opposition to the paid job which has a limit of time and workload. Homemakers do not get a Sunday when they can keep themselves from the kitchen and relax for the day. Neither do they get the pay and respect that boosts the confidence and encourages the people doing paid work. Also, let us face it that everything depends on housework- a good day at the office, at school or at home.

Why sick leave for homemakers is important

Then why homemakers are not recognised as professionals who need a salary, sick leave, Sundays and other incentives that paid jobs include? Why do we undermine and ignore the importance of housework? Why do we take women and their service for granted? Just imagine if one day the women of the house fall seriously ill how it affects the entire dynamics of the house. You don’t get your breakfast on time, you don’t reach your office/school on time, you don’t get a clean house once you return and much more.

So shouldn’t housework that is the basis of the entire system of society be valued and paid? Shouldn’t women, or even men, who perform the household chores have the liberty and time to take care of and prioritise themselves? Especially for women who manage both housework and office, sick leave from housework or leave because of the workload in office should be normalised. We need to stop taking housework for granted and recognise and value the labour that goes into it.

Views expressed are the author’s own