Why taking care of the house is harder during this pandemic than usual

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I see my mother sitting in front of the laptop, juggling between her work and the kitchen she takes care of, children she tends to, and my father, that she ought to look after. This has been the struggle she and a large number of women working from home are going through. My mother has been working for as long as I can remember, the only difference is that it is now that I finally understand how much she actually works, for home and for the office. While we try to not disturb her but this constant habit of asking her where anything as mere as my book is or my dad’s files are or what’s for lunch, are a huge source of distraction for her.  With everyone relaxing and having all this free time, I often hear her saying, about housework during pandemic, and all the other work she has, “How do these people get any free time? I am more busy than I’ve ever been.” 

This lockdown has affected everyone differently with some having trouble coping up with their mental health, there also have been people with difficulties to survive. While staying home has been a blessing for some, others have been victims of domestic violence. Some have taken up new practices, some have walked miles to be home. With some people trying out new cooking recipes, some have not eaten in 2 days. This crisis has adversely altered every individual’s living situation. 

While health care workers, journalists and policemen have been out on the streets taking care of the people and fighting the virus, the women at homes have been fighting new battles.

This pandemic has led to an increase in the inequalities among men and women, both working women and home-makers. Being locked in with all of our family, has decreased the time women take out for themselves or to work in peace, which somewhere down the line affects the independence that a lot of women have fought for. Everyone has had to lose out on their personal space; but ultimately they still are being left with a huge chunk of free time. Whereas, most women like my mother are loaded with extra working hours at office and at homes as they are the ones in-charge of everything- right from the morning tea to the ‘goodnight’ milk, and keeping up with everyone’s demands and schedules. Work in such an environment often gets side-lined which results in increased stress and breakdowns.

I’ve seen my mother always facing the issue of playing the dual-role, where she does not just have to work harder in office in order to be acknowledged but also take care of the family in all sense as it’s always been the women that are the “care-givers” of the house. Even when women go out and work along with men in the family, they have an assumed responsibility of dealing with house-helps, taking care of children and taking leaves from work to fulfil their duties at home. Somehow, women are supposed to give the household more importance than their work, because according to a typical heterosexual mindset, “Yeh sab toh ladkiyo ke hi kaam hai”. 

Working women, while working just as hard as every home-maker, face challenges within and outside their homes. With the offices asking everyone to work from the comforts of their homes, they fail to acknowledge that every house is not filled with comfort favourable for work. Work from home has blurred the lines between personal and professional work. My mother ends up being distracted every few hours with the housework and hence, loses focus from both of the work roles and fails to give her 100% in fulfilling any of the two responsibilities.

Dealing with the household chores and keeping up with work can not just be demanding but can also be a reason for careers to suffer.

A woman’s work, plenty of times is considered secondary to that of a man in the house, which could be one of the reasons why women would be worst affected by this pandemic because with all the job losses and economic crisis there would be a shortage of money in every household for daily help and nannies. Thus, someone would have to take the hit and end up staying home to look after the children  and the domicile. 

A large number of women are working today, in both unorganised and organised sectors of the economy. With the cases of domestic violence within the households rising, this virus is no more just killing people who have contracted the virus but also those who have to be around their abusive husbands/families 24 hours everyday. While some are not able to work at all in this lockdown, others are facing a travail in working from home.

Also Read: 13 million single mothers lead households in India

With none of the comforts, space and environment of the office mom finds it strenuous to fulfil her day-to-day official responsibilities from a constant bothersome environment. Due to this, she has to work overtime or over the night in a hope to work with some peace as everyone else sleeps soundly. Women also face a major crisis of earning enough post lockdown, as with the prevailing wage disparity between men and women; and the pay-cuts taking place, it might take long before women can reach back up. 

Women, today, live under the weight of a hundred presumptions laid onto them by this patriarchal society and a lot of them don’t even question or realise, when taking care of the household just became their responsibility. Men shouldn’t just be helping women in this emotionally and mentally difficult but it’s time that the responsibilities of the housework be accomplished by both and so should walking ahead, hand-in-hand. 

Views are the author’s own.

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