As the clock strikes five, my mother jumps out of bed and starts her morning routine. Some lukewarm water, some tea and then some nutritious juice. Immediately, the unending cycle of house chores begins. She cooks, cleans and performs various chores throughout the day. Even when she goes to bed at night, she has her eyes set on what needs to be cleaned the next day. Her mind constantly thinks about how the next day is going to unfold until her sleep-deprived eyes shut down due to fatigue.
Many women in our society have a similar routine. There might be some changes here and there but the common part is that women never relax. They are always working, serving and providing care. Every person who works takes some time off to unwind now and then. But women in our homes never get to do that. Why?
The cycle of exhaustion is even worse for working women because they not only have to take care of the house but also perform their duties at work. They are expected to be multitasking to an extent that they are not able to derive a single second to stretch their legs and enjoy their me-time. Women have no Sundays when they can relax for an entire day without any chore staring back at them. In fact, providing comfort to others in the family on Sunday is an extra task that women have to perform. Even during festivals, weddings or parties, women are not free. They are constantly engaged in work so that others can have a good time.
Right to relax: Women deserve a breather
It is not just about the housework, even in offices, women have to work twice as harder as men to earn the same paycheck. This is because women have to battle the stereotype that female employees always prioritise their family over office work.
The problem is that society always perceives women as tireless machines. Sometimes they are paid for their labour and sometimes they have to perform unpaid labour. Serving others and providing unpaid care are considered to be their duties or the purpose of their existence. And even if women take up paid jobs, they do not have any respite from their duties towards their home.
It is not just having a window to seek me-time despite being engaged in work at home and the office. Women actually feel guilty when they do have some time to unwind. They have been conditioned to see even a moment of respite from their duties as a sign of slacking off, making them a “bad” wife or mom.
But, the inability to relax, due to sense of guilt or lack of time, can have poor consequences in women’s life. They can be exhausted to a limit that affects their mental and physical health. Without relaxation, women will lose the ability to prioritise things in life, especially those that of their interest. The absence of me-time can also lead to a lack of self-care which will ultimately affect women’s health. Moreover, women can end up struggling to prioritise work thus feel overwhelmed. When this happens, instead of offering empathy and help, society comes up with criticism that women cannot handle office jobs and are fit to be in kitchens only.
Women are indeed capable of multitasking and working hard. But this doesn’t mean that women should lose their right to relax. Just because women have the ability to manage both work and household related chores, it doesn’t mean they are exploited to an extent that they lose their own worth. Even if women are capable of multitasking, no one has the right to demand so much labour from them as to exhaust them to their core.
But before society, women themselves need to stop feeling guilty or restless whenever they can find some time to relax. It is okay to put one’s feet up every now and then. Don’t let social conditioning guilt trap you into overworking yourself. Take that break and relax, because you deserve it.
Views expressed are the author’s own.