She Works At Office For A Pay cheque, But At Home, She Puts In Labour For Free. Why?

Why is it so difficult for us to value women’s labour both at the office and at home? Why can’t we see the work as any other paid labour rather than gender duty?

Rudrani Gupta
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household duties of working women
Many people justify housework done by women by saying it is just a fair deal in which men take care of finances and women look after the house. While this ‘fair deal’ is not so fair as it seems, what explanation does patriarchy have for working women who have to handle housework? Despite taking care of the finances, why do working women have to do unpaid labour at home? When men who are working are not expected to work in the house, then why women?

Priya is a school teacher, she is married, rides her scooty every day to work, setting a good example for women who hold themselves back after getting married. However, Priya’s life is not easy. She doesn’t only work at school but at home too. All the responsibilities of the home are imposed on her since she is the bahu. Priya wakes up early in the morning, prepares breakfast and gets her children ready for school. Then she drops the kids at school and rides back to her workplace. And when it is time for the kids’ school to end, Priya again brings her kids back.

Working woman and homemaker

In our society, no matter how educated a woman is, her worth is measured in terms of how good she is at housework. Taking care of the house and the needs of family members are considered the intrinsic duty of a woman. Anything other than this - education, employment and financial independence - is secondary to her role as a homemaker.

The pressure of being a homemaker is unfairly huge on working women. Such women not only have to exert themselves at the workplace but also at home. But the difference is that the former work is paid while the latter is unpaid labour that every woman is forced to perform. When a woman returns from work, she doesn’t have the freedom to relax, she is expected to leave the working status outside the door and enter as a homemaker in the house. She has to prepare food for everyone, serve it and then do other housework that has been pending since morning.

Amidst this, when do women exactly find time to relax and take care of themselves? When do they get their me-time to take care of their mental health? So it is undeniable that a working woman in our society is burdened with double the pressure of office work and housework.

Not valuing women's labour - neither in office nor at home


What makes the issue worse is the fact that neither the woman’s earnings are valued nor is she paid for the housework she performs. A woman’s salary is always neglected as unimportant and never enough to manage the financial needs of the family. Moreover, the fact that they multitask is also not valued enough to pay her respect and money. People assume that it is a woman’s fault to take extra labour of working while they already have the essential responsibility of taking care of the house. So no one really cares if a working woman feels exhausted after juggling two things. All people do is put the blame on women for being over-ambitious.

As a result, many working women end up quitting their job after marriage. According to data by World Bank their workforce participation has also dwindled from 30.27 in 1990 to 20.8 in 2019. Only 32 per cent of married women in India are working according to NFHS-5.

But how long will working women juggle two things without any respect for any work? How long will working women put their self-respect at stake and perform housework without any remuneration? Why is it so difficult for us to value women’s labour both at the office and at home? Why can’t we see the work as any other paid labour rather than gender duty?


It is high time now that we allow women the space to breathe in between juggling two responsibilities. It is time that we involve men in this multitasking business. Let us stop making working women feel guilty for taking up a paid job in addition to their unavoidable responsibility at home. Let us also stop pedestalling working women for multitasking so efficiently. A house’s comfort, the kids ">parenting and the health of the old members of the family are not just a woman's concerns. It is a man’s concern too. So both should be equally involved in it. Rather than asking women to lose their job, support them by valuing or paying for the unpaid labour she performs at home. Even if paying is not possible then at least working women should be respected and valued for working twice as harder as the men in the house.

Views expressed are the author's own. 

homemaker patriarchy at home