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Even today doing housework largely remains a woman’s job. It is high time every family member owned and did their share.
Doing house work regularly is essential for a healthy and well functioning household, but few find it pleasant. Although the last 5 decades have seen an increasing number of women stepping in to traditionally male dominated roles, women have largely remained saddled with domestic duties. This hampers their careers, by reducing the time they can spend at work compared to their male counterparts.
Many families expect women to take care of the housework, because that is how it has been for centuries. It feels natural, not just to the men, but to the women as well. True, nowadays men ‘help out’ with housework, but many consider it a favour, rather than their responsibility.
House work is a very general term used to describe a number of jobs, but I would like to separate it in to three main categories:
The tasks in the first and third category should be fairly split between husband and wife depending on how demanding their jobs are and how much of the housework is outsourced. Older children can also pitch in with simpler tasks. We shall discuss category 2 later.
Before we had kids, my husband and I both worked in the US. So we split up the chores. I did the cooking, he did the dishes. We did shopping, laundry, and house cleaning, together on weekends. Doing the housework together was romantic. We would gossip while dusting furniture or folding laundry, hold hands on our way back from the laundry room and compete about who did a better job of cleaning the bathroom (we had 2). House work became a way for us to bond.
Many SAHMs are expected to take care of cooking, cleaning, child care, shopping, etc. which often amounts to multiple full time jobs. Just because a woman decides to take on a lions’ share of the domestic duties does not mean she should do them all. SAHMs need reasonable working hours just like people doing paid work. This can be achieved by family members pitching in or hiring help.
We returned to India just before our first baby arrived. I decided to be a SAHM. An infant requires constant supervision and care. With my husband working full time, we decided to outsource the cooking and daily house cleaning. That left me with a manageable task of child care, and a few other domestic tasks.
My husband took care of a few things like giving the baby a daily bath as his responsibility in child rearing and to bond with the baby. When we go on vacation we split the child care responsibilities 50-50, because his work does not follow him on vacation but mine does.
There are many ways to split the housework, by hours, or by tasks that each family member is best suited for. It should be discussed, so no one feels overwhelmed or taken for granted. And when the chores have been distributed by mutual agreement, each member must take responsibility for their share.
At my daughter’s first PTA meeting, a lady said “I have a demanding job. So the maid takes care of the housework. But my daughter won’t put away her toys or shoes. She thinks the maid should do it all. I want her to learn to be responsible. Can you teach the kids the importance of putting away their stuff?”
Irrespective of whether or not we have the luxury of domestic help, kids need to develop good habits. It does not take much effort to put away a pair of shoes, or a couple of toys, or a dinner plate. But if these things are not taken care of right away, the mess accumulates and takes on a frightening quality. Good habits can only be taught by example.
So the tasks in category 2 should be done by every family member. If kids learn to put away their things, it will help them be organized and efficient, in their academic and professional lives too.
Picking up after the kids in many house holds takes up a lot of a woman’s time. But even children as young as 2 or 3 years old, can be taught to pick up after themselves. My daughter has been putting away her shoes and toys and dinner plate since she was 2, and cleaning up liquids she has spilled since she was three. The earlier kids are taught these things the less painful it is.
Sometimes, category 3 results in educated women sacrificing or delaying their careers. Some do it willingly and others are forced by circumstances. In the later case, the consequences of a long break, on the career of both partners should be considered, before deciding who should make the sacrifice.
I quit my job to become a SAHM by choice. Still, my husband asked me if I would like to have a monthly salary. I laughed. But he was serious.
He said “I know you are doing this because you want to. But it is hard work, and there will be days when you will feel frustrated. A salary will remind you, that you are not taken for granted. Also having been financially independent all this time, I don’t want you to suddenly feel dependent on me. I don’t want you to hesitate to spend because you see our money as my earnings only. It is not. It is only possible because you are doing this. ”
Many SAHMs who realize that sacrificing their career was the best course of action taking in to consideration all options, still miss their pay checks. They miss their work being acknowledged and their financial independence. Housework and child rearing are work as much as any other and deserve financial compensation.
So, next time you feel that you are being taken for granted as the woman of the house, when there are expectations that the house work is all your responsibility, and the others – husband, children, and other family members – just ‘help’ you out when asked to, please put your foot down and remind them that the house, and everything that is to be done to run it is their responsibility too. That it is not enough to merely ‘help’ around the house. That they need to take responsibility for the house work that they can do, and then do it without being asked.
Image source: shutterstock.
Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to
This is an excellent post Kanika. This is the way it should be in current times. It is possible to have this system of shared duties and responsibilities at even the most basic level of organisation- such as family. A starting point is to be careful to not overvalue or undervalue certain jobs and roles within and outside the home. Marriage is a partnership and family is the basic social unit of a society. If societies must function efficiently, families become the building blocks that will set the foundation firm and right. Spouses must support each other in their efforts within the home and share the load. Children must also be made to pitch in their efforts appropriate for their age towards- the “common” good. Often in homes where its financially viable to outsource some tasks to cleaners or nannies, members continue to be quite clueless about the concept of pitching in and sharing the load. The woman often has some tasks taken off her list when the paid helper is around but when the helper leaves all those tasks again fall on her shoulders. The other new age trend is for kids and spouse of a working woman dumping all the traditional burdens/tasks of the homemaker’s role completely on the helper (leaving that person over worked, underpaid and unappreciated too) All members in a family must share the load and parental roles should be seen as largely interchangeable too.
Thanks for reading Sonia and sharing your feedback and insights. I strongly agree with you and your thoughts are very well articulated.
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