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An Open Letter To Men During This Unprecedented Lockdown

Posted: March 25, 2020

During this 21-day lockdown, we will indeed need every person doing their bit. It should start from home – with men doing their share of housework.

Dear Men,

(And I am specifically addressing men from comfortably off families, with a monthly pay cheque and the ability to stay home during this lockdown.)

As India goes into a 21-day lockdown today, you are going to be stuck at home for the next 3 weeks. Like most Indians, the vast majority of you will be living with families, and these families will include women – mothers, wives, sisters, daughters

If you are one of those men who shares the load, who doesn’t have to ask his mother or wife where his socks are, then this post is not for you. (But keep reading, you may still want to share it with fellow men; remember, they will listen to you more than they would to a woman. Sad, I know, but that’s how it is for the large part, even today).

If you are one of those men who wonders what your stay at home wife/mother does all day, or why your wife who works outside the home can’t cook “like my mother always did”, then I genuinely hope these 21 days teach you a few things, among them being:

  • Food like you ate in your childhood takes a substantial amount of planning and time to produce. Even if your home employs a cook or domestic worker, a woman in your life is most likely the one who puts in the mental and/or physical effort to make this happen.
  • Cleaning up is a job in itself. It’s not just a ‘small thing’ in itself, an afterthought. And especially now, when we are all worried about contagion, about disinfection, it will take more time than before, not less.
  • Laundry does not happen magically. Even when there is a washing machine, it takes time to load, unload, fold clothes etc etc. The minutiae of life adds up.
  • Childcare…it includes everything from the practical work of convincing a recalcitrant child to eat, to making sure the schoolwork gets done, to the emotional heft of parenting. In these 21 days you may notice that it’s also a job that’s often needs things ‘done right now’. That hungry child cannot wait, nor will a bruised knee clean itself. Perhaps you may even stop dissing your female colleague who needs to leave work at 5 PM sharp.
  • Running a home seamlessly involves enormous amounts of planning. Now that we are all worried where our groceries are coming from, perhaps you will appreciate how much time and effort goes in on a regular basis into ensuring these things.

Doctors appointments, dinners with friends, any repairs needed to the home…you will probably defer a lot of these to the end of the lockdown. Maybe the discomfort you endure will help you think of the work that usually goes into making these happen.

What’s more, none of this work halts for a Sunday. Perhaps being at home for a full 3 weeks, without the usual comforts of domestic labour that we are all used to, will help you better realise this.

And I am not even talking about situations that require exceptional work, like caring for an elderly family member with health issues.

I have been hearing so many people extol the virtues of positivity and pulling together – that at a time like this, we all need to be there for each other.

Indeed we do. Let’s begin with our homes.

Top image is from an ad for Ariel encouraging men to share housework

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