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As a society we’re not very good at giving of ourselves as an act in itself. It’s usually driven by rituals that involve token giving. We need to learn to give simply because we have some extras we can share.
I remember, a decade ago, sitting on a tenth floor office overlooking flyovers and busy main roads and being so bored. I remember thinking, “Man, the apocalypse would at least be more interesting.”
Given that dystopian YA was having its moment in the spotlight back then I probably had visions of running around ‘volunteering as a tribute.’ Running around, surviving the end of the world sounded quite alright in comparison to my junior management job.
I suspect if COVID happened then, I may have had a different, maybe a more resilient view to it. There’s this meme going around with words to the effect ‘you have only one chance to stay home and watch TV to save the world…don’t screw it up.’ I would have thrown myself wholeheartedly into this endeavour.
Things are different now. I’m older and also a little tired, having worked all these years to build the life I have now. All said and done it’s a good life. One I value because I worked hard for it. Being in the midst of a global pandemic doesn’t make me happy to stay at home nor does it invoke my sense of adventure. Mostly it makes me mad.
I’m angry because despite the years it took to build this life that I have now, it was reduced to nothing when my primary worry in those early days of lockdown was whether there would be enough food in the shops.
My husband and I would have managed somehow but what about our two year old? At the best times what is palatable to him can be counted on one hand – with fingers to spare. I’m angry that I was worried about what I would do if the milk supply got disrupted. What if I’m not able to get atta, rice or other bare necessities? It made me mad that even as I worried about other people hoarding and exhausting the supplies in the stores, my instinct was to do the same. It makes me angry that this extremely brief brush with (imagined) food insecurity will probably impact my buying behaviour for years to come.
But mostly I feel sick knowing that what I experienced so briefly is a reality for so many in our country. A situation just made worse by the lockdown and the accompanying loss of wages. I cannot imagine looking at your sleeping child and not knowing where her next meal will come from. I cannot imagine a lifetime of meal planning based on affordability or availability rather than personal preference. I can’t imagine not being able to go home when we need home the most.
My privilege mocks me.
Even as I planned to hoard I didn’t have the answer to simple questions. How much atta, rice, oil do we go through in a month? One never had to think about it. When I wanted more, it got delivered to my doorstep.
I was angry, and quite ashamed. Never more has my privilege pricked and pinched me that when the lockdown started in late March. Even as we deal with the mundane work, housework and keeping an energetic toddler engaged while we work, I read about good samaritans and feel ashamed that I’m not actively doing anything. And I realise I don’t know where to start.
Maybe we should start with the women and men who run our homes, doing the tasks we don’t want to do. Let’s be honest, we pay them less because, there’s so many of them. If one goes, there are many to take their place.
But what is the point in complaining about their work ethic, quality of output when there is literally no incentive for them to be better. We pay them a pittance and expect them to give us five star service. It doesn’t work like that. At what we pay them they have no incentive to better their services. Think about it from your perspective. Would you do your manager’s job for your junior’s pay?
I want to leave you with a final thought. Let’s stop considering our help as an expense. This goes specially for us women. We can do what we do because they pick up all the work that would have fallen to our lot if not for them. If you do your cost benefits analysis you will find that what you give them is a bare fraction of your salary. If they don’t show up that costs you money in paid leaves. They are an investment so you can make more money. Treat them accordingly.
Image source: YouTube
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