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Why Don’t Men Take Any Initiative At Home When They Easily Do It At Work?

At what point, do men - smart as a whip and raring to go in their careers, become these little babies at home incapable of doing a job without being told what to do and how to do it?

Why don’t men take the initiative at home? Because they think it is their right to buy their free time with the unpaid labour of their women – wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and of paid domestic help?

The best piece of advice I received in my first job at 23, when I was sitting idly at my desk, was from a male colleague who told me – look around, learn by observing and don’t sit waiting for instructions. Take initiative.

At what point, do men – smart as a whip and raring to go in their careers, become these little babies at home incapable of doing a job without being told what to do and how to do it? The same men in corporates, having been entrusted with strategic decision making power affecting many lives and millions of dollars seem to think 10 steps ahead and deliver action without being told.

Beyond all that is done at home by the woman, the wife, the mother, the daughter, and is the invisible emotional labour. Emotional labour is like the sun’s rays. Invisible to the naked eye but intrinsic to the existence of the planet or the home.

Men don’t ‘get’ emotional labour, because they do so little of it. Explaining it to them is also a form of emotional labour.

What emotional labour, you ask?

Take for instance, reminders

Reminding family members of stuff each person needs to do, sounds easy, but try doing it consistently for a year and see if you don’t feel resentful.

Also reminding is never once. You will need to remind partner, child, parent, domestic worker, multiple times to get the job done. And guess whose fault it is if you forget to remind for the 34th time and the deadline for the task is over?

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Or food, even if she doesn’t cook herself

Even if the cooking was outsourced to a domestic worker or a cook, the responsibility of meal prep still lies on the woman’s shoulders.

What does meal prep entail? Well, everything from

  • keeping track of the provisions at home,
  • restocking groceries and produce,
  • making menus for the week or deciding what must be cooked for each meal,
  • managing leftovers so nothing goes to waste,
  • not repeating the same dish in the same week,
  • being cognizant of every family member’s likes and dislikes,
  • working nutrition into the meals,
  • allowing for wastage,
  • taking care of the elderly’s food requirements,
  • making sure the food is cooked and ready for the earliest eater of the day and also for the last person,
  • cleaning and clearing up.
  • Also add endless cups of tea and coffee, packing lunch boxes etc.

Phew! And then rinse and repeat the next day. Food management in the kitchen is a relentless thankless job until eternity with nary a day of rest.

In many homes, family members wait for the woman to return home from work to ask her the silliest question – what’s for dinner? Or announce – I’m hungry, the minute she enters the house, as if she and only she holds the secret key to the kitchen or the fridge.

These are fully grown, adult men who have probably just returned home after closing a multi million dollar deal.

Is men’s taking of initiative at work to do with the big bucks they get for it while home is a thankless job?

Which brings the discussion back to where it started.

Why don’t men take more initiative at home, when this is the first lesson they learned to become successful in their careers? Is it because there’s big bucks involved at the workplace by taking all that initiative? What’s in it then for the woman who takes does all this at home?

There is this whole stereotype about Men being from Mars and Women from Venus perpetuating the fallacy that the genders are so un-alike that they could be from different planets. This is then further misused to justify men’s inaction or inability to understand what women need and want.

It’s not that hard really. Tasks around the house don’t need to be told to any adult who inhabits that space. The insistence that men are not mind readers and must be told in clear terms what needs to be done is a lazy excuse for not displaying initiative. Who tells the woman then? How does she know what needs to get done?

Men need to do chores at home, of their own accord. Period.

Telling or instructing what has to be complete, is delegation. When a task is delegated, the original owner of the task is still responsible and accountable for the execution of it.

Any man holding a job anywhere in the world is fully aware of this distinction – that of ownership and delegation.

So, when a woman delegates a task to a man, or in simple words asks for his help – he is only executing her instruction. It is still her responsibility that the task is completed correctly and on time. No surprise then that most women would rather do it themselves, than put themselves through all this emotional labour for a task that is 60-70% done by them anyway.

While these are a couple of examples there are a ton of other emotional labour a woman does that is even less visible – remembering family members’ birthdays and other special days, planning reunions, birthday cards, gifts, visits to the elderly or a sick relative etc. The list can get very long.

True partnership occurs when each one brings their 100% to the relationship. A home is well run when everyone contributes fully without having to be told, or reminded or supervised. When each one takes initiative and believes it is their responsibility to get the job done.

Image source: stills from the short film Juice

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About the Author

Poornima Kulathu

I am a banker, author, poet and an intersectional feminist. Speaking up on social issues, mentoring and coaching and cooking up a storm for friends and a certain strapping 21 year old boy are what read more...

14 Posts | 30,688 Views

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