I was supposed to attend my grandfather’s death anniversary ‘puja’ but because of unavoidable circumstances, my brother and I are staying back. If you live in India, you spend your entire life dreaming about your parents/relatives/neighbors leaving you alone. There is a collectivist culture which has its pros and cons. One of the cons is that there is hardly any chance to spend your time in solitude. You learn a lot when you are physically alone…but in India, you don’t really get a chance. Indians (even strangers) ask too many questions and there are too many connections. Even if you live in a remote area there will be always someone who is your aunt’s brother’s wife’s uncle or whoever. So when my parents announced their plans, I was excited. Little did I know what was in store for me.
What’s interesting is that it was “expected” that I would cook, clean and do everything else that is done by a homemaker. The worst part is I have a full-time job. My brother, on the other hand, has a part-time job (he also has to study). In my numerous conversations with my mother on phone (“how much salt”, “how much salary does the maid draw”, “where is the sugar?”), I was “praised” for handling “two jobs”. I was initially quite flattered. I was also learning a lot about myself and my capabilities. I’m basically a lazy person who has a problem with “getting things done”. I daydream a lot and I take my time to do things. But with housework, you don’t have the time to think about random stuff or even breathe. It’s almost like running to catch a train..over and over and over again. I always wondered why my mother plans so much but now I realize why she does that. There is literally no time to think…you are on your toes all the time. It’s not like I don’t do housework..i usually share tasks but to handle so many tasks at such a pace requires superhuman powers. I guess things are worse when you are a working woman (I don’t want to imagine the plight of a woman who has kids!).
I remember my colleague who was criticized by other men in the office for not staying back..little did they know that her husband just came home and watched TV but my colleague had to make a full course meal (it is important to mention here that both my colleague and her husband are foodies and a ‘simple’ dinner is out of question for them). I am actually ashamed of myself because I used to judge her for her lack of creative ideas at workplace and sometimes, I did judge her for not staying back/contributing more. How can someone, who is so stressed out, can even get the time to be creative or contribute more?
Another interesting thing here is that my brother asked if I needed any help. On a few occasions, he helped me quite a bit. And guess what? I was thanking him! I also thought, “Oh he is such a nice guy”. But wait? I have been working all day long…but he didn’t thank me..because “it’s just my job”! This is the problem with our culture. If a man does household chores, he is “cute” or “nice”. But if a woman does housework, she is just being normal!
I remember reading a feminist text which said that women are put under enormous pressure of “juggling two jobs” because society ultimately wants women to get tired and just stick to housework. Those words make complete sense to me now. I wish that those who laugh at “share the load” ads are given two full time jobs and then bombarded with a million messages telling them that they are not good enough.
Every year on women’s day, some men talk about “superwomen” in life, who can “juggle” and “multi-task”. There are certain lifestyle magazines that praise “superwomen” who are super-successful at their job and are also a “super wife” and a “super mom”. This is a trap! If you really think that her two jobs are stressful, why the fuck don’t you teach men to share the housework and child care? Women don’t need praise for their “superhuman” qualities. I personally would prefer men who would share the load.
P.S. Just realized after publishing the post that I said ‘working women’ somewhere. It sounds weird now that I think of it. So, homemakers don’t ‘work’? Isn’t this a proof that society doesn’t consider household chores as ‘work’? I will be careful about this in the future.