Every night since the lockdown began, Subarna Ghosh would go up to her apartment’s terrace at about 10.30 pm, which was when she usually wound up all the domestic and professional chores for the day, so she could relax. Soon enough, she noticed a similar pattern among other women in the neighbourhood, who also came up to the terrace — around the same time — to relax after a full day’s work.
Upon speaking with the other women, Subarna found out that every one of those women shared the same story about how stressful work had become especially since the lockdown. That is when Subarna filed a petition on Change.org earlier this month — titled “PM Modi: Tell Indian men to do equal share of household chores in your next speech.”
Unsurprisingly, the petition has been grabbing many eyeballs.
Subarna is not alone, even Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has also appealed to men to help women in household chores during the lockdown.
“While the PM was addressing people about staying strong with notes of spreading positivity in his speech, I hoped he could also address men about taking responsibility in partaking in the daily chores at home,” says Subarna, who is the co-founder of ReRight Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO start-up.
Interestingly, since the lockdown, many a man has shared posts on social media about ‘helping’ their spouse at home, who have been duly applauded by their friends and followers for the ‘feat’, too. However, not many women, as Subarna found out, are happy about the ‘help’ that comes their way from their male counterparts.
It surely seems like an irrefutable truth. The burden that the lockdown has placed on an already depressed economy in the country and the world over might see more women fighting to stay in the workplace even as they manage children, who are unlikely to go back to school soon, and run the home with lesser help than before.
Reskilling men for home work
Subarna’s petition to the PM was born also from the concern of how she could help change the mind-set of people and pass on the teaching to younger generations, to be responsible regardless of gender. “I feel teaching kids at the right age to even clean their surroundings and do their own basic work would help them become responsible citizen as they grow up. I also believe households and parents should regularly introduce kids to age-specific chores and encourage them to do and partake in those,” she points out.
G. Priscilla is a nurse trying to manage the work at her hospital treating COVID-19 patients while looking after her 10-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter at home. She believes that help from men could go a long way in relieving the stress levels for women (and men) in the given situation. “A little support from the family members or from the husband would have been a little relief,” points out Priscila. “Stressing too much professionally or personally can affect any woman’s health. I think they deserve help. It is only fair.”
The theme of women considering themselves being fortunate about having a male member helping with the household is strong across the narrative.
Dr Stella Suanne shares how her husband and family assisting in doing the household chores really helped her. “I had to work from home, but I was lucky enough that my husband contributed in many ways to the household chores. He helped in cooking and taking care of our two-year-old daughter. His contributions really added to making this period stress-free for both of us,” she says.
Even so, Manisha Sharma, an MNC employee who recently got back to work after her maternity leave, is understandably worried. “I re-joined work and now I am scared I have to manage my professional work and look after my eight-month-old baby. My husband takes responsibility for sharing the workload, but I am worried about my daughter, who cannot stay away from me even for a minute,” shares Manisha, hoping that her domestic chores and responsibilities do not affect her professional work.
Whether it goes ahead or not, petitions such as Subarna’s are bringing some sense of hope to women who strongly hope that men in their household take equal responsibility for the chores. Perhaps if men agree to reskill too and take equal ownership of household responsibilities it might greatly ease the burden for women, especially in these times, and help make the future of work for women a little less bleak.