Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Towards a more Equitable Household

One day into the Lockdown, I realised just how gender inequitable my household really is. All these days, things ran without me, but only because I had a help who came in everyday at 6:30 and ensured that all the things that needed to be done were done.
I was acutely conscious of my privilege. When people complimented me on how I could balance home and work, I always told them, "I am lucky. My kids are super independent and I have reliable help." People would tease me on my dependence on her, but I knew reality.
The kids helped.
When I was not around, they fed and walked the dog. The went to the grocery store more often than I did, and the younger one makes much better chai than I ever could.
I thought I was bringing up feminist sons.
I could delude myself into believing roles at home were not gendered, but only because I had sub-contracted 'my' responsibilities to someone else.
What I perhaps didn't want to see was that they remained 'my' responsibilities.
On the rare days when my help would take off, the kids would eat at the canteen, dinner would be ordered, and I'd do the dishes and the laundry. I rarely asked for help, because it was easier to do it myself.
I continued living in my gender neutral household shell.
"Nahin Lakshmi. Aap ghar pe hi rehna. Aane ki koshish mat karna. Hum manage kar lenge", I told her the morning after the CM announced a ten day lockdown.
And then I faced reality.
Ten days of managing home and work. Without help.
There was just no way I could have done it all. Time for the housework to get redistributed.
Sweeping and mopping
Doing the dishes
Running the laundry
The kids were asked to choose what they wanted to do, and luckily they wanted different things.
Those first two days were difficult. Nobody ever taught me to wash dishes but I had to teach them. From which scrub to use, to how much pressure to put, and how to rinse without drenching yourself. But finally, they got it. Not perfect yet, but pretty close.
There are still jobs that remain with me. Like making the bed, but those are things I want done. Not essentials.
The essential tasks have been redistributed. And they get done without nagging.
"Do I have to do the dishes?"
"You can do it later, but it has to be done."
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.
By the end of the Lockdown period, I hope this division of responsibilities gets internalised. And next time the help takes leave, I don't need to ask for 'help'.

And I hope the same happens in other families too. 


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