Gender is a social construct and yet almost everything in our society is designed keeping gender in mind. Division of labor was done based on these skewed ideas of how a particular gender is supposed to act and work.
The traditional gender roles in household in a ‘normal’ heterosexual relationship were designed so that men could go out to work and fight wars while women stayed home to take care of every household duty, including childcare, cooking, cleaning, playing nurse and teacher, and so on and so forth. But gone are the days when men went to the frontiers to wage wars while women stayed home to take care of babies and the queers just stayed in the closet trying to stay as quiet as possible.
Time To Rethink Traditional And Gender-centric Division Of Labor?
Gender roles in the household statistics show that today women make up a greater percentage of the workforce than men. And yet, somehow, when it comes to domestic duties, women are still doing twice as much as men. This creates ridiculously skewed gender roles in household chores where working mothers are expected to take care of office duties as well as household chores. Society judges her on her ability to balance domestic duties and professional work.
Women are often expected to single-handedly balance all the responsibilities that come with marriage and career. If she dares focus on her career a little ‘too much’, she is often vilified. But while the ‘uncaring career woman’ is a prevalent stereotype, men do not always face similar problems. His attempts to help are praised as heroic while his disinterest in participating in household work is usually assumed to be normal. Thankfully, this honestly rather hypocritical dynamic – where the working woman is also expected to do hours of household labor for the household while the husband contributes little to nothing – is starting to be questioned more and more these days.
Perhaps it is but another unexpected, but welcome, effect of the pandemic. As more and more husbands work from home, they witness from the front row seats how much physical effort and emotional labor goes into keeping the household running. It helps them realize the role of family in gender inequality. With hundreds of thousands of children staying home due to closed schools all over the world, husbands are now having to step in and accept a percentage of the workload.
With women making up a huge percentage of essential healthcare workers, there are thousands of instances of husbands having to really pick up the mantle and take care of the house while working from home while their partners work longer hours.
The times are a-changin’ and redefining gender roles in household chores has become more important than ever. It took a pandemic to drive the point truly home, but it’s a start at least.
Related Reading: How Has The Definition Of Marriage Changed Over Time?
Why Is Gender Important In Terms Of Roles At Home?
Gender has always been important when it comes to defining roles at home. The difference is, up until now we chose not to consider the hours of unpaid physical and emotional labor a woman has to put in to run a household while often also maintaining a professional life. A woman coming back from the office and starts to make dinner while the husband returns from his job and sits in front of the tv with a beer in hand – pretty normal picture, right? As more and more people work from home and children stay home from schools, this ‘normal’ picture is starting to get questioned. And with good reason.
Husbands are starting to realize the struggle of balancing work, household chores, and childcare – something that is usually treated as part of the woman’s job description. It should be a no-brainer that redefining roles and dividing household work according to the unique needs of every family would lead to positive results.
Couples who share household duties tend to fight less and are likely to be far better equipped to handle problems and emergencies as partners. It leads to better understanding between partners and leads to healthier power dynamics in the household. Gender inequality in household chores and work-family conflict are directly related to each other.
There is a huge role of family in gender inequality in workplaces. But, girls who grow up in homes where household work is taken care of by both parents are shown to be more likely to aim for promotions and advancements because they are used to seeing equity at home. Both wife and husband profit professionally from such division of labor too – with women being able to perform better in their workspaces due to a decrease in worry about household duties and men finding it easier to ask for parental leaves, flexible schedules, and other such professional perks that are usually stereotypically thought to be “just for women.”
Related Reading: Gender Equality In A Marriage And Taking Care Of Parents In Old Age
How To Redefine Gender Roles In Household Chores
Equitable division of household work offers great perks. So, it is no wonder that more and more modern couples are attempting to redefine gender roles in household chores. If you are thinking along the same lines, here’s some advice that may be of help:
1. Divide physical household work equally
By equal division of household chores, we mean each partner doing their fair share of work. Of course, this would mean taking into account each partner’s schedules, workloads, and general well-being. If she is working late, he can pick up the slack and help the children with their homework. Things as small as not waiting for her to come back from work and start dinner and splitting kitchen roles equally can work wonders. Empathy and honest communication are both important while dividing work this way.
2. Do the emotional labor too
Don’t just leave the emotional labors to your wife. Planning meals, activities, organizing children’s schedules while fielding their questions, and getting them to do stuff are exhausting work too. The physical effort aside, emotional work goes into keeping track of what needs to be done, what needs to be bought, who needs to be paid, who needs injections on what date, and what hole needs immediate fixing. Remember to split the emotional labor so the entire responsibility does not fall on one partner.
3. Prioritize family duties
Just like women learn to prioritize family needs and duties, men should too. Work should not be allowed to take over your life in such a way that you are not able to take the kids to their soccer games when you said you would and are never able to help with the chores. Family duties should get as much priority as work duties, if not more. So, keeping track of your performance not just as a professional but as a partner and a parent is important.
Related Reading: Why Do Women Have To Choose Between Career And Family
4. Show children what partnership looks like
Be their role models. Show what fair division of labor looks like. Openly discuss about gender discrimination in family structures and how that should be dealt with. Teach your children what a real, equal partnership looks like. Your children will grow up to expect and to offer similar levels of fairness to their partners and colleagues no matter their gender.
5. Support partner’s career
As her partner, you can make or break her career. The current system was designed so women could support – as caretakers, helpers, cleaners, nurses, and cooks – their husbands. While it’s an outdated and unfair system, supporting your partner’s career aspirations and growth is not a bad idea. But both spouses should do it in equal measure, with husbands stepping in to pick up slack when the wife has important work commitments and vice versa.
Split responsibilities so your wife’s career doesn’t become less of a priority the moment a baby is born. Take paternity leaves as much as she takes maternity ones. Take care of the child on alternate days. Basically, both partners need to willingly split time and opportunity so the entire weight does not fall on one partner’s shoulder.
6. Support partner as an equal
Last but definitely not the least, it is important for men to start taking responsibility and rise up to the position of an equal partner instead of being just another person she needs to take care of.
Treat your partner as a spouse and not as a replacement for your mother. Don’t just acknowledge the work she does but actively pitch in while reducing the responsibilities you add to the mix by not caring enough. Unwashed plates in the bedroom and dirty socks strewn about take work too. Do not wait for your partner to point them out to you. Remember that you live there and bear equal responsibility towards the household and act accordingly.
Redefining gender roles in your household may take a bit of time and a lot of unlearning. But, in the end, the keywords are empathy and understanding. As long as both partners acknowledge and share responsibilities fairly while they openly discuss about gender discrimination in family and how that should be dealt with, the entire process of redefining gender roles in household chores will be a cakewalk.