Childhood memories of Mom calling out, “Koli, butter the bread for breakfast…” come back to me from time to time. And as insensitive as we were in those teenage years, I would mostly say, “You tell Dada (my elder brother) to do it!”
And of course he would never do it, and shout back instead, “Ma, your daughter is getting more and more useless every day.” And I would say something back. The result? A big fight, without any bread getting buttered.
With a full household—uncles, aunts and grandparents, besides us—my mother had a hard time managing the house. As such, my brother and I had very little household chores allotted to us and yet whatever little was directed towards us from time to time, we managed to wriggle out of, blissfully ignorant that someone else would have to do it, if not us.
Mostly we were treated as children, and not as girls or boys. In those days in Delhi, most fathers went to work and moms stayed at home and took care of the children, and housework. When my father returned from work in the evening, he and Mom would go to the local vegetable vendor to buy vegetables. Only thing expected of my brother and I was to study hard and get high grades. As long as we did well in our exams, we could easily get past all other household issues and calamities.
Then came the time when we reached adulthood and were able to bag coveted jobs. It was like a dream come true, but soon, with two kids and a typical cricket-loving couch-attached husband, managing the job, kids and the household, all at once, got increasingly tough.
I realised then that from an era where women had to do all the housework, we had entered an era where women had to do all the housework (at least most of it) and office work! Men of course continued with their office work and skimmed the surface of some housework now and then, when it suited them. Exceptions are always there, and today men are probably helping more than they did earlier.
In the famous Meghan Markle commercial, she rightly asks, “Why should women all over the world be fighting dirty pots and pans instead of people all over the world?”
There is no harm in women fighting dirty pots and pans and men changing the flat tyres, or vice versa! The problem compounds when not adequate respect is given to a job and people say condescendingly, Oh! It’s a woman’s job to cook and clean. Or if one person is lounging around and the other is playing “domestic goddess”—cooking, cleaning AND ferrying the children to and from the classes, managing to finish off impending presentations and remembering insurance deadlines, just because it’s “their job”.
With a little respect and sensitivity, jobs can be divided among two people depending on who does it best rather than whose job it is!