Ask anyone and they’ll agree that a happy household is where everyone shares the load.
But ask the question “Does your partner / family share the load?” and you are unlikely to get a unanimous “yes”. Partly, this is because tradition, culture, practice – whatever name it goes by – has triggered habit of assuming that all household chores are the woman’s job, regardless of whether she goes out to work, and perhaps, heaven forbid, earns a bigger salary than her spouse.
I remember the Ariel detergent video with Sulabha Deshpande where she waxes on poetic about how her “bahu” earns a high salary and yet, at the end of the ad, to her chagrin, her son yells, asking if his shirt has been washed.
I firmly believe that laundry and other household work is NOT the exclusive domain of women.
I’ve seen this in action in my family and have some great examples – of the unpleasant as well as the inspiring variety. I’ve seen male relatives resort to domestic violence when their wives hadn’t done something that was expected of them – which was pretty much everything. It was their “duty” to keep the home running smoothly without hitch, no matter what, while the men’s responsibility supposedly ended with them going to work and returning home to resuming their second profession as couch potatoes while their wives cooked, cleaned, shopped groceries, did the laundry, looked after the kids, taught /fed / cleaned /cuddled the kids and worried about everything – but themselves.
Yes, I’ve got examples of how it should NOT be.
And yet, I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing how it SHOULD be.
In one of my friend’s families, his Dad wakes up first every morning, switches on the hot water, gets the coffee going, starts the laundry, grates the coconut/ grinds the tomatoes and makes chutney and chops onions and coriander – all by the time his Mom wakes up. After making her coffee for her, his Dad gets him and his sister out of bed and then goes to get ready to leave for work – and his Mom takes up in the kitchen where he left off, with a smile.
At another friend’s place, her parents actually have a list of chores divided between them that they do like clockwork. Every other day, depending on their schedules, they switch and don’t mind helping each other out. On many occasions, I’ve seen her Dad happily mopping the house when I went over…and have been roped in to share the job, which I’d do very cheerfully.
Then there is this other friend whose Mom said….well – see this picture:
I mean, in homes where parents share the work, the children grow up understanding the value of doing the same and are eased into it naturally. The happiness in the air is quite tangible and it makes life enjoyable because no one is overwhelmed as the sole person expected to take care of everything.
Children from these families also never hesitate to volunteer outside the home, because it is habit.
When I got married, I confess I wondered how it would all work out in terms of housework, especially as Sury was living on his own for close to 18 years. As an academic who is in research, he pretty much works flexi-time which means he rarely keeps regular hours. That mind is forever busy.
I was pleasantly surprised when he’d offer to do things I was quite happy to do. I had had a hectic job that I had quit before I got married and had all the time in the world on my hands. I also secretly thought that he probably feels like because – well – the first few months we only see the rose garden, right? The thorns show up later.
That, however was not the case with us. Two months into our marriage, we discovered we were going to be parents and our joy knew no bounds.
As I frantically started sewing baby clothes, I had Sury join me.
As I embroidered little frocks, so did he.
As I sewed homemade cloth nappies, so did he.
As I planned my trimester-wise diet, he buddied up just so I wouldn’t have to do it alone.
When Vidur was born, he took over the laundry completely.
He took over babysitting him so much that I actually freaked out that I didn’t get enough time with my baby except to feed him.
As Vidur grew up, we took turns to teach him to do little things – age-appropriate chores. I remember how he loved to sort clothes as a toddler – and ended up learning colors in the process. He was also a big helper in the kitchen. The minute I stacked the dishes in the basket after washing them, he’d immediately rearrange them all over the place!
I fondly remember how he once asked, “Mummy, how come you don’t sit with the newspaper when you have coffee like Daddy?” From that moment on, we made it a point to sit together for at least ten minutes in the morning. Okay, fact is, I don’t like to start the day with the newspaper – but he wasn’t old enough to understand it at the time.
18 years later, we’ve settled into a very comfortable routine that is also shared by my son who has grown up to understand his contribution to the housework.
Why, ever since I was diagnosed with Diabetes, Sury and Vidur share my lifestyle of a strict diet and exercise and I cannot think of a better example of a supportive family!
The gigantic cherry on this whole sweet cake on the pretty table in the middle of this fragrant rose garden that is our marriage is the cheerful humor my family shares.
Oh no, we’re not perfect. We sulk, we bribe each other to bum off jobs we don’t feel like doing. But we do everything with love, followed by a smile because the man I married can make us laugh, no matter what.
There are definitely days when we wish the clothes line would empty itself and the clothes, which would then fold and put themselves away. We slack off. Then collective guilt drives us to do it together.
Yep, my favorite pastime is playing with my dust bunnies during the week. But come Sunday, we buck up after our morning coffee, turn the music up loud and get working. By lunch time, the home is cleaner and we’re ready to settle down to a post-lunch movie together after a lot of good natured teasing.
Yes, when you #sharetheload you guarantee more happiness, less stress.
The bonus? Four, in fact:
- Compassion and empathy for others
- Less of that taking-for-granted-ness
- More appreciation
- Fewer blame-games
Do you think equality in household chores is a myth?