By Rita Aggarwal, Consulting Psychologist
A young working mother had to take a turn in doing a night shift at her organisation. It was imperative as she had to relieve a colleague. She had taken many concessions when she married, when she was pregnant and now her child was grown up enough to be handled by her husband at home. But no she had an argument with her husband when he refused to baby-sit for the child. ‘I cannot do it, it is not my job. I had told you before that you can work if you can manage the home well enough to go out for work’. She was furious for did not the family enjoy the fruits of her labour? Did not the family become economically stronger and healthier with her pay packet? Then what was the harm in considering her challenges and chipping in once a while she argued but he was unrepentant. That is a stubborn mindset common enough to be called a norm in India.
Take a retired couple. They are seeking help for depression of the man. The part- reason for depression being that the man has retired from his business as his son takes over the major part. He feels redundant. His wife does not retire as all housewives, who never are given a retirement age. She continues to slog it out with all household chores as usual. Her primary complain is that he does not lift a finger at home and does not even bother to help himself with a glass of water when needed. He still wants to be served everything. ‘No’, he says emphatically, ‘I cannot so such things. It’s a woman’s job, not mine.’ His wife feels he would feel better if he shares some domestic work with me for there is lot to do but it’s a mental block that he suffers from. This also seems to be the norm in India.
Men still feel the home and the kitchen are a woman’s job. And since a woman is considered inferior to the men, how can her job be considered dignified. Domestic work is menial work, looked down upon and hated by most traditional men. Do we see men serving water /tea to the guests who come home we could ask. Do we see men picking up their plates after finishing eating one could observe. But we can see women driving cars and trucks, flying planes, doing judo and karate, managing large corporate houses, working in the fields doing manual labour and she prides herself on it. Is that because she feels she is equal or even better to the man and since the man is superior being she also becomes superior by doing such work. This distinction between types of work is vanishing today. All types of work are to be valued whether menial or intellectual. We must develop the attitude of ‘dignity of labour’. That is what Mahatma Gandhi professed and practiced his principle in totality. He would not hesitate to clean his own toilet and would ask everyone to do the same.
We must thank all those modern minded men who believe in sharing everything with their wives whether it is domestic responsibilities, child care, old parents, physically ill members and outside work too. They respect the women and they respect her work. They believe she is a human being too with emotions and opinions and that she needs to be taken care of too. She cannot be shrugged off with ‘I don’t care a damn attitude’. I have witnessed this revolution of the mind and attitudes in my own family in the new generation and also in other families with modern mindsets.
If women are to enter the workforce in a meaningful way we have to appreciate the fact that men have to break this ‘indignity of labour’ barrier and start accepting domestic work as essential work that needs to be done whether by the man or the woman. If she is bearing the economic burden of running the household, then he better take the responsibility of running the house too. There is no shame or embarrassment in doing so. There should be a sense of pride in doing so. That would be modernity in true form.