The lockdown has been a learning curve for many men, who have moved past “helping” with household chores to it becoming normalised as they realise “how much work needs to be done at home”. As the unlock phase begins and they slowly return to their offices, having seen their spouses/mothers juggle home and work duties from close quarters, they no longer want to go back to being just the odd-job men.
Nitin Kumar, 40, who works in a pharmaceutical company and resumed work from June 22, confesses that the lockdown was an eye-opener as he realised how much work it takes for the smooth running of his six-member household in Dehradun. “For the first few days of the lockdown, I observed how my wife went about her day swiftly and was extremely tied up, with no time for me either,” said Kumar, who has been married for the past 10 years.
The realisation made him pitch in with chores, he adds. “Since I have always had a travelling job over my 20-year career span, I had no time to pause or notice what kept my home running. I used to think ghar pe kya hi hota hoga kaam (there is hardly any work at home). But when I saw how busy my wife was the entire day, it made me want to help her out. Not out of sympathy but just so she could take a breather.” Kumar took on the responsibility of his kids’ studies and their meals, besides dusting the house during lockdown.
Even as he steps out for work now, he hopes to “contribute on weekends”. “Frankly speaking, I will try to help as much as I can. I had no idea that there is so much to do at home,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, Badrinathan Jayaraman, 39, sales leader with a reputed IT company, along with his wife, decided to divide chores as soon as lockdown began in March 2020, owing to “more time at home“. “I cook lunch between 1-2pm, she does breakfast and dinner. On alternate days, I sweep the house, she mops it. I wash utensils in the morning, she does it in the evening,” said the Bengaluru-based, who has been married for the past 11 years.
“Since three of us are together all the time, the load on her had increased,” he added. While Badrinathan could previously make only coffee and tea, he has now learnt 10 different dishes including Lebanese pita bread and falafel, South Indian delicacies like pongal, dosa and onion sambar. “My work from home will continue at least till September-end. But even after I resume work, if I don’t travel, then breakfast and dinner are on me,” he asserted.
But do gender roles really matter when it comes to house work? Call it an age-old stereotype, but women tend to do more housework than men, as has been established in various studies. A 2007-study by George Mason University found that across 17,000 people in 28 countries, married men reported doing less housework than men who were live-in boyfriends. As per the study, “the institution of marriage changed the division of labour“. It held that couples with an egalitarian view on gender — seeing men and women as equal — were more likely to divide the household chores equally. However, in married relationships, even if an egalitarian viewpoint is present, men still reported doing less housework than their wives.
But a pandemic-era survey suggested how those in the 25-45 age group chipped in for domestic duties. As per the IANS-CVoter Covid tracker survey, nearly 60 per cent of those aged between 25 and 45 years took active part in household chores. The survey also pointed out how 38.2 per cent said they have been already chipping in, while only 18.7 per cent said “No”. According to the survey, in the gender category, 57.1 per cent females said they participated in household chores, while the males came close at 54.4 per cent.
So, does it mean that domestic work could get its due respect? While contributing to chores is not something new for 30-year-old Rishab Goel, the lockdown made him “realise the amount of work my mother does in a day”. “We are a four-member family and my wife and I work in corporate sector, while my father runs a shop. By the time we are back home, my mother keeps the food ready. We tend to take it all for granted, but now when I spend the entire day at home, I realise the efforts that go into managing a home overall,” shared the Delhi-based professional who works as a sales force administrator, and is likely to join work from August 2020.
During the lockdown, Goel made it a point to do a “little bit of everything, from cooking to dusting to mopping and washing clothes”. “I now realise that it’s not ‘helping’ when we do chores but equally our responsibility. I will continue to do chores as I am more skilled now and ready to give competition to my wife,” chuckled Goel.
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For 52-year-old Padam Dev Auplish, the entire lockdown experience reminded him of “summer holidays”. Having lived in a hostel during his college days, “household activities aren’t a challenge for me,” says the businessman, whose factory is partially functional now. “During lockdown, my routine remained the same, which was getting up at 5.30am, then watering plants, taking the dog for a walk, making morning tea for my wife and me, reading the newspaper and having breakfast. Now, washing dishes and one-time cooking was added to the list,” he remarked.
Auplish, who has been married for the past 28 years, has an interesting take on running a home. “It’s like a team sport. Each family member has to contribute his/her best to win. Lockdown or no lockdown, I expect all couples to assist each other in running the house smoothly. It reduces the stress on one particular individual,” he suggested.