“Thank you for the lice, mamma.” : The Reality of Triple Shift Burden

aarya
Posted July 2, 2020 from Nepal
Mamma cooking right after she got home
 Illustration source: The New York Times
Illustration source: The New York Times (1/1)

Let me begin by sharing a chapter of my childhood from when I got head lice. I was six at the time and around three months into my mamma’s new job. The new job that my mamma got was a bit more paying, and considering our mortgage it was a godsend gift. But there was a catch: she had to work for an ungodly amount of time: full time six days a week from eight in the morning to seven at night, plus an extra half-day. So naturally, me being a long-haired six years old with very little knowledge of hygiene became a bit unkept: in all honesty by a bit, I mean to the extent that my school sent a notice pointing out my hygiene issue. Someone had to de-lice me, so my dad on a fine Saturday took on my “mamma’s responsibility”. He even taught me that once my mamma gets back from the office I have to thank her. Well, not for the extra Saturday, she worked for us though, no. I had to thank her for giving me the head lice. Two major things happened that day when she came back: My mamma got guilted into the tag of a “bad mother” for working overtime for our family, and I learned that the reason why my friends stopped talking to me was my mamma. In retrospect, what I actually learned that day was childcare is solely a ‘woman’s work’, Cetris Paribus

 

As women have infiltrated the workplace to forge careers, the gender gap in the workplace has been narrowing, and so has the pay gap. Yet the housework gap remains static. This means that women are contributing more or less equal time and effort in professional life as men while concurrently contributing far more time and effort to their domestic affairs than their male counterparts. And this normal. But let us be reasonable here, the additional role as the primary housekeeper is a lot for a woman to carry.

Unfortunately, this emerging “gender-blind” economy is still hugely limited to the workspace as it is evident that the responsibility of looking after the family, housework, and raising children still remains hugely as “women’s work” in the private sphere. Yet as equipped with superpowers, women are expected to impeccably balance and live both “gender blind” professional and evidently gendered private life at the same time and space. Yes, working fathers nowadays have reportedly spent a lot more time with their children than their fathers had spent with them but that is where their domestic contribution more or less ends. While most mothers with similar jobs and work-stress get back from their nine-to-five paid biz to another full-time unpaid hustle. A study on ‘Valuation of Women’s Unpaid Work in Kathmandu, provided by Tribhuvan University, illustrates that in addition to their paid employment women in the rural region spend an extra thirteen hours and women in the urban region spend an extra ten hours a day in unpaid care work. This unequal distribution of unpaid work is what brings a triple shift burden in a woman’s life: the burden of the “reproductive” (i.e. domestic) plus the “productive” (i.e. paid employment) plus the “community” (i.e. emotion) work. I grew up watching this burden smother my mamma every day as she came back from her work just to immediately start cooking dinner without even taking off her backpack, while my dad enjoyed his leisure.

 

The struggle that women face to balance their responsibility at home and work is almost ubiquitous in every level of society. Preaching feminism only as a political ideology has served to be a failed strategy as it is only increasing the burden of inequality within a family. As a matter of fact, until feminism is brought into the homes “genderblind” labor market can advance us only so close to egalitarianism. The responsibility of being the primary housemaker weights extremely heavy on the women’s shoulder because groceries have to be bought, food has to be cooked, floors have to be mopped, clothes have to be washed, children must be love, and things have to be done. This is why more than often women have to choose between the demands of their personal and professional lives. I personally know many many bright women give up their professional lives to care for their children, to bring peace in their marriage, and sadly this is true for many many women all over the world. This is why inequality in domestic work segregation, inequality in the family perpetuates inequality at work because in the end paid and unpaid work resides in the same space. Personal is always political, and here we can see it quite literally.

 

Within a family, gender isn’t an easy conversation to have, neither for men nor for women. Many have so adamantly internalized this norm that they cannot see anything beyond it and if questioned feel personally attacked. But this is no reason to leave everything and resort back to the cereal packet image of the family. Talking about household responsibility is very important, especially between partners. Because what matters more is our attitude and our belief of what we value in gender. How truer would we be as individuals without this pressure of gendered obligations? Yes, biologically men and women are undeniably different but it is the socialization that stresses these differences so much that it becomes a self-fulfilling process. This self-fulfilling process of socialization is visible in society today as we can evidently see that, in general, women are more likely to do the housework even though women aren’t born with any ‘cooking’ or ‘cleaning’ gene. There is nothing biological that links women to any kind of disposition towards mopping the floor or cooking three meals a day, yet women are conditioned to take on those roles as inherent responsibilities and by this rule expected to scale back their careers and their dreams just to keep the bellies full and floors clean. For most women, it really is “not the glass ceiling, but the sticky floor” that is a barrier for career advancement, and ultimately egalitarianism.

 

The division of labor in unpaid care work must be revised to actually allow a genderblind economy where women can participate fully in the market without having to compromise either their career or their family. The societal expectation that women must able to take care of households and children while still competing in a cutthroat labor market should be reevaluated. Women should be able to be unapologetic to get help, not just in childcare but any domestic chores that are traditionally marked as “women’s work”. So it is high time that we unlearn many of the gender norms that were internalized when we were growing up; it is high time that not only women but men start to actively think about gender or notice gender. Let us all begin to reconstruct these ascribed gender roles from our homes, and reflect this attitude everywhere.

I began by viewing that it was perfectly natural that my dad, as much as my mamma, was in fact responsible for me that day. And by that rule, I will continue to view that men, much like women, should care for his family and share the housework.

 

 

Link of The Study on Valuation of Women’s Unpaid Work in Kathmandu valley: https://healthbridge.ca/images/uploads/library/Nepal_summary_report_fina...

Comments 24

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Chi8629
Jul 02
Jul 02

Thank you for sharing .

aarya
Jul 03
Jul 03

Thank you for reading!

Tamarack Verrall
Jul 02
Jul 02

Hello Aarya,
What a tremendous tribute to your mother and to so many women who have and are living this global expectation that no matter how much time and energy work outside the home takes, this "rule" that continues to be imposed culturally that all of the work that is necessary at home and with children, is also labelled "women's work". Your mother as so many mothers is amazing for what she managed to do, a burden that no one should have had to carry.
"Let us all begin to reconstruct these ascribed gender roles from our homes, and reflect this attitude everywhere". Yes, a call to action on this myth that was made up to excuse men from responsibilities. It has been passed from generation to generation, time for change. Bravo Aarya!

aarya
Jul 03
Jul 03

Thank you very much Tamarack for acknowledging my work. Yes, the myth of "women's work has persisted from generations, and I'm afraid that the COVID-19 has even worsened the gap. So I believe it is absolutely necessary to immediately reconstruct our understanding of gender roles not just professionally but personally as well.

ANJ ANA
Jul 02
Jul 02

Very well written dear Aarya! , keep it up. May the role of the father be equally responsible practically in family households as a mother does. Every father realizes that he is also a part of family and doing work and caring for his own family is not something a "favor". or a "love" to his wife, but as a responsible for being a part of the family. <3 <3 XOXO

aarya
Jul 03
Jul 03

Thank you so much! I'm glad to be working personally to reconstruct the concept of women's work with you <3 May equality come!

Arem
Jul 03
Jul 03

Well said Aarya!!!! During times of Covid-19, I'm seeing many of my female friends and colleagues who are now working from home struggle to balance their career and looking after their children whilst their husband works "peacefully" in their home office.
Hope you continue to share more stories.
Take care!

aarya
Jul 03
Jul 03

Thank you, Arem. I too can see the work-life balance fading mostly for women since the working modality changed. As people are working from home and children are beginning to attend an online school from home during COVID-19 women have, in fact, lost their leisure time. And I know for a fact that this struggle steams from the socialization that women are solely responsible for childcare and care work while man must earn for the family.

Arem
Jul 03
Jul 03

Agreed! It doesn't help that the husbands (of my friends) earn more money than them so I think my friends think their husband's career takes priority.

aarya
Jul 03
Jul 03

It almost feels like we're all going round and round, doesn't it Arem? :/

Hello, dear Aarya,

Congratulations on your first post! What a comprehensive and informative write-up this in on discussing the role of mothers. You stirred curiosity with your title and anecdote, too.

You've written a lot of good points, and here's one of them, "The division of labor in unpaid care work must be revised to actually allow a genderblind economy where women can participate fully in the market without having to compromise either their career or their family."

I agree with Tam, this is a loving tribute to your mother and to the mothers in the world. Thank you for writing this article. Please continue to write more. I knkw you've signed up last year, but let me say this, Welcome to World Pulse!

Please join the Encourager Program, too!

aarya
Jul 03
Jul 03

Thank you, dear Karen. I really believe that our homes should be as gender-blind as our workplace promises to be if the world actually strives to reach egalitarianism.

I've been meaning to engage in this platform for a long time, and I'm happy that I did. These comments have really made me feel very welcomed. Thank you for inviting me to the encourager program.

You're welcome, love. That's true. My husband does our laundry, among others.

I'm glad you finally found the time tom write and you feel welcome. This is what World Pulse is about, dear. It's our safe space and we keep love authentic and true here.

You're welcome! Please.keep writing! I know you have so much to share. :)

aarya
Jul 11
Jul 11

I hope in more families every member gets engaged in housework like yours! I will keep writing and raising my voice in solidarity. Thank you all for this space!

Jill Langhus
Jul 03
Jul 03

Hello Aarya,

Welcome to World Pulse! My what a wonderfully written first post! I'm very impressed by what you've written, from a technical standpoint, but also from a feminist standpoint... well done! Your mom, and dad, must be very proud of you!

XX

aarya
Jul 03
Jul 03

Thank you, Jill. That's such a kind thing say!

It's exhausting how so many people berate feminists when we share our personal experience of oppression. I'm tired of condescending arguments like "you're just being over-dramatic", or "life is hard for all of us, yet men don't complain" so I always try to back my points with facts and logic. I'm very glad you liked it :)

Jill Langhus
Jul 04
Jul 04

You're welcome, dear:-) I meant it!

I agree. Hmmm. Well, hang in there, dear. Stay strong, and outspoken. You're probably in for a ride. I'm behind you every step of the way, as is your mom:-)

aarya
Jul 11
Jul 11

We are all in this together, indeed for a long haul! Thank you for love and support, Jill :)

Jill Langhus
Jul 13
Jul 13

Yes!! You're very welcome, dear.

XX

Isata Kabia
Jul 10
Jul 10

I love the personal angle on the issue of unpaid work. Indeed it’s toll on women and children it’s more than financial, and the ripple effect on communities should make it all our wish to make the change. Beautifully written too, Aarya

aarya
Jul 11
Jul 11

Dear Isata,
Thank you! I really wanted to show how personal is awfully political. I'm glad you recognized it!
Love,
Aarya

Busayo Obisakin
Jul 10
Jul 10

Dear Aarya,
WAO! That is a wonderful mother for you. Kudos to her! Hummm! The ills of patriarchy in our society and it still running so deep. Like in my country when the men will be telling the mothers to train their children to be wife materials and the meaning of that is to prepare her to work like a slave in her husband's home. As if a girl does not have any other thing to do in life than to be a wife. We will continue to raise our voices till women have their right place side by side with the men. Thank you for sharing this personal story with us
Love
Busayo

aarya
Jul 11
Jul 11

Dear Busayo,
Yes the ills of patriarchy is ubiquitously deep-rooted but I believe, as we continue to raise our voices logically, we can uproot it, maybe even in our lifetime. With the changes in government policies, we will change the attitude and belief of what we value in gender!
Thank you for reading :)
Love
Aarya

MUVUNYI FABIENNE
Jul 20
Jul 20

Dear AARYA,
I do agree with you. Men much like women, should care for his family and share the housework.
Thanks