My deepest sympathies to those who have lost their loved ones to Coronavirus and my heartfelt prayers for those who are battling it. I hope you recover soon. I hope the world sees an end to this menace soon.
I should have done this post earlier but it took me a meltdown to understand how difficult things must be out there for others like me.
As homemakers we women (and the few wonderful men brave enough to take on this daunting role) often find ourselves dealing with fringe jobs, as well as the main ones. Cooking, cleaning and taking care of the children are not the only things a homemaker does. She must also deal with dropping and picking up children from school (even if only from the bus stop), keeping track of school activities, vaccines, medications, PTM’s, sports days and all the other million days schools invent these days, groceries and dealing with the payment of bills (just the act of keeping track of or paying them if not providing the money for the same), laundry, dry cleaners and social engagements. Have I missed anything? I’m sure I’ve missed many. Pretty soon one thing piles on top of the other and soon all these odd jobs become a humongous pile, unhelpfully squished under one dainty umbrella – chores. I hear you groan. Believe me I’m doing the same just reading this.
Then comes Coronavirus.
Now we don’t even have our maids, house-helps, bais (if you stay in Maharahstra), every city-dwelling Indian woman’s (Wo)Man Fridays. More work piles on top of the existing pile. If you have little children, like me, you have to be the teacher, nanny and the playmate to keep those busy little minds engaged without the help of outdoor retreats.
Most of us have partners who would be working from home. They try to help, but you’re too concerned that they already have a lot on their plates, or you are concerned that whatever chore you assign them won’t be done well enough, or they just don’t help. You sympathize with them that this set-up is new for them too but hey, who’s sympathizing with you?
Enter the red dragon – frustration.
Pretty soon you’re flaring up at every stray sock stuck under the couch, every half eaten roti-roll left to rot on the table, every spill of water on the floor when you have just mopped. There will be fights between competent hands about who’s doing more, about how you don’t get time for yourself, about why someone takes half an hour taking a dump when that half an hour can be used productively. I’ve been there and you’ve been there but here I am writing to hopefully help those who are getting there.
Please read this before you scroll down to the 5 things –
A house is a shared space.
A house becomes a home when families act like a joint unit.
A home is never a single person’s responsibility.
It takes a family to make a home.
And here’s the list…
1. Make Lists –
Sit down for sometime with the capable pair of hands at home and decide who can handle which chores. This list does not need to be set in stone. It can change daily, weekly or even hourly. Flexibility will work to your advantage because every day does not present the same challenges. Be reasonable with your families physical or work-related constraints. However, its important that you delegate work to every one and every one must pitch in even if its in a small way like watering the plants. Small things also add up to keeping the house tidy.
I have a magnetic e-pad stuck on my refrigerator where I write chores down for my husband to do for the day. If he’s unable to do some things listed, I ask him to do them tomorrow, or I do them and ask him to do my chores instead. We have come to this arrangement after a lot of grumbling and exchanges of angry words. So save yourself the heartache, sit down and talk.
Do not try to be a superwoman and handle everything by your self. It will only wear you down and lead to feuds in the family. Rope in little kids with age-appropriate chores as well. They will learn a life skill.
2. Make Room for some ‘Me Time’
Since the lockdown in India, I’ve been missing my gym sessions and writing meets a lot. Not that I was very frequent with either of them but especially now when I need relief from mundane chores, I miss them A LOT. There are often days when I have switched on my computer, opened to a blank page and I am able to return to that blank page at night only to switch off the computer. But I’ve found keeping a journal helpful because I can bring it along in the kitchen to write that idea down when I am shelling peas. Or I type things quickly on my phone. Some days that’s the only writing I accomplish, but its something.
Similarly, even though an increase in chores is tiring, I’ve found that working-out even for half an hour helps me relax. Its weird how a high heart rate can help me relax. Maybe its the endorphins released during the workout. But do give your body some love. Your physical well-being is important for the whole family but its your own business. No one can do it for you.
My husband has a hobby of making scale model cars and he’s become very serious about this hobby since the lockdown. So both of us have an unsaid agreement that neither of us is going to be bothered when we are engaged in our hobbies.
But you need to be bullish about it. Once you have identified time for yourself after you’ve done your chores, make room for your hobby, or just relax. You need time to cool down and be by yourself for your peace of mind. If you have kids who need parent engagement, split time between both parents. If I play with my daughter on her trampoline in the morning, my husband plays hide and seek with her in the evening. The parent who is free can either work or enjoy their hobbies during this free time.
Bottom line, do something for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it.
3. Let it Go
Homemakers have a tendency to be particular about how things are done. We don’t like shoddy work. We certainly are slaves to our brands. But let it go for now. If the laundry hasn’t been folded your way, don’t waste time re-folding it. Time is precious, the chores many and you are tired. This is not the time for you or for others to be nitpicky. If someone is being nitpicky with you, read Point 5.
Adjustment is key to sanity. If something isn’t done well enough, let your family member know gently or ask them to help with something else. No harshness please. No barbs, no judgement. Every one has a learning curve.
Remember, its only a chore. Teach this to your family as well especially to those who are nitpicky with you. Its not more important than the family. I know its important to be clean but if one day no one swept the floor, you won’t have the Sahara Desert at home. Which brings me to the next point.
4. Schedule an ‘Off Day’
With the lockdown no one has off-days anymore. Sure there are some who have little to do at home, but we aren’t so lucky. And lets be honest, in a homemaker’s diary there is no such day as a holiday. Conversely, holidays are the busiest days of the week for us. There is no day when there is no cooking or cleaning involved. But you must schedule one now.
Again, you must be bullish about this and decide with your family on a day. Plan ahead. Clean up and cook enough food for your off-day the day before. Do the dishes and the laundry too even if it means you work a little extra the day before. But look on the brighter side – no major work for a whole day! I’m feeling happy just reading this. Aren’t you?
5. Learn to Say ‘This is My Best’
This part contains a bit of a rant which is why its the lengthiest.
Remember what I wrote at the beginning of the post about that pile of chores? Often we find ourselves pinned with the hope that in the event of an escalation of chores, we would be the one’s to do it all. Lets reword that.
It’s our responsibility because –
We are the homemaker, the wife.
We don’t have anything else to do.
We are women.
Sound familiar? Sad but true.
Hark back to what I wrote before the list began – a home is not a single person’s responsibility. Just because you put the requirements of the family before yourself, it doesn’t mean that it becomes your responsibility alone. Sure, you know how the household works best because, just like your tech-savvy husband knows gadgets best, you have been at it for years. But that doesn’t mean that others cannot or should not do their bit.
However, there are many women, including me, who have been forced to be a homemaker because of circumstances and/or the kind of people they stay with. Forget about the lockdown, even in normal times such women find themselves in situations where they are pushed to do more because of the reasons highlighted above. Because everyone imposes on them (for various reasons, knowingly or unknowingly) and because these women allow themselves to be imposed on. That’s a very poisonous attitude, both for people who impose on others and for those who allow themselves to be imposed on. But that’s a discussion for a different post.
Needless to say, the lockdown has made things doubly difficult for the Indian bahu who not only has to do jobs previously entrusted to the house help, but also tackle members who berate them over the quality of their work. If you are a working bahu forced to now work from home and maintain the home, you have my sympathies sister. Do these taunts sound familiar?
Why are we eating this again?
Why is their dust on the furniture today?
You didn’t clean my portion of the house. You did nothing for me.
Your way of doing things is bad. Mine is better.
Why should I do these things? What are you for?
Unfortunately, many of us have family members who see what we haven’t done but conveniently ignore what we have accomplished in the day. The demands keep piling. We try to keep everyone happy. That’s when misunderstandings begin to arise because most Indians have never understood, never been taught, never been brought up in an environment that believes that –
Managing a home is not a gender specific responsibility.
Just like education, parenting and earning are not gender-specific anymore, saying that a woman must keep a house is like saying I am from the Dark Ages. But some of us are unlucky to be stuck with such mindsets and worse, some of us can’t even raise our voices against such a family.
My advice to such women, which I have wholeheartedly embraced now after a very difficult debate with my family, is –
Learn to say – This is my best.
Respectfully tell your family that this is the most you are willing to do. Reason it out, negotiate with them. But if they pile on accusation over accusation about your short-comings as a wife, a mother or a homemaker, then go ahead and ignore that person.
You are no one’s slave. You weren’t born only to please others. You have your own needs, your own personality, your own capacity and everyone at home should respect that if you respect their boundaries.
I know its easier said than done. Sometimes the whole family is against you and my heart goes out to those women who find themselves in that peculiar position, but you must be strong. You have to learn to ignore those people. You must cut off a gangrene or risk losing a limb. For these reasons I have always encouraged homemakers to do these things to help them be their own person.
These 5 tips work for me. They are just pointers. They might not work for you. Be free to discuss through the comments section what works for you and what your story is. I’m all eyes and ears.
Read these related blog posts as well –
Again, my prayers with those affected by Coronavirus. This is a bleak time for everyone and I hope this chapter ends real, real soon.
Take care. Stay safe.
Copyright © Pradita Kapahi, 2020.