Workplace Equality requires Equality at Home

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

If you are a mother who works in a conventional office setting, the scenario in the following article by Katharine Zaleski may sound familiar to you:

http://fortune.com/2015/03/03/female-company-president-im-sorry-to-all-the-mothers-i-used-to-work-with/

Two telling excerpts from the article:

“I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last minute drinks with me and my team. I questioned her “commitment” even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hung over colleagues the next day.”

And

“I sat in a job interview where a male boss grilled a mother of three and asked her, “How in the world are you going to be able to commit to this job and all your kids at the same time?” I didn’t give her any visual encouragement when the mother – who was a top cable news producer at the time – looked at him and said, “Believe it or not, I like being away from my kids during the workday… just like you.””

Zaleski’s article makes some great points on

  • the attitude of younger women/male and female non-parents/male employees with kids(fathers) toward employees who are mothers
  • the very little empathy and support that mothers receive at the workplace
  • the condescension with which they are viewed when they have to cancel a meeting or need to take an unexpected day off

However, this successful, professional woman ignores the role of fathers in parenting: What I find disappointing about this article is

  • The author reserved her condescension (in the past) only for mothers, and did not extend it to fathers as well. Many men in senior management tend to be married with kids. Yet no one questions them if they have to cancel a meeting because it is assumed that the cancellation has nothing to do with parenting responsibilities or family time. This is representative of many people I’ve known here, both men and women.
  • Why is the role of fathers never discussed when we talk about over-burdened mothers?
  • When we say workplaces are “male-oriented”, what do we mean? Do we mean that they revolve around the needs of men, with little understanding of the needs of women?
  • Does this imply that taking care of kids should not be a male concern and only women workers must worry about childcare and parenting?
  • Why can’t we start using the term “parent-friendly” instead of “mother-friendly” to refer to workplaces that provide flexible schedules, work-from-home options, and more autonomy to their employees?

The change in perspective that Katharine Zaleski experienced is commendable. She started a company, PowerToFly that matches women with technical skills to remote jobs that they can perform from home. I’m glad she is doing something to make it possible to tap into the talents of countless women who lack sufficient supports at home.

However, we need to start having discussions on the role of fathers in parenting. Even in the US, men and women still play very traditional roles when it comes to parenting.

Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In is in the same vein – it talks about how women need to be more assertive in the workplace but doesn’t discuss how fathers need to do their fair share at home.

We seem to be fighting for equality in the workplace but remain content with inequality at home by turning mothers into supermoms.

How can we expect people at work to treat women (and mothers) as equals if we don’t change our gender based attitudes toward housework and parenting?

———————————————————————————————————–

Some experiences I’ve had in this regard:

Everywhere I go, I’m seen as being solely responsible for all tasks related to children and home.

My children’s pediatrician, a woman, always concludes the visit with a list of instructions meant for me alone, even if my husband is present.

“Make sure he takes this 3 times a day with meals, “ she says, looking at me, then turns to my son and says, “Mommy’s gonna get you all better buddy!”

I encounter this at my kids’ school on the days I volunteer in the classroom.

The teacher says to some kids, “Oh look what mommy packed you for lunch today! You are one lucky kid!”

All emails from the teacher to the volunteering parents are addressed, “Dear Ladies”, and unfortunately, most of them ARE ladies.

I encounter this at my workplace too. Even the compliments are suffocating.

“I don’t know how you do it all!” (I DON’T do it all. I do my fair share of the work, my husband does his fair share and we let go the things we can’t do.)

A recent conversation with my friend, a full time working mom:

She works full time at a very aggressive company with an extremely stressful work environment. The other day, she was complaining about taking home work again over the weekend.

She said, “My boss is such a slave driver. Lucky for him, he has a stay at home wife to take care of his kids.”

So, she puts another woman down for her legitimate choice but doesn’t hold her own husband accountable.

I said to her, “They must’ve made a joint decision on that. When one parent chooses to stay home, the family takes a huge cut in income. The advantage is more work life balance, with one parent taking care of earning, while the other takes care of home duties. When both parents work, they must share cooking, cleaning, and parenting duties.   Either way, people should do whatever works for them. In both cases, both parents should share the overall work fairly. “

To this, she said, “The problem is, my husband can come home and relax, but I can’t. He doesn’t feel guilty about not spending time with my daughter or if there’s no food at home. I do.”

This then is the crux of the problem. Women are finally getting more choices and opportunities work wise. But we come home and nothing much has changed. Women still need to make those meals and care for their children. And if the working mother fails at achieving this impossible state, then she punishes herself with guilt. It’s still her job and her job alone to cook, clean, do dishes, laundry, and parent the kids.

Another seemingly small incident that brings to light the casual guilt inducing culture mothers are surrounded by:

I was in line at the grocery store. A woman in front of me with a child in tow placed 3 frozen food type of lunches, 2 cans of soup, and a carton of milk on the counter.

The cashier, who was probably just making small talk with her, said breezily, “I guess you’re not cooking today!!:)))”

The woman looked slightly stricken, and then went on to painfully explain why she was picking up those frozen food lunches and soup cans. “Well tomorrow, I’m expecting guests so I have to clean my entire house and prep for the elaborate meal I’m going to make. So, you know …. (smiles apologetically) …. I’m trying to simplify at least today’s meals.”

The cashier and the customer are probably unaware of this exchange as being guilt inducing. But it’s all around us. I’m sure he wouldn’t have made that comment to a man buying those frozen items.

Or worse, he might’ve said, “Guess, your wife’s out of town!!:))”

———————————————————————————————————–

For this mindset to change, we should start changing workplaces not only to support mothers but to also change our expectations for fathers. We need to start building a workplace culture that encourages work life balance – a place where a father can proudly say he needs to leave early to attend his daughter’s soccer game.

To a smaller extent, I do see this happening. One of my colleagues, a marketing manager goes for a run with his daughter on Wednesday afternoons (which is a short school day) to help her train for marathons. Another colleague, a graphic designer, alternates short and long working days with her husband, so they take turns picking up the kids and cooking. My husband and I do the same thing. I know one dad in the autism support group that I run who does business consulting work (for startups) from home and takes care of the home and kids, while his wife has a full time in-office type of job.

Sheryl Sandberg’s next book, “Lean In Together” talks about how men need to do their fair share at home.

“About time we discussed that!” was my first thought, when I heard about the book’s release – although a little voice in my head said, with the kind of money Sandberg and her husband make, did they ever have to worry about household chores when they can hire fantastic help?:-)  What do they even know about the struggles of everyday kind of families?  But let’s ignore that for a moment and look at the advice.

Although she gives suggestions that make sense (share the house work 50/50, be equally involved with your kids, etc.), the overall pitch of the book seems a bit salesy. The “perks” of gender equality at home include “better sex for spouses and better profits for companies (due to more satisfied, productive employees), more promotions to go around and 5% growth in our GDP”. This to me seems like a desperate sell to get men to do their fair share of work. Or a bid to get privileged, white boys club type managers to look down kindly on their male subordinates going home earlier to do “a bit more” at home.

Gender equality at home may not bring higher profits and higher profits and productivity and benefits to men should not be the driving force behind gender equality.

The REAL positive outcome for men from gender equality at home? Dads get to give their children hugs and wipe their tears. Dads get to cheer their kids at sports. Dads get to really know their kids and earn their trust and respect and love. Moms get to be human because the work is shared fairly. When moms feel good, they can bond better with their husbands. Husbands “benefit” too from this emotional bonding and warmth. This is not exactly in the category of “profitable” but it’s an awesome feeling and you can’t put a price on it.

But all of the above benefits to men – better bonding with their spouses and children – are things that flow from doing the right thing. We must do the right thing simply because it’s right, not for a benefit.  And I think it’s not just important to bring about change, but to do so for the right reasons, so that the change is genuine and long lasting.

Gender equality begins at home. And it matters because it’s fair. Because women deserve equality. Like everyone else. It’s that simple.

Please share your thoughts and experiences on the sharing of housework, parenting, and workplace attitudes.

I talked about my experiences in the US. If you live elsewhere, in what respects are your experiences different/same in Europe and other countries in Asia (Singapore, China, Japan, India, etc.)?

54 thoughts on “Workplace Equality requires Equality at Home

  1. There is a flip side to it. I have two young kids and I at least try to do equal part in caring for them but I am not given any concession at the workplace for being father of two very young children at this point of time, unlike my wife. The excuse that I have to run as my kids are going to be alone or are sick is taken very suspiciously and given no credence. Unless men are also given some support at the workplace for being fathers how are they going to support their partners equally at home?

    Like

    • I see a few men beginning to shake off the traditional view of “company man” image. I think the key is to remain confident when saying you need to leave early for a family commitment. ( The confidence that you will put in quality work and deliver results and not just “face time”. ) But, as you said, it’s also workplace culture. Senior managers need to change their mindset and support their employees in this.

      Like

    • You just have to keep doing it. Someone needs to start and I hope you’ll be that person. Several of my male colleagues repeatedly work from home or take time off to care for their children if their childcare arrangement isn’t available. My most favorite teammate is taking half a day off next week to attend his son’s parent-teacher conference🙂 It was looked at weirdly initially but once they kept doing it, it’s no longer a huge deal. Nobody even blinks an eyelid now.

      Like

    • I think it’s a question of how badly you want it. My father was an armyman; about as “masculine” a profession as you can get.

      This was back in the early eighties in India, when equal parenting was unheard of.

      None of my father’s colleagues and fellow officers were even to be found carrying their children, let alone wiping their noses, shoving medicines down their throats, getting them ready for school or helping with homework.

      Yet my father did all this and more, and he was the only one in our entire circle of acquaintances and extended family to do so.

      He genuinely enjoyed childcare and he was not afraid to demonstrate it. Even a markedly conservative social climate as that of a military base in India wasn’t enough to deter my father from feeding, bathing and dressing his children.

      He often came home early from work when I or my brother were sick.

      My overall point is that men need to stop fearing that the workplace will not accommodate their parenting responsibilities. Most men are fathers, even the high-performing, “work comes first” types.

      I honestly think that it is easier for men to change “family unfriendly” work culture than it is for women. If more men made their children a high priority, workplaces would evolve to accommodate that set of values.

      Like

  2. I have seen so far two gender equal relationships.One is my brother’s and other is one of my friend’s. In my colleagues, I do not see any. It is frustrating and worthless situation.
    What I have found is that the people in senior management are not in gender equal relationships and so they do not realise that the situation of the fresher or junior male employee would be different from them.
    One thing I really want the offices in India or at least in my company is to implement paternity leave and conduct sessions on how to be an equal parent.

    Like

  3. As a new mother, who also loves her job, this post really hit home for me. These are my thoughts:

    *Guilt* – There is just no place for it. Period. I don’t allow my family or ILs or husband to decide my priorities. If I want to go out for lunch with the girls, I do it. My reasoning is that if I am not happy, no way my daughter is going to get 100%. I pass this message along to colleagues as well.

    *All mothers are different* When I was a manager, I was surprised that my team member with a young child was not pressing for more time off to be with her kid and always seem excited about making short trips to other cities. I pressed her to take time off. She resisted. It took me a long time to realize a) she doesn’t think that asking for special considerations as she was a mother was fair & b) she liked the time off from baby-care. Point (a) – I was really sad. I wanted to be supportive of her choices because her work was never compromised, but I couldn’t do anything till she officially asked. The stigma in her head was too strong. Point (b) – I realize now how important it was for her to do her job, even if it meant traveling, to do her best as well as get a break.

    *fathers’ helping* The biggest roadblock here is the mother herself. For sharing parenting duties, both partners should be completely trusting of the others approach and we should respect differences as long as they are not harmful to the kid. I want to leave my kid diaper free as part of toilet training, but my husband thinks she is too young for it. So when she is with me, she goes commando, while with her father she is diapered up. Big deal. No long term repercussions here. If I want to share, I cannot expect that everything will be done exactly the way I want.

    *managing work and baby* My colleagues and boss know explicitly what my child-care arrangements are and how flexible I am. I feel that if I feel *bad* about not doing something because child-care comes first, then I will pass it along in my attitude and words. Instead I try to create a dialogue where all parties can be satisfied. There’s always a way if you have the right communication skills and body language. I believe that much can be negotiated, if only you do it professionally. Obviously, one of the biggest parameters here is that your job performance should be directly related to output (which in the research field it is) and not how many hours you put in.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point – because women have traditionally done a lot of housework and parenting, now as men enter the arena, there are battles over “how to do it right” and varying parenting styles. In the past, parenting as a topic was never discussed. Now we need to negotiate and agree on what is acceptable parenting to both spouses.

      Like

  4. I’ve found it much better here in Britain. I don’t here much about home being a woman’s responsibility thing here. The place I work in has work life balance options for both men and women and I see both men and women taking it up. Several of my colleagues work around their children’s school hours and it is refreshing to see that it’s not just the women. I’ve had men rush out of meetings because it’s their turn to do the school run. Which I have to say is wonderful to see. I’m sure things will change across the globe in the years to come.

    Like

    • “I’ve had men rush out of meetings because it’s their turn to do the school run. Which I have to say is wonderful to see.”
      Indeed, it is! And as men see other men do it, it becomes the norm.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Agree about UK – even in a traditionally male-skewed industry like investment banking, I have noticed MD’s turning up late or leaving early so they could drop the kids at school etc. I have seen numerous mainstream media articles on the subject that encourage healthy discussions and maybe that is why everyone is comfortable with the idea of the man sharing the resposibilities equally. If such a topic were to be discussed on the Times of india, I shudder to think about the comments section. On a separate note, why someone would downvote this comment from Smitha beats me.

      Like

  5. There’s a thought experiment that we could employ in this context.

    Randomly pick a job. Let’s say that our choice is software engineer.

    Now imagine a society where we told all men that they can do whatever job they want to do in the daytime, but they HAVE to be (unpaid) software engineers at the end of the day, and that their software engineering skills are far more important than whatever their day job is. They may come home from work, tired after a day in the courthouse or the operating theater, or even a lecture hall, but it doesn’t matter – they MUST write a couple of hundred lines of code at the end of every day, and this is what really counts. If they write the code properly and well, it won’t necessarily be acknowledged, but if they fail to do it properly, they will be ridiculed for it, regardless of whether they are actually good at coding, or enjoy it. Of course, if they don’t enjoy it, they are called selfish and lazy.
    No support is offered for their day job; in fact, if the day job – the one thing that actually provides them financial security, approbation, and other tangible benefits – interferes slightly with their ability to write their quota of code, there is strong pressure on them to quit. When they ask why their spouse cannot help them write some of the code, they are told that this is because it’s inherently their role – engineering is a man’s job.

    All of this sounds ridiculous, but obviously, the problem is that if you replace ‘software engineer’ with ‘homemaker’ and ‘man’ with ‘woman’, a lot of people stop considering it ridiculous. This is because in India, housework is not considered real work, and is not accorded the same worth as a paid job.

    A woman who is under pressure to perform well at her day job AND do a good job with the housework, cannot humanly be expected to perform at the same level as someone who has to focus only on the day job and is being supported fully in that job by a spouse. Women who can do this are truly incredible people, but the point is that women shouldn’t be expected to be incredible all the time. Without a fundamentally equitable lifestyle, ‘workplace equality’ is largely a myth.

    As for full-time homemakers, it’s incredibly sad that our society portrays it as a safe, easy option, suitable for all women. Being a homemaker – especially in a traditional Indian context – is a challenging and thankless job, and it’s certainly not for everyone. Some have the skills and inclination to do it, and I say more power to them. But like any other career, it’s ridiculous to just push everyone into it and expect them to not only do their very best every day, but actually enjoy doing so. Yet, that is the expectation that Indian society has from women. It’s shameful that most don’t even see this as unfair.

    Like

    • True, the attitude toward housework (and the people who do it) really needs to change – that’s the foundation on which we can make larger changes. I think we need to stop thinking of husbands “helping” their wives at home and start seeing it as husband and wife sharing home tasks that both of them own.

      Like

    • This should be a new post. Our attitudes towards “women’s work” and why women themselves, won’t value “the homemaker’s role”.

      After all, if women start respecting each other, the men will have fewer excuses to devalue and divide working women versus stay-at-home mothers.

      Like

  6. This sounds like a horrid reason to have a Mom on your team –
    “Moms work hard to meet deadlines because they have a powerful motivation-they want to be sure they can make dinner,…..”.
    Aren’t you pushing the woman into a corner and saying , Lady, if you want to cook dinner then you better work twice as fast as your male team member.And expect less than or may be equal pay, but never more?

    What we need is WFH options for men so that they can cook,go pick up the kids after school and of course hit the gym later.

    Like

  7. I am very lucky to live and work in Scotland. Workplace equality is not as good as in the Nordic countries but not as bad as USA or Latinamerica where I come from. I will relate what I see in my workplace.

    Women can take up to 1 year maternity leave (some of it unpaid) and they are assured they can come back to the same or similar job. You can also apply for flexible or reduced hours and most mothers I know are granted it. The new law says fathers can also take some of the year maternity leave and apply for flex hours but I don’t know anybody who has done it yet.

    I came back from maternity leave after 9 months to work 28 hours a week (4 days at 7 hours) and still got the same work load as before but I became more efficient. The first months my son got all sorts of bugs from the nursery and we have no family around so although my direct boss rolled the eyes every time I said I had to go home, I was treated the same as before.

    Needing a new challenge I found another job where I could also do flexible hours and the same applies. Most mothers I know, work 3 – 4 days a week and like me, they just become more efficient.

    I am also lucky because my Indian husband also comes home early, cooks most nights and thoroughly enjoys playing and reading with our son before bedtime.

    Although between us both I am the first choice to take time off when our son is ill (mainly because I am on a flexible contract), my husband has also done it when needs must. Nobody bats an eyelid when he says he has to leave early to pick up our son from the nursery.

    Things are very different back home where both my sisters-in-law (in LatAm and in India) had to give up their demanding jobs to raise their children.

    Like

    • That’s great to hear! Yes, a couple of friends have told me it is much better in Europe.
      Maternity leave is still a big issue here. Technically, you can take up to several months, varies by state, but you will seldom find your job waiting for you. So women feel pressured to get back to work super fast after having a baby so as to not lose career opportunities.

      Like

  8. You rightly said that Gender equality begins at home.
    We keep following patriarchy with our mind shut, in the same way we transfer it to our coming generations.
    I have the same issues in my house and raising voices results in disputes. Even if my husband wants to help me with daily chores my MIL gets constipated as she a staunch follower of gender ‘inequality’

    Like

    • Swati, it’s certainly not easy when you are pitted against the force of the entire family. Have you tried communicating with your husband alone? If that hasn’t worked, have you tried taking a stand? What would happen if you refused to do anything other than (roughly) 50/50 or whatever is a fair share?
      If that feels overwhelming, see if you can start with the smallest thing. Refuse to do one thing and let them deal with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I personally think it’s 2 things. I may be wrong. but these are just my thoughts.

    Women can have both or have as much as men can. No one in this world can have it all. thats the beauty, you work towards something ..

    1. Women should let go of the guilt. its conditioning. and some people have it in loads some less some are oblivious to it.
    e.g I seriously think i did my family a huge favor by having 2 kids. there was nothing lacking when i had 0. so for some strange reason i feel i contributed a lot, !!!! yes i know too much natak. so it’s his turn now.

    2. men should share work at home. – after all its their house and their kids, dont they care? shame them . and train the kids too.especially with food. i have taught provided mine tools to make easy healthy dishes , veggie soup ., fruits , drink smoothies and lo balanced nutrition. without mummy’s presence. as for husbands food, c’mon when a 12 yr old can make and eat, a 40+ should be ashamed to ask for food.,
    house is dirty , have a maid, still dirty, hello 4 humans live here, each can pick up their space. kid sick, – i leave to my husband i’m bad at sympathy. but im awesome at organizing trips..

    basically it falls on the woman and her spouse to solve this.
    as an addition i NEVER stay at work beyond 4.30 pm. unless its a critical business will stop deal. Im tired after 8 hrs thats all I’m capable of so no i don’t have to come home to cook, or pick up kids or drive them around or anything, i rush to leave so i can come home, read a book with a relaxing cup of tea , chat with kids and wash away the office stress and be ready to have fun with my folks.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Well I have gender equality at home but what pisses me off is that my spouse gets so much credit for it while I get none for being an equal contributor to family income. Everyone goes “Wow… you are so lucky! etc. etc.” Well, isn’t that the default? He is doing the exact same things that I am doing. What’s the big deal? So, even after having an equal spouse, I end up being frustated at times!😦

    Like

    • I get that too! I’m “lucky” because my husband shares the work load at home. One, I would never have it any other way, and being “lucky” is a passive state, which I’m not in and don’t ever intend to be. Two, he’s doing his part as a human being, why deify him for this. We BOTH need to appreciate each other, but even a lot of well-intentioned people unconsciously make the mistake of seeing a man being fair as “good luck” to the woman involved.

      Like

    • This a 1000 times. Why am I “lucky” to have a spouse that does his fair share of work around the house? Why am I “lucky” that the father of my child does his duty as an equal parent? Funnily, he actually really enjoys it. He just won’t give up his nighttime duty with his daughter because it’s apparently “his thing”. I adore him for that because he wants to be an equal part of our daughter’s life at the cost of losing his sleep. But everyone gives me the “Aww…you’re so lucky” line. How about all that I do for her? The pumping to the nursing to the cooking her meals to working out childcare to keeping her supplies stocked. Nobody gives me any special kudos for what a decent mother should do for her child.

      Like

      • Why people say lucky because 90% of fathers are detached from housework, chores related to children ! They wouldn’t do it ! Even the younger men around me don’t change diapers regularly or feed the babies !
        They don’t feel guilty or anything like that because they play with clean fed babies and they are done !!
        Some women complain to others or outsiders about how unhelpful the husband is but at home they don’t tell the father to do the work !!
        Just yesterday my 24 yr married neighbour who comes home after work told me how her husband doesn’t complain about food ,in the same breath she says she has to cook proper meal , just a khichadi won’t do !!
        Nothing seems to be changing when it comes to gender equality at home !
        Its simple: women need tell men to do the work and do their fair share and properly ( not messed up version) !

        Like

  11. I am writing my response based on my experience in India. I guess it may run long.

    Dads get to give their children hugs and wipe their tears.- They do support their children without being active participant in child upbringing.

    Dads get to cheer their kids at sports. -They neither feel guilty for it nor does child feel annoyed if dad has missed it. Because its not prime responsibility of dad. If he misses to pay feel then he will die out of guilt.

    Dads get to really know their kids and earn their trust and respect and love.- They are respected and trusted a lot my children even more than moms when real life changing decision has to me made eg career, finance , marriage etc.

    Moms get to be human because the work is shared fairly. – But women have forgotten that they are humans too.

    When moms feel good, they can bond better with their husbands. Husbands “benefit” too from this emotional bonding and warmth. – All the needs of husband are met. He receives respect, love and unconditional support of wife as default. Then why husband will care if they have a bond or have a better bond.

    Dad have all benefits without being responsible for child upbringing. They need to be motivated and persuaded towards child care.

    Its very difficult to change the behavior and mindset of grown ups but we can provide balanced upbringing. Ask your daughter and son i.e future men and women to do household chores and outside work equally so that they don’t grow up with the mindset that household chores is women’s job and outside is men’s job. You can ask your husband to follow the example of kids. Some one has mentioned that if a 12+ year can do both types of work then why a 40+ can’t do it.

    Like

    • You raise an interesting point Tulika. I’ve also observed this. In many Indian families, dads do get love, respect, and trust, even without being as involved as the mom in parenting. The mom’s involvement is taken for granted, while the dad showing up for a school play is a festive occasion, to be gushed over.

      Like

      • I have seen this in my friend’s family. My friend does all the house work, cooking breakfast because husband wants to eat healthy, then she goes to work and puts in more than the mandatory 8 hours and returns home, helps the kid with the homework and other activities, cooks, cleans, and so on. The husband shows up on Sunday and the daughter is ecstatic to play with him. He is nice to her and takes her out and cuddles with her. This is why dads in India get so much love and attention.

        The girl cries her heart out when she has to go on a trip with mummy to grandmother’s place because daddy is not coming. She is too young to question why daddy can’t keep her with him. She just automatically buys that daddy has to work, mummy has to work and do everything else. But why wouldn’t she? After all, mummy buys into it too!

        Liked by 1 person

        • @Fem – unfortunately, that is the saddest truth. my friend is in the same situation as you have described, except that, she is here in united states. And when some stranger asks those little kids – whom do you like the most, kids say “I love daddy” and mother behind fumes. Mother does all the work and father gets all the credit. Don’t you think, it is a bad example that she is setting for her kids too? and why suffer in the first place?

          Like

  12. Interesting perspective and good points that you brought up here on gender equality. I have seen many of my female friends, who spoke about gender equality and feminism. Once, they had kids, they say – most fulfilling aspect is the kid and they would want to make sure the kid is fine and want to be there for them. Now, I am not sure if it is asian programmed brains from thier childhood, that mother is the whole sole responsibility. I am speaking about working women and they all make equal, if not more in salaries and are in similar responsibilities at work with their spouses. Not only asians, I have come across many people here in the west, how biased and screwed up the responsibility sharing about kids or house hold chores at home. ( Well, there are some exceptions of course and I have met some equal partners.) But the majority is the females working their day job and chores at home. Partly, I think it is the guilt.
    When my female colleague with 2 kids made a statement that she wants to travel and not with her kids, all other females who are mothers gave her such a look, stating that -” I would never leave my child and travel alone “. “I would wait until they go to college”. I felt, we working/ non-working women, does not matter who, we females want to suffer, as if that is our pre-defined role, and let men take it for granted and never realizing the effort that their spouse puts in the family. The only way, i think is to speak up, and have good communication between partners. And not give into what society thought or thinks the female / male responsibilities are.

    Like

    • And I’ve seen women stock up their freezer with ready to heat meals before they go on a long trip, like to India. They cook like crazy in the days before the trip, finish tons of laundry, ensure extra stock of bath tissue and all supplies – it almost feels like they’re leaving behind a child.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh that is soooo right. I have my friends who does it all the time. And the reasons they quote – ” they are worried about what he eats” or ” worried about spoiling their health” or “the spouses love their food” .. I am like seriously? What has happend to the life before spouse/partner. Apart from long vacation cooks, One of my friend travels for her job monday thru thusday, so she prepares lunch and dinner meals, packs them in boxes and comes back every thursday and repeats the process. She loves cooking though. Either way, females love it and when I bring it up. Some have reacted as to, “we are never going to have my kids grow up with you”.. you are going to spoil them. What an Irony.

        Like

        • We’ve been conditioned to baby our men as well as submit to them. It’s a strange mix, really:( The result of this deifying/pampering is men who are neither like adults (being responsible for themselves/not helpless) nor are they like children (who are expected to have less decision making power). When I visited India recently, my f-i-l had to stay in the hospital for 2 days to get tests done to ensure his sugar levels were fine (he had some fainting spells). After day 1, he refused and decided he wanted to go home. My m-i-l would not go against his wishes. I told my m-i-l, “Who will deal with the consequences if the tests are incomplete and his medication is incorrect? You will. Therefore you get to decide. Do you want him stay and complete the tests? Yes? Then tell him he needs to stay. You’re the one taking the primary responsibility. It’s your call.” Then she said, let’s call her son (my husband) and he can convince him on a long distance call. I said, no, no YOU tell him, you don’t need a (male) mediator. So she did tell him! So he wasn’t allowed to be a big baby and he did end up staying and getting proper tests done and he is doing fine now, thank goodness.

          Like

        • Wow! I love cooking too but that’s not something I would ever do. I would just cook on Friday and let the others fend for themselves the rest of the week. Why is it one person’s responsibility to feed any other adult human being? It’s ridiculous!

          Like

  13. Situation is quite worse in India. The people have the same old mindset of females handling household work and we have worsened our situations by working outside too. It will take many many years to change. People say females have progressed in India but it is other way round their situation is worsened because the elders will never change their mindsets.

    Like

    • “we have worsened our situations by working outside too”
      But Ria, working outside doesn’t worsen our situation. Not taking a stand at home does.
      For the longest time, my s-i-l (husband’s sister) refused to learn to drive a car because she would be assigned even more chores (she used to live with her very controlling in-laws). But self-limiting our opportunities is not the answer. Understanding what’s fair and what’s not and objecting to unfairness is what we need.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Lean In has an entire chapter on picking the right husband who WILL do his share at home. She says the spouse you choose is one of the largest factors that determines your professional success

    Like

      • Just a thought. Isnt it better to choose a husband who would be an equal partner rather than fighting the battle later on? We can all say that equality should be the default state and that’s very true. But the reality is that most men aren’t conditioned to see marriages as equal and do believe in gender roles staunchly and so it becomes critical to choose the right spouse. If one doesn’t do that despite wanting an equal marriage, life can and will become a long struggle.

        And I believe that for an equal marriage, women must marry equal first. This preferred practice of “marrying up”, which is so widely prevalent in arranged marriages by women as well as their parents also plays a big role. In arranged marriages, even well earning women insist on husbands who earn more than them. Check these shaadi.coms – woman earns 4-7 lakhs, partner preference says above 10 lakhs. Woman earns 7-10 lakhs, partner preference says above 15 lakhs. And so on.

        Marry a man who is professionally far more successful than the wife and chances are that he will expect you to put your career on a backburner for the kids.

        Like

        • Vihar, you do make an important point. Yes, to avoid these problems, ideally, we want women to do the following –
          – first get an education that is job oriented (denied to many but given to some)
          – then get a job that pays the bills
          – then live by yourself, be an adult, manage finances, develop confidence (again, many women who are earning don’t take this step and miss out on developing true autonomy)
          – meet people, get to know them (what is their value system?), date, find your own life partner (this is a huge challenge in India – there is very little healthy socialization between men and women)
          – then chances are you will marry an equal partner

          It is very hard to find an equal partner through an arranged marriage, because the arranged marriage system is heavily stacked against women. It’s very purpose is to defend and maintain hierarchies.
          Due to lack of socialization opportunities between men and women, 80 – 90% of marriages are arranged. Even the remaining “love” marriages take place in conventional ways with the groom’s side demanding gifts, etc.
          So, where is the opportunity to find an equal partner?
          A few women are choosing to stay single/ wait longer rather than go the arranged marriage route, of course, and if they ever marry, it will be an equal partner. But the majority are stuck. Once young people’s attitudes toward dating change, once caste/community stop being issues, more equal marriages will become possible.

          Like

        • Agree with you Priya.

          A lot of mess is created by the parents – first by denying the daughter choices that may affect her “value” as a “wife / DIL” and later on exercising control over her marriage.

          Parents invariably interfere lot more in a daughter’s marriage than a son’s. And a son may get a wife from a “lesser” family but the daughter must marry into a “higher” family. The pride that a father gets by marrying his daughter into an “affluent” family is unimaginable. It exasperates me but I realised through first hand experiences that it matters a lot.

          Offer equality, respect, love and chances are that the girl would take it up over “class / status / money” but the girl’s parents would not. For them, the concerns of society’s perception of their daughter’s marriage matters lot more than what actually goes inside the daughter’s house past marriage. And till this practice of insisting on “marrying up” prevails, the girl and her family would continue to be on backfoot. The guy and his family would continue to behave as if they did a favour by agreeing to marry the girl and would keep on expecting privileges and upper hand in all dealings post marriage.

          Best chance of equality in a marriage arises when the marriage decision is taken only by the two people involved – without pressure / interference by either set of parents and where post marriage, one set of parents doesn’t stay in the same house as the couple.

          And let’s admit that there are multiple variations of equal marriages. Just because husband doesn’t work as much at home in one marriage doesn’t mean that marriage is unequal. So I disagree with all the comments above which express exasperation at the wife cooking for the husband / kids every day. Perhaps, it is an equilibrium willingly worked out by the couple involved. Real equality is in the treatment as a human being. If a lady’s choices are controlled in a marriage, if the end of her career after motherhood is forced upon her, if the traditional gender roles are imposed upon her, if her views and opinions are secondary on decisions related to the house and children and if her parents are treated lesser than the guy’s parents, that’s what inequality is. Division of labour based on monetary considerations, individual preferences and relevant skillsets may make the marriage seem unequal to the outside world but it may actually be a very happy marriage wherein everyone is feeling free and comfortable with their own choices and the marriage is running smoothly like a well-oiled machine.

          And yes, just as charity begins at home, so does equality. Treat your sons and daughters equal when they are growing up. And when the son gets a wife, treat her equal to the daughter. There can’t be different standards on what you expect for your daughter in her marriage and what you offer to someone else’s daughter in her marriage.

          Like

        • Vihar,

          As you’ve said, most men aren’t conditioned to see marriages as equal.

          In such a scenario, I’d imagine that even men who aren’t much more professionally successful than the wife would want her to put her career on the backburner.

          You’ve touched upon an important point – women are often themselves conditioned to accord higher worth to men’s careers than their own.

          However, in the end it’s still really the attitude that counts, not the degree of professional success. A man who earns much more than his wife, and believes in equitable relationships, is generally going to be much more supportive of his wife’s career than a man who earns just the same as her but has an inequitable conception of marriage. Income disparity can exacerbate inequity in marital roles, but I don’t think it can really create that inequity if the protagonists aren’t inclined towards it.

          Like

        • Vihar, what you say happens mainly in stories, movies, and in the day-dreams of some girls. What happens in reality is that, for a guy earning a much higher amount or has a wealthier background, the dowry/”price-tag” (yikkes) is also much higher. And hence such matches will not come to fruition. Over time (and several failed matches – due to “unaffordability”) they’ll realize it. Moreover, most guys usually prefer girls who work in their field or in comparable domains, and earn comparably (yeah, I do know IT guys who have married stay-at-home girls, or girls with much lesser pay, but that is not the default case. And moreover, the dowry amount would might have been marked up for such girls too). So the reality is that in a marriage, both would be earning about the same amount, many be a little +/-.

          Like

  15. The main reasons for enforcing gender equality at home for me is :
    1) It is the right thing to do
    2) We have a son, who will grow up looking up to his parents for many things. And how do we teach him about equality if we do not practice it at home?
    3) BEcause equality at home ensures that I will get free time to spend on “myself” (and so will my husband)
    Being a mom to a 18 month old, and having a full time job, I feel as far as the job goes, I have a great work life balance. The company I work for is very flexible, supports work from home and flexible hours. However, I have seen that more women avail of this opportunity than the men. I generally go in very early into work and get out early so as to pick up our son from day care. My manager is cool with this and the only thing she cares about is that I get the job done! My husband on the other hand has a workplace that is more demanding…So he goes to work a bit late after dropping our son to the day care and comes home a little later than me. We have established a good system at home that works for us and our son. He takes care of our son’s morning routine..getting him ready, packing his day care bags etc dropping him so that I can leave early for work. I, on the other hand take care of the afternoon routine…Picking up from daycare, feeding him, taking him out on his walk/to play. Once daddy gets home in the evening I go out on my runs/gym. Our evening routine is also pretty balanced as both of us share the cooking. There was a time when I felt I was doing more work at home (and for the baby) than my husband, and both of us made excel sheets on the work we do based on the time spent. We did some minor adjustments and refined the system😉 … Both of us spend almost equal time with our son and almost equal time doing house work.
    Another thing is, I have tried really hard to let go of my controlling streak when it comes to house work and the kid. Even though our parenting basics align, how we do the day to day work differs massively and I have just learnt to make peace with the way my husband does the housework. We do have frequent arguments on the “right” way to do certain things, but both of us do a certain thing the way we feel is right. And frankly speaking, in the long run it hardly matters how a certain thing was done.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Both men and women seem to rely on cheap maids in Singapore to look after kids and work long hours. As Asia is still patriarchal, most of the tasks fall on the mother, I guess or just go to the maid.

    Like

  17. The problem faced by working moms here, atleast in my circle, is that they’ll have to deal with two babies – the real baby AND a 30+ year old baby (which is more difficult). The 30+ year old baby will NOT adjust to a simple meal or to a not-so-great-looking house, and won’t spare her at night as well (one of my colleagues had 2 babies within 12 months. She was not able to mother-feed her kid, and that inhuman fellow didn’t spare her just one month after her c-section! and hence the 2nd child within a year of the first’s birth). Now she’ll have to take care of the infant AND be a super cook + super home manager (and maintain her career growth as well).
    It is not much of an issue if husbands don’t help equally, if only they could understand that their wives are in a new phase of their life, and stop expecting any comforts for themselves from their new-mom wives.
    I would say that the ‘traditions’ have to be changed to allow the new mom to stay away from her demanding matrimonial home for atleast two years (and not have to go back from their maternal home shortly after delivery). That would be a real breather.

    Like

  18. Sara, your comment was too long, hence it has been edited. Quotes are your comments, my responses are embedded.

    “Your husband is an exception and not the rule.”
    – My husband is not an exception. I know quite a few men in my family (my father, my brother, a couple of cousins) and among friends who share house work fairly with their wives. Granted we need to see more of this. The more women insist on it and the more we change culturally accepted unfairness, the more men we add to this group, so they don’t have to be in the minority anymore.

    “Please don’t give a blanket order asking everyone (ex. the school teacher you mentioned, who acknowledges the mother’s work) to rob credit from all mothers :)”
    – I’m not giving an order. It’s not about robbing credit. This remark by the teacher reinforces a culture that expects women alone to perform these tasks. It sounds like praise to women, but what it does is continue the cycle of unfair expectations and making tasks gender specific.

    “Ms. Zaleski talks about mothers alone – Extending additional sensitivity to mothers (and not just equal to fathers, who also need some flexibility) is justifiable for several reasons:There are women who face complications even in the early stages of gestation and are advised not to move around much. This never happens to fathers. So, more lenience needs to be accorded to mothers. Mothers are physically drained – as minerals from their body are consumed by the fetus. And some more is used for lactating. Recovering from childbirth itself takes several weeks (more if there was a surgery or complications). Father undergoes none of this too. The infant IS physically dependent on its mother for its food and immunity. It NEEDS physical contact with the mother for developing its immunity.”

    – Absolutely agree. Where in my post did I say that gestating mothers need to be up and running, lifting weights, etc. Of course, they need time off and lots of help, space, sensitivity, and emotional support. Most of my post refers to the post-infant stages of parenting and how mothers continue to take on a big chunk of it.

    “It can’t be denied that a bigger role in parenting falls on the mother. No matter what equality we talk about, these facts will remain, (unless of course, scientists find a way to make men pregnant, deliver, lactate..), and mothers will need a kinder hand than fathers. Better work along with nature than working against it by forcing a blind strict 50:50 exact equality for the sake of “equality” (“don’t dare to expect anything more than what men get!”) without giving a thought to what someone underwent. I just can’t understand why some people want 50:50 equality, and nothing else, no matter what additional pain one person undergoes.”

    – I’m not sure how you concluded all this from the post. No one wants to change nature here. During gestation and the birth and shortly after, the mother has a central role to play; the father can play a wonderfully supportive role during this time. This is a great time for the father to bond with the family by doing everything he can to support them. And AFTER this period, mothers and fathers must share parenting equally and fairly. Beyond the early infant stage, fathers can and should be equally involved. And 50/50 means being fair. It does not mean drawing a rigid line. If the husband broke his leg or falls sick, obviously the wife will do more. If the wife is pregnant, obviously the husband will do more. This happens naturally in a genuinely equal relationship without the need for splitting hairs. And if doesn’t, it’s up to us to communicate and ask for it.

    “Better use the term ‘flexible work options’. The word “mother-friendly” makes it appear as if the company is offering some special sops for mothers, while in actuality the flexibility is equally made use of by everybody (fathers & non-parents too).”

    – You completely missed my point here. I’m asking for the term “parent-friendly” instead of “mother-friendly” not to rob women of credit for their work but to demand that fathers do their share and that companies start seeing household and parenting duties not as “mother’s tasks” but as “parent’s tasks” (mothers AND fathers).

    “Sorry my comment got too long :)”

    – Overall, you seem to have interpreted my post as taking away credit from mothers. Rather, it’s the opposite. It’s about demanding that fathers do their fair share, and for all of us to stop feeding a culture that continues to expect women to do most of the house work and parenting, while also working full time jobs.

    Like

    • Thanks for taking out the time (and patience) to reply:)
      Ok, I think I see your point – to level the ground for both male and female employees/professionals, by making both spend equal time on all non-professional must-do’s, including childcare (which is close to women’s hearts:) )
      I’m still doubtful though, about how honest some guys will be when calculating their 50% of the work😛 or how many of them will be willing to support their wife in the critical phase even if their workplace gives them options.

      Like

  19. Pingback: Fortune Mother Exchange : Mother’s cooking for Indian male children. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  20. Pingback: The Changing Role of Dads | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  21. Pingback: Why it isn’t enough to raise independent daughters. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  22. Pingback: “A Delhi court has refused alimony and advised the wife to find a job. Now that’s Equality.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s