Working Women 'Still Do Housework...'

Working women still do housework – Isn’t that stating the obvious…? Whenever I think of my three decades+ career as a senior banking professional, a single parent and a home maker, I remember all those 5 am wake-up alarms, hurried cooking, packing lunch boxes for my son, rushing out to catch the 8.10 am Janakpuri-Connaught Place chartered bus to reach my work place by 9 am at Connaught Circus, New Delhi after ensuring that my son was ready for school and striding straight into the kitchen after returning from the bank at 9-9.30 pm.

Being a single parent also required me never to miss the all-important PTA meetings at my son’s school. And then, there was the buying of vegetables for the entire week at the Janakpuri Saturday market which needed meticulous planning, such that the vegetables properly lasted till the next Saturday. I am sure; this is the routine with slight changes here and there, of most working woman in India barring a few exceptions.

Mercifully, I had no in-laws, no full-time domestic help or anyone else at home except my son…But often, there’d be friends and relatives from South who’d camp at my place during their Agra, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Badrinath etc. trips…! I must, however, confess to a sense of guilt that I couldn’t give much time to my son in his growing years and couldn’t entertain guests as much as I’d have liked to…

Is there a working woman in India, who doesn’t do housework? Even the high, salaried ones who may be able to afford a battery of help, cannot avoid housework. The cook almost invariably asks the lady of the house about the menu or informs only her when the gas cylinder is over. When the driver needs an advance, he’d much rather appeal to the feminine ‘humane’nity of Madam…When the maid needs Chhutti, she turns to Madam. And it’s the working woman, who checks out if everything’s ok at home before rushing out for work. I believe that planning a menu in a way that all needs are taken care of till one returns home or managing maids, drivers, cooks etc. is like running a parallel administration at home along with office work… Counselling and helping maids, lending them a sympathetic ear no matter how busy one is, are also a part of the housework that a working woman has to deftly handle...

As for the less fortunate, middle and lower class working women, it’s a daily, non-stop 5 am- 11pm routine for most part of their lives…with no domestic help either in the form of maids or in-laws at home. The lower class working woman is generally the bread winner with often a husband who is an alcoholic and wouldn’t hesitate to beat her up or the kids if his wishes are not fulfilled.

It’s an accepted and a natural way of life for the Indian working women to do housework. It’s no big deal! From the time they are born, the conditioning starts. House work first starts like a game with dolls and toys that consist of a set of pressure cooker, gas-stove, mixer etc. As she grows up, her gradual initiation into household chores is a natural progression.

In the lower class homes, the eldest girl, no matter what her age is, invariably looks after her younger siblings and attends to a major part of the house work while her mother is out. When she is older, her younger sister takes over her mantle while she sets out to earn a livelihood to support her growing family.

It is a common practice that if the mother is a working woman, she turns to her daughter for help. She’ll look up to her son only for the ‘manly’ jobs like fixing some electrical glitches or when an electronic item needs to be purchased or repaired…

The current generation of men does deserve a pat on the back. Quite a few of them, share the housework, drop the kids at school, help out at home, take leave when the kid is unwell, buy provisions and vegetables, and so on. However, this happens more in nuclear families than joint families. In India, if a man helps out in housework, it’s still considered a favor and not a routine. And such a man is viewed with great admiration, wonderment and envy by other women…!

When a woman enters her professional career, she is told to think like a man, act like a lady and work like a dog if she aspires to compete with her male counterparts or create at least a small crack in the proverbial glass ceiling. However, at home, it is dinned into her that she is just a wife, a mother, a daughter, a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law (today, there are homes where both the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are working women). She should not bring office work home or talk shop at home. It is perfectly natural for the man to be in a “discussion” on his cell phone or a conference call on the dining table, in the bed room and even the bathroom.!

Many husbands boast that they have “permitted” their wife to work while it is no secret that aspirations like owning a home, appliances, gadgets, savings for future etc., can be fulfilled only with both the husband and wife going out to work. However, her economic independence and office work responsibilities have no relevance when it comes to the working woman handling housework.

In India, doing housework is still and largely considered a woman’s job – whether she is working or not. If the maid or cook doesn’t turn up, then it’s the woman who quickly enters the kitchen to rustle up something and clear the sink…Not everyone can afford to order food from outside. Work life balance hardly exists for the Indian working women. In fact, except the employees from the IT / ITES sector and some other top notch women executives from the corporate sector, very few Indian working women are even aware that a concept like work life balance exists….!

So, working women (still) doing housework – I repeat – is stating the obvious…! .AND the Indian working women are the perfect role models for multi tasking with great aplomb!
Image (c) Gettyimages.com


More by :  Padmaja Iyengar-Paddy

Top | Women

Views: 4891      Comments: 10

Comment I want to work

10-Jan-2024 07:22 AM

Comment Nice article, very clear picture of working women who also does household works.

At Least now all men should be able to understand household work is also part of their work, they should not say that they are helping their wife's.

24-Feb-2020 23:27 PM

Comment Women work or don't work at office, its up to them. But women should take care of household work, Its not something gender biased but its rule of nature. Women are well suited to take care of household and their children. Because children needs proper care, which can only be given y mother, that's the only reason in most of divorce cases women will be given child custody.If women deny this fact the this will be ignorance. No matter how educated or how modern we are, some things cant be changed, if you try to change nature rule then you will obviously see the negative impact of it on your child and house too. Doing a job to earn is not really mandatory for women, because house care and child care is the greatest and most sacred job given to mother by mother nature. But pity on today's so called modern independent and empowered women, they think its a burden for them. But still there are some great women among us, who know that its their responsibility towards family, They don't care how modern they are, or how much they are earning, they know that its their wish, wither to earn money or not, But taking care of house and children is their priority. Bow in respect to those women, Because if those sacred women, still world got good citizens, But worried about future, feminist are ruining this nature, and heading this world towards most stupid and manner-less civilization. Just like it shown in movie Idiocrecy...

02-Dec-2013 15:20 PM

Comment I totally agree to ur article. I go through the same situation everyday. Whether i am tired or not, whether I m normal or pregnant. I have to be the one who has to take the responsibility of the house , the guests, if the maids are absent, I have to be the one doing all the jobs, and even if I ask help from my hubby, its up to his wish to help me as if its only my responsibility to do everything

04-May-2013 12:54 PM

Comment Respected Dr. Raghavan, My piece was intended as a tribute to the multi-tasking Indian working women on International Women's Day. If it has disturbed you in any way, then I'm sorry..We are also five sisters and each one is an accomplished achiever in her chosen field..AND we have all managed our respective households along with our jobs...If the article sounds like a rant or grumble to you, then be that as it may....

Padmaja Iyengar
09-Mar-2013 07:15 AM

Comment Honestly I fail to see the point made my Ms. Padmaja. The tone of the article is rather disturbing. Is there anything derogatory about a working woman attending to household chores?

I have five sisters and four of them are still working or did work till recently. They are all successful in their profession and also as homemakers. I don't recall any instance of them looking down upon the household assignments. I also wish to add they did get cooperation from their spouses.

My daughter is settled in the United States. Like thousands of others she is a working woman. Unlike in India, there is little option in America as you don't get servant maids. Husband and wife together have to do one hundred per cent of all the household jobs. Nobody grumbles there.

There is no need for any one to grumble in India either. After all you are serving yourself and nobody else. ..


08-Mar-2013 23:05 PM

Comment Hi Dr. Ra alakshmii. Thanks for your insightful feedback.

08-Mar-2013 08:02 AM

Comment Hi! Padmaja!
It is true for every working woman in India, whether South or North or east or west! Same situation in every culture! I have seen in the deserts of Rajasthan how the poor women have to all the household and also the field work while the men sit in the Bhaitak and smoke opium , not even lifting their little finger! Thanks for the nice write up! Whither is the Women's liberation!

08-Mar-2013 00:26 AM

Comment Hi Padmavathi. Thanks for your detailed comments. I completely agree with them - that the woman of today in her multi tasking role gives far too mauch than what she gets....It's a tough, uphill path of liberation...Liberation is not physical here but the feeling of being liberated...What you say echoes the feelings of many women but we all have our own unique reflexes to overcome the obstacles to liberate ourselves from the so-called norms of the society and establish our identity...

Padmaja Iyengar
07-Mar-2013 21:50 PM

Comment India is a country where women play dual roles in many situations. In my view, she is kind, loving, caring, dedicated, patient and submissive in order to avoid problems everywhere. In fact, she may not express each and every quality outside, but most of the women have these qualities. In the past, her duties were confined to the four walls of a kitchen and she wasn't allowed to go for higher education. What's the reality? It's quite clear that she was treated as a woman who was born to fulfil the needs of family members patiently as a mother, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, mother-in-law etc...As we all know,,,,, she was asked to obey the promise,,,,dharmecha, kamecha, ardhecha, mokshecha shayanesa, and so on...
Now, the situation of women is more horrible. As you mentioned, she will have to play the dual role at workplace and residence. How many people know that sharing is caring? In fact, there are men who cooperate with women in their responsibilities in kitchen especially which will ease the women mentally and physically. The working women's problems are infinite as they have to manage in both the places.
People say that, life is more comfortable than earlier as we use many machines at home, but we need to use time for utilizing those wonderful machines. Time and tide waits for none. She moves according to the time and completes her duties.
When we talk about people, qualities and attitude differ from one person to another. Likewise, there are men who understand women and there are many who don't understand them. In general, culture of our nation is rapidly changing and the people are becoming addicted to different life styles.
In our country, men are addicted to some habits like smoking, drinking etc and harass women, especially in labourer groups, where women work in the fields and home. I feel that they should be guided and educated well by educated people, if possible. In executives families, they become social habits, ultimately the same.
As the time passes, we have to accept that the woman has to become a job holder in many families, when we think about the financial issues right now.
Caste system is also one of the causes which made a woman isolated from outside the world. On the contrary, the women fight for equality in all the fields now which is a good sign, but still they have to go long way to achieve it. It doesn’t mean that it is an unfulfilled dream. The glorified culture treated the woman as a sexual object, not as a human being. In. developing countries, we normally find gender differences in wages. They are not paid according to the work they do or the time they spend, they are paid on gender difference.. We can’t expect everything to be handed to us on a plate.
One thing is true! If a woman is given an opportunity, she will prove her capability.

07-Mar-2013 12:28 PM

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