What society expects from Men
When compared to women, a man’s responsibilities seem to end at the work front. Not much is expected of them at the home front. And anytime they even lend a hand in the household, society applauds their efforts as if they are a boon to all of mankind. Their mere suggestion of helping out is more than enough to appease societal expectations. While for women coming home from work is merely the beginning of her second shift.
Working moms don’t have it that simple for them. For them, it honestly is a no-win situation as far as satisfying society is concerned. And all this during what is considered to be a time of female empowerment both in the workforce and society. We are falling miserably short of this mark of equality.
Women’s careers are always considered secondary
Now let’s move on to the scenario where a household has two full-time working parents. This is becoming increasingly common due to the female empowerment movement, as women have started gaining greater access than ever to education and subsequent job opportunities. Also, in many big cities it has become more of a necessity for both the parents to be working as the cost of living keeps increasing.
When it’s evident and clearly established that both the parents are working full-time, even then it falls on the woman by default to take care of any family related problems whether it be picking-up kids from school; attending their performances and competitions; packing their lunches; dealing with the maids. What this boils down to is that despite all the leaps we have made as a community, we still don’t think that a woman’s job is as important as a man’s. That the man’s work will take precedence over the woman’s any given time of the day. They cannot find the off-switch for their job as a mom.
Work-life double standards
Women are made to feel guilty for working outside and leaving their child alone or in day-care. The expectation is to always give the child priority before work, but this seems to apply only to the mothers. They aren’t meant to be workaholics or have very lofty professional ambitions that interfere with their commitment towards the children. But when at work, this completely switches; they are expected to leave home life behind and provide their undiluted attention to work. Such contradictory views from different sects of society only end up augmenting the issue at hand.
When a man expresses that he’s distracted due to some problem regarding his kids, he’s showered with empathy and endless compassion. Being ‘a family man’ helps their careers and earns them promotions as it has been etched into our brains that it is a sign of an honest, loyal, and mature individual. If only this went the other way around with women. For them, it’s nothing but a giant obstacle. Employers are apprehensive if they can strike an equilibrium between home and work life. And at the back of their minds remain concerns of pregnancy and maternity leaves, temporary hires, and the costs all of this bears on the finances of the company.
A lack of appreciation
A major critic that working moms commonly have is the lack of appreciation they receive for the humongous job they get done day in-and-out, without finding any periods of respite in between. Their lives seem to come down to an endless to-do list of errands, chores, and responsibilities pertaining to their family and job. The dad picks-up a single, solitary sock off the floor and he’ll be showered with praise by society while in the background the wife’s breaking her back cleaning the house; doing the laundry; putting the entire world’s mess in place. This stirs-up enmity for the husband, even though he’s not in the wrong. It just happens to be a by-product of the anger on society and its lofty and borderline impossible expectations for women.
This is propagated by social media content as well. One picture of a dad helping out with the kids, and people go wild about how progressive and supportive he is, and how they wish all men were like him. But at the same time, if you post something about a woman helping the kids, there will hardly receive such praise, as this is simply the norm, nothing special going on here.
How the pandemic has aggravated this issue
With Unlock 2.0, many offices have started re-opening and the workload has ramped up as the client base returns in full-force. All this leads to a full-time work responsibility, either through remote working or office working. But most day-cares, schools, summer camps, and other outdoor activities that keep children engaged while the parent works remain on hiatus. Also, maids and other help remain unavailable. Even other friends and family cannot look after them as they battle their own lockdown restrictions. Thus, though the workload is back to the pre-pandemic level, the domestic responsibility hasn’t scaled down. So, most mothers might be forced to either quit their jobs or shift to part-time, both of which will harm their future career prospects. This could have long-term repercussions on the war for gender equality.
How to tackle this issue head-on
The quality of a mother shouldn’t be based on all the sacrifices she has made.
If the only way to be a good mother in the eyes of society is by constantly making sacrifices for your child and family, then I think most mothers should gracefully bow out of this competition. It shouldn’t fetter them to the house and throw a wrench in their professional ambitions and pursuits. If the mother doesn’t feel fulfilled, the bitterness will translate into her relationship with the kids; as they will be the ones to receive the blame for the mother’s state.
You come first.
Not the husband, parents, siblings, or even the kids. You deserve to be your first priority. Throwing yourself after others and not looking after yourself is a one-way lane to fatigue, exhaustion, and a complete burn-out. And if you were to lose yourself in the process, then what would happen to the family? It would all come tumbling down.
Teach your children to appreciate all that you do.
It doesn’t matter if society accepts and congratulates you on all your accomplishments and services. Gratitude and recognition of your efforts from the members of the family is enough for a mother to deal with all that the world throws at her.
Don’t let others be co-dependent on you.
Teach every member of the house to work and manage independently. Start incorporating these habits from a young age in your kids. Tell them to perform chores and errands on their own. And most importantly to be able to self-regulate themselves when alone, or not under any adult supervision. If you have more than one child, teach the elder siblings to look after the younger ones. Make sure that you have the required support to deal with all the demands that are placed on you.
Have a truly progressive relation with your spouse.
Make sure that the workload dynamic you share works for both of you. Don’t let there be any disequilibrium in dishing out the roles and responsibilities. Remember that parenting is a group effort. The father of the child is equally responsible for the children and the house.