I recently read this comic, and it completely resonated with me. I quite liked the term 'mental load' mentioned in it. Based on my own experience and those of women around me, I would venture that we are always carrying this mental load.
Here are some scenarios that I would like you to consider:
Women are always responsible for household chores:
It's true. From the moment you become a couple, the household chores are automatically considered a woman's domain. Cleaning, housekeeping, laundry, ironing, dusting and cooking are all a woman's headache. And if and when children come along, her responsibilities automatically expand. I've heard many times that women are better suited for such tasks. But, in my opinion, we have just been conditioned to believe this. I have come across many women who dislike cooking, many who hate cleaning or housekeeping, and still others who absolutely abhor looking after kids. But do they have a choice?
I checked with a number of my women friends who had full-time jobs and not a single one had a husband who shared the burden of household chores equally with her.
Men help out:
Trust me, I am not being ungrateful. I do realise that I share this earth with countless women who have no basic rights over food, choices like education, choosing their life partner, their domestic and reproductive rights and so on. Compared to their situation, men being relatively hands-on with housework or raising kids are a huge boon. But trust me, men are still only helping out unless they do as as much as the average woman does and also consider it their responsibility. Most men don't. You can ask them to help out and they will from time to time, but most of the chores are still your problem. I checked with a number of my women friends who had full-time jobs and not a single one had a husband who shared the burden of household chores equally with her.
Society has very different expectations from women:
The expectations from men and women are different, both in the society and within the family. A newlywed bride will likely have a ritual where she cooks something for the entire family. This is her initiation into the kitchen. Does a man have something similar? No. I have seen working women take leaves from office when there is a festival to be celebrated because they are responsible for handling the cooking and other related activities. Men can come in the evening and no one bats an eye. I know of mother-in-laws, some closely, who tell their working daughter-in-laws to manage household chores before they head out to work. Men have no such concerns except their own professional work. Every step of the way, a woman's professional life is something to be managed after she has handled her household duties. This despite her contributing to her family's income. With such mindsets, is it any wonder that when it comes to participation of women in workforce, India ranks 120 out of 131 nations (World Bank Report released last week). Only 27 percent of Indian women work, while the figure in China and Brazil is 65-70 percent. Imagine if highly qualified women held full-time jobs, the wonders it would do to India's GDP and economy.
Every step of the way, a woman's professional life is something to be managed after she has handled her household duties.
Feminism is a bad word:
Feminism, a movement for equal rights for women is often seen as something belligerent, aggressive and man hating. It is not! Most women are just asking for a life which has a better balance for both women and men. Asking for what is rightfully yours is an uphill battle. Conventional upbringing often makes men not receptive to taking on a greater share of housework. After all their fathers did not do it and neither do their friends. Trust me, working 24X7, 7 days a week, planning, organising and keeping a household running is a pretty taxing job. No wonder then, some men chicken out of added responsibilities. Ambition in women is also not considered a good trait. The more docile the woman, the more praises she earns.
Just like the comic above says, if you are one of the few who has a partner who shares all duties at home then you can count yourself as blessed. But this is an ideal situation, almost never true in real life in India. Often, the woman can do little to change things for the better. As I pointed out earlier, there are multiple factors such as living with the in-laws, the woman's own conditioning, unhelpful spouse and society's censure or ridicule — all of which make it difficult for the woman to lighten her 'mental load'.
I would love to hear your views and personal experience on the topic.