Gender Roles | The Bottom of the Barrel

Firefighting Mode – Chapter 2

Housework in many Indian homes isn’t just the chores and also involves an expression of love that makes women do daily tasks for the boy child and for their menfolk, that they are perfectly capable of doing themselves. The average man reciprocates by bearing the full financial burden for the family. At least I think, in most middle and upper income groups.

In lower income groups this might be different as in many cases women might have more secure incomes that men. In which case, they do all the chores AND work.

There’s a lot of praise for the self-sacrifice of the mother in society. Young children will eulogize this sometimes by writing poetry and essays praising the suffering and self-sacrifice on mother’s day each year.

Microwave Madam had her part-time career which kept her work skills going and she was happy to have a low income so that the home could run smoothly. Financial security wasn’t an issue for her even though she had given up a really good income and career. Because all family investments and any property they would purchase in their nuclear family would be owned jointly.

Financial decisions were taken jointly within their nuclear family. MM had an accounting and business background while her husband had an instinct for making decisions based on current economic and industry trends so they actually worked very well together. Small stable risk averse investments made consistently might not bring high returns, but they provide financial stability.

Gender roles work well when they are flexible. When there’s room for change. When all, irrespective of their role have financial independence. And when all, irrespective of their roles have the right to adequate sleep and rest.

This last was an issue for MM as the busy got busier for her husband and he started to live in firefighting mode. It was comfortable for him because she supported him. Staying up late to serve him dinner and getting up early to make breakfast. Picking up after him because he’d had no time to tidy after his daily hobbies were done. Attending family gatherings alone because he was late at work. And doing all the cooking, chores and bills. Weekends spent catching up on sleep that doesn’t really work for long term health.

A man who has never ever run his own home can make the mistake of thinking running the home is an easy thing to do. Even when it’s a seven day job with no holidays, for a family with a terribly disorganized busy. And no time to sit down for a while uninterrupted because chores arising from gender roles crop up all the time.

There was a growing disrespect of the role of the home-maker that had never been a part of their home, possibly because they started their marriage with both working and earning. But it was starting to set in and she would see later that this was quite acceptable in society and that it had the support of many within their extended family.


The Bottom of the Barrel
She's like the bottom of the pot where the spoon scrapes
when there's not enough inside to put on our plates.
Like the bottom of the barrel that bears the pressure
when it's filled to the brim. With no ease or leisure.

The support for the busy of everyone else
and when she's not well the support for herself.
She's not like her husband who gets his food done
when the doctor advises lifestyle changes and more sun.

Not at the park with her friends like old men
who have nothing to do and time to spend.
The support for the busy of everyone else
and when she's not well the support for herself.

This is something the medical profession should consider
and talk to Indian families still steeped in patriarchy and traditions.
Because many men don't do housework and some think it's demeaning and they often don't have the fortitude needed to handle children and difficult elderly senior citizens.

They need to wake up and offer support and caring and a doctor talking about this might make them more understanding.

She's like the bottom of the barrel that bears the pressure
when it's filled to the brim and there's no ease or leisure.
The support for the busy of everyone else
and when she's not well, often the ONLY support for herself.

I invite you to read all chapters of Firefighting Mode and think about the kind of society we create when we leave the busy unmoderated, and let it take over our lives.

Published by Anitaelise

Anitaelise teaches piano lessons at Anitaelise Piano Studio and writes poetry and essays at The Relaxed Housekeeper.

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