Traditionally, well-cultured Indian girls are supposed to know how to cook, keep the house clean, and manage man-temper (read: tantrums). She is responsible for birthing children that mirror his family ideals and morales, while also becoming a clone to his mother.
A modern Indian girl is a working woman who may or may not be married, but often indulges in social activities and intoxication. She is known to have her own ideals and morales and is (sadly) vocal about them.
(Achieving) A balance of sorts between the two is the women who are modern and yet know their way around the traditional norms. But the preference often lies with the "well-cultured" woman.
The former is never in control of her narrative but often ends up with a heroic and dreamy (even toxic) man who saves her from her plight. Only for her to accede to him, after her father. The latter, however, is first supposed to feel sorry about her life choices. And only then can hope to find a man. Because face it, this is that what every girl wants! (smell the sarcasm?)
A girl could be at the top of her career and even excel at some sport. But her life is only complete when she finds a man, not a companion, but a man.
Bollywood can be held accountable to some extent for instilling these values. This story structure surprisingly overarches any other narrative. Even in the supposedly "modern" times, a woman is never in control of her own tale. And the protocol for a woman never changes. Indian advertisements, also an example of the same,(until very recently), would not deter from these archaic norms.
Sadly enough, we have also, to an extent, grown up to believe the norm. Men, as well as woman, reinforce their roles in a family. Even if they do not conform to gender norms, a subtle conflict ensures that both comply with their roles.
Especially after the lockdown, there has been an increase in the sentiment that men often do not help women with household chores. Recent studies conducted by Gemini cooking oils revealed that 6 in 10 women would like to save cooking time. And spend time engaging in their passions and interests. The survey reviewed ten cities across Maharashtra.
Titled #IgnitingAspirations, the survey also found that 61 per cent of women between the ages of 40 and 45 spend most of their time doing household chores, especially cooking and childcare. While 60 per cent of wished to be more than just home-makers.
The Bridge Chronicle asked women their opinion on men helping with household work.
Chandrika Sohi, a housewife, said, "My husband helped me a lot during the lockdown, but other than that, when he has to go to office, I feel it is not right for him to help me with housework because, he has enough workload to look after. I am happy to help by looking after the house."
Giving a contradicting opinion, Mamta Virvani, an architect and mother of one, expressed that a little help at home would help. "After work, there is a lot to take care of at home. But my husband often will expect me to take care of everything. He is an engineer and works late on most days. But on weekends, it would be nice to get help with household work."
Meeta Kulkarni said, "I had been hoping to get support at home, and my friend advised me to talk to my husband about it. At first, I was dreading it but turned out that help was only a call away. He was very welcoming about the idea and now helps me with work at home."
Well-known author Sujata Salvi suggests that "Yes it does put stress on a woman as she feels that only household work proficiency will determine her skill set or make her a complete woman. Whereas this should not be the case, every human being is gifted. Individual talent should be the default parameter to judge a woman."
"Being humiliated by family members or in-laws for not being able to do proper chores might put women's mental health at risk. She might even feel out of place or unfit in the family. No matter how qualified and brilliant you are otherwise, failing to do the chores leaves you nowhere even today. It impacts a woman a lot, even if she refuses to talk about it. Unspoken fears and restrictions on complaints might lead to stress." she added.
For various reasons, women are also hesitant to ask for help from their in-laws and partner. A few women who The Bridge Chronicle spoke to, sighted that, in-laws are another reason they cannot express their thoughts.
We spoke to Dr Santosh Bangar, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Global Hospital, Parel to understand his take on the matter.
Why do you think, household work is associated with women?
Historically, women have been considered the "home-maker," and men the "bread-winner." This idea is culturally accepted, although to a different extent in various sectors of society. However, there is a gradual shift from this trend as more and more women have been encouraged to take up a professional role, with great success. It is evident in various fields with the lessening of gender bias and discrimination against women.
Does the idea put undue stress on women who are not proficient with household work?
If a person is not used to doing something and, is expected to perform, it can create unease. The person could also experience mental confusion, lack of self-confidence, unnecessary worry and excess stress. Any work/job needs a degree of training, and it depends on individual skill sets. Household is no different.
What kind of mental pressure does this exert on women?
Excessive mental pressure/tension/stress, if unattended, can lead to a variety of mental health problems. It can also lead to interpersonal issues.
Behavioural issues among family members, leading to marital discord, arguments and rift could exist. Common mental illnesses like anxiety disorders, depression and sleep problem can result from unresolved stress.
How can it be communicated effectively?
A culture of openness and transparent communication must be encouraged between family members. A certain degree of trust, honesty and responsibility or role sharing tend to help regain self-confidence. Having a regular dialogue can be a helpful way of ventilating stress.
How can women deal with this pressure better?
The first step is to recognise and accept that one is under stress. Practising yoga, meditation, eating a balanced diet and regular exercise are useful de-stressing measures. Listening to soothing music, socialising with friends and having some "me-time" can help tackle the stress.
If these self-help measures fail, one must not hesitate to seek professional help from a psychologist for specialised counselling or a psychiatrist for short term anti-anxiety medication.
*About the author: Sujata Salvi holds an engineering degree from Pune University. She currently heads an IT organisation as a COO. Through her writing, she explores the life of a common man. Whilst capturing the changing dynamics of changing times.