It was a happy day. We were having a get together. It was a potluck and the women were busy preparing what they were meant to bring. I spent a good 2 hours prepping and preparing, clearly underestimating the time it needed to cook for 10 adults and many children. We were looking forward to an afternoon of chatter, laughter and fun. We did have that. But you know what, all of the women agreed how wonderful it would be if the men instead of plonking down to beer, food and conversations where they are served with not a care in a world would actually oversee some arrangements.
How it would feel for us to turn the tables? The women walking in and sitting down on the table to beer and drinks. Most of us drink these days. And the men served us at the table and then worried about the little kids, feeding them and taking care of their minor disputes and crying. Does it seem too far fetched? Not at all. My husband has been taking care of the kids and also cooking always. So I can see him shine at this. Is it that sometime we just don’t ask?
This has nothing to do with women working professionally or being at home. Women never stop working, period! From the moment they wake up till the time they hit the bed, it is a constant check list of things to be ticked off. To be fair, husbands do quite a bit these days, at least mine does. Yet, the kids’s day-to-day studies, their assessments and exams, their activities and projects, the maids and their supervision, menu planning, sending off the kids to school, planning their meals and packing their lunchboxes, cooking 3 meals a day, folding laundry are all things that I do solely. Can I really switch off and work? Hardly ever. In between my professional work, I cook breakfast and lunch. I also pick up the kids or go out for personal work. I multitask quite a bit. The only time when I can completely switch off is when I travel. Sometimes on work and some other time on family engagements.
These days, I cherish the quiet. I don’t want to be spoken to all the time. I want to go away from the bickering noises of the kids. When I travel alone, I either read or watch people. I love doing nothing once in a while, my mind empty of thoughts and worries. My mind not overdoing the routine and checking off duties and chores.
I think the biggest difference in being a man and a woman is that men have the luxury of switching off and not multitasking. They can be at work, whether from home or office and not expect to be disturbed. They don’t come home to multiple responsibilities. The woman especially if she is a mother has no such luxuries. She is constantly working against time to make it to work on time after finishing all her duties at home in the morning. She is also working quick and hard to make it back home on time. My friend, Nabanita, shares her struggles as a young working mother on her blog.
My older son is currently having his Board exams. I haven’t left the house in months for a vacation. I need to be here. I want to be here to offer him moral support, to ease his nerves, to provide him the much-needed boost when he feels overwhelmed. The younger son also will be having his exams soon. I have been supervising and goading him to study all these days. I will spend time revising the portion before each paper as well. The husband has taken two guilt-free weeklong trips in the past 2 months. I don’t grudge him those trips. I just see the contrast in how a woman, willingly or unwillingly, is always working, always invested.
As a woman, I want to facilitate other women to take time off completely. My mother-in-law did that when the kids were young. She would babysit the kids while we could go out or I could go to the parlor. Can we help out our friends similarly? Give them some responsibility free time to do what we they even if it means just reading a book, watching something on TV or just sitting and staring at the leaves fall from the trees. And I would ask the women to give it a shot. Don’t hanker about the small mistakes that your man may make. So what if the house is not spotless or the work done as you do it, the effort has been made. Appreciate it and encourage it. Claim this time for yourself, guilt-free. You deserve it!
To the men, I say, you can’t give a bigger gift to your woman by giving her some worry-free time. Decide on how you want to do it. It could be by making lunch all by yourself, no help from her (including cleaning up the kitchen). It could be handling the home while she can go out solo or with her girlfriends. It can be by encouraging her to go out for a few days while you handle the home and the kids.
It’s not difficult to do if the intent is there. Can we try giving each other equal opportunity to switch off from duties and responsibilities? Can we help women switch off?