I recently read this comic, and it completely resonated with me. I quite liked the term ‘mental load’ that was mentioned here. Based on my own experience and those of women around me, I would say that we are always carrying this mental load.

women workload

Here are a few scenarios that I would like you to consider:

Women are always responsible for household chores:

That’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 they have children, automatically her responsibilities expand. Often, I’ve heard that women are better suited for them. But, in my opinion, we are just conditioned to believe that. I have come across many women who dislike cooking, many others who hate cleaning or housekeeping and still others who absolutely abhor looking after kids. But do they have a choice?

Men help out:

Trust me, I am not being ungrateful. I do realise that I share this earth with countless other 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 that scenario, men being relatively hands-on with housework or raising kids are a huge boon. But trust me, it is still helping out unless you do it as much as an average woman does it and consider it your responsibility. Most men don’t. You can ask them to help 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 took more of a burden of household chores than her. So you see? We are still not really sharing the load equally.

Society has very different expectations from women:

The expectations from men and women are different both from the society and within the family. A newly wed 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 work 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 mils, some closely, who tell their working dils to manage her household chores before she heads out to work. Men have no such concerns to worry about except their own professional work. Every step of the way, a woman’s professional work is something to be managed after she has handled her household duties. This despite her contributing to her family’s income. With such mindset, is it any wonder that India ranks 120 out of 131 nations for dismal participation of women in workforce (World Bank Report released last week). This is just 27% while in China and Brazil, it is 65-70%. Imagine if highly qualified women held full-time jobs, the wonders it would do to the GDP and economy of India!

Feminism is a bad word:

Feminism which has been fighting 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 more load 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.

women workload

Just like the comic says, if you are one of the few who has a partner who shares all duties at home then you sure can count yourself as blessed. But, it would be silly to assume that this is the situation in every home or even possible in each home. Often, the woman cannot be blamed. As I pointed out earlier, there are multiple factors like living with in-laws, her own conditioning, reluctance of the spouse and even censure/ridicule of society that may all make it difficult for the woman to lighten her ‘mental load’.

I would love to hear your views and personal experience on this topic.

Pics courtesy: Shutterstock

Linking to #FeministMondays on Naba’s blog.

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48 Thoughts on “Women and Workload

  1. I have so much to say on this, Rachna and you probably know that already. But if I start here it will become another post. So, let me just share something about a colleague here. She has to do all the household chores before she comes to work. The in-laws do not allow for a cook to be hired. In fact, if she hires, they turn the cook away. Before going to sleep at night she has to massage her mil’s legs. And if she doesn’t wish her mil on mother’s day then all hell breaks loose. It doesn’t matter that the son has not wished. Oh and if the mil knows she has team lunch outside, she specifically instructs her to not eat non-veg. If my colleague is unwell and asks for food to be home delivered even that is not acceptable. This is happening today in 2017. So, you can imagine what women live through daily, even the educated and working women. It makes me so angry.

    • Kaveri Murthy on June 12, 2017 at 11:17 am said:

      How is she not able to stand up for herself?
      I wont even ask what her husband is doing!

    • Naba, I was doing all these at my earlier stage of marriage. That time was so hectic with hyper active toddler boy, household chores, doing ME, hubby operating to Tuticorin daily, hubby doing MBA and my retina detachment surgery. All these made me so mad that anyone could believe. Now I can proudly say I’m a depression and suicide survivor. From my experience, one should fight and stand for the rights. Then slowly everything changes. My love and hugs to your college.

    • God! This is too much! I wonder how they are allowing her to work. Because of the salary she is earning, may be? And, I’m sure her husband is a big disappointment (for her).

    • It’s so tragic to hear about your colleague. I wonder what her compulsions are to put up with this exploitation.

  2. I can well relate to your post, Rachna. I too got affected by ‘mental load’ and went to depression. That was a long story but now I feel I’m more than enough with the support of my hubby, mom and son. Thanks for sharing this thought.

  3. I think you speak for a lot, if not all, women with this post, Rachna. I loved reading it more as it is a balanced view straight from the heart and not a rant.
    This inequality continues, and will continue, because of women. Women who harass other women at home and the workplace and women who yield to pressure and bear the harassment .
    As for husbands helping out with chores, it is just a dream for some women, including me.

    • Thank you, Mayuri, for your warm words and share. I agree that women are not helping the cause of other women. Hopefully things will change. The mindset is so set that most husbands will not lift a finger. My husband does a lot of cooking when he is at home and also ‘helps’ in other chores. But then I am the one responsible for running the household with mental lists always expanding about what to take care of.

  4. Kalpana solsi on June 12, 2017 at 1:05 pm said:

    …….. And women are labelled as ‘weaker sex’. Is it fair?

  5. Rachna, it’s a well articulated and balanced perspective on the whole issue of social conditioning. Sadly, society gives wings to such over entitled status to men. Today, when we speak of equality, we are still far behind and an overhaul of attitudes is warranted.

    I’ve done an interview of Dr Rachna Arora on status of women in society, need for attitudinal change and their statuses in a marriage. If you find time, you can read here:


  6. Living with Joint Family is totally a different scenario. Though my in-laws are good but still these things are ingrained in our Blood right from birth that its woman who need to take responsibility of household chores even if there are free male members in the House. It took me some time to make them understand my point of view and reducing their expectations form me. Its not that I do not like household work but I have my own style and pace of doing things. There are many times I ignore my MIL doing the things while I am sitting on my laptop working on Office related or blogging related deadlines. I believe if you have to stay with Parents, better clear your point of view rather than fuming inside and sacrificing your Career. It will take some time but will pay you in the long run. Remember you are a member of the Family and you have full rights to take decisions for the House where you are involved but discuss and take mutual decisions.

    • I agree. It is best to explain your point of view, but I have seen in-laws who are not as understanding or flexible. Their point being, we did it and now you have to do it as well.

  7. ‘The more docile the woman, the more praises she earns.’ Well said!
    You are right – It’s a mindset. Sometimes, it’s a mental load in our own mind.
    Valid points here.

  8. While summing up a well written post, there was one point that I found could be added. And this is not in favour of women, so I wonder how it would be received.

    Many women and I mean really many of them are sticklers for neatness and doing things a particular way. They often say that they would rather do the job the way they want than fixing it later. And mind you, the fixing is not a major thing, just a small detail. So they hover around while someone helps out, or shoo them out peremptorily and do the work themselves. I have some close relatives including my mother who do it and then complain about not getting any help! Of course, this is not always the case.

    I had learnt early that perfection or doing things my way stood in the way of anyone coming forward to help me. I used to stress myself and them out. So I began overlooking little things and suddenly found my load considerably lessened.

    • You are absolutely right. I have never understood it, but I have seen many women who are so fussy about doing it perfectly that they would either have it that way or not at all. To be frank, I am a bit antsy around such women. I am always open to help of any kind. 🙂

  9. That comic really resonates with so many of us, right?! That’s exactly what a lot of my friends and personally I experienced at the beginning of our relationships, where there was always an offer to help out, which later had to be reformatted to actual sharing and shouldering of responsibilities!

    • So true! Some women don’t seek help even if doing everything kills them. And then later, the spouse is just used to do anything around the home. And that mental load, it is for real.

  10. You’re so very right. Men are beginning to chip in from time to time but the ultimate responsibility remains that of the woman. I think staying in a joint family makes it worse because the men never truly grow up and the expectations from the woman only increase. In fact I have a friend whose husband helps out regularly in the kitchen but when the in-laws come visiting he is too ’embarrassed’ to go into the kitchen. How sad is that! It is all about what you consider your ‘expected’ role is in the society.

    • Yes, you are absolutely right. I have many friends whose in-laws taught their dil if they see their son so much as take a glass of water on their own. Bizarre, the archaic expectations that are there from women. Meanwhile, women are stressed out from doing much more than they can handle on their plate.

  11. As I’ve always said, you will get exactly what you accept. You set your own bar, and people treat you accordingly.

    I don’t see many women setting expectations from the outset, or adhering to their own expectations. Sacrifice and compromise, then crib and moan. Yeah, the scenario isn’t favorable, but delve a bit deeper and you might realize that women willingly accept discrimination and inequality to get married and stay married, even educated and empowered women.

    Change is never comfortable. It involves stepping out of your comfort zone. Moreover, it requires extraordinary courage to walk away from a life situation which questions your own principles. I see empowered women crib and feeling frustrated about how difficult they have it. And then I see very few going beyond cribbing and feeling frustrated, to actually take a stand for themselves.

    Because it isn’t comfortable or easy to do so. You have to face resistance.

    But when was change ever comfortable and easy and un-resisted?

    And, at the end of the day, if you think the benefits of being given a lesser status (secure marriage, having a conventional family, satisfying relatives/society etc.) outweigh the cons of standing up for yourself and refusing a lesser status (being single or separated, living as per your principles), then by all means, continue to accept it if it makes you happier. But, please, stop cribbing, and make the best of the choice you’ve made?

    Like I said – and one might want to read this carefully – you will get only and exactly what you accept. 🙂

    • What you say seems very black and white, and life always is not. And, in a way, it seems to put the blame on the victim for accepting to be exploited, when in fact, it is often not so simple. Even in the most democratic of homes, women take on more workload and that’s a fact. One, this is not about me. I am one of the few whose husband is very hands on at home when he is at home. And two, this is not a rant, it is a statement of facts. 🙂

  12. I saw this comic when it came out and initially I couldn’t really relate to it, to be honest. Then, I realised I was viewing it through my prism of experience. Whereas, in most cases, this is actually true. The other spouse has to be asked to do things. I wondered why. Then I realised it may be due to their upbringing, where the parent may have always told them, ‘No, you don’t do it. Let the sister do it.’ It’s painfully true among many many men I know. I don’t even think they are aware of this fact, sadly. It’s just something they’ve gotten used to.

    And you’re right about the bulk of work falling on the woman’s head. That’s still true for me too. I’m mentally marking so many things off my checklist that I am surprised I am still standing at the end of the day! I don’t have the energy to care for myself because I’m putting everyone else’s needs ahead of mine. And that is exhausting.

    Well balanced article, Rachna. Really enjoyed reading this one.

    • I agree. Household duties are still a woman’s responsibility. If the husband is around, he will handle some chores. But if he is not, it is a woman’s prerogative to take care of them. If a house help is on leave, no husband breaks into sweat, ever. 🙂 Right from children’s homework to exams and extracurriculars, it’s mom who keeps track of everything. Worrying about each meal, groceries, fruits, veggies — all her load to be ticked off. It can be so exhausting. Glad you enjoyed the article, Shailaja.

  13. That was one comic I believe that connected with most women. I do see many men not even willing to hold their own babies as if it were just the women’s ‘job’. Thankfully I also see lots of men who willingly participate in household chores to ease out the burden. My own man has been doing whatever little he can during the minimal time he is available at home. And this I believe helps the children learn about sharing the workload equally. But most households have people who’ll not even budge even after the woman asks for help. And the in-laws make it a point to exaggerate the situation to their benefit. Sad.

    • Those extremes in men really make me so angry. I don’t know how their wives put up with that. In my husband’s generation, there are many hands-on dads and husbands, yet there is still a lot more on a woman’s plate than a man’s. She is constantly checking off things to do even at the end of the day. Absolutely agree. Children learn by saying their parents. My sons are into cooking and household chores both because their dad does them too and also because I initiated them into them and also make them do things around the house. Living with in-laws can be quite painful if they are not the empathetic kind. My mil was a working lady. No wonder, my husband has no qualms in doing household chores. She also actively tells him to do things. It has to be an effort from all quarters to make life easier and fairer for women.

  14. You are so right, Rachna. I see it happening all around me. Men do help, but only when either asked to, or with an ulterior motive (they reach home early and cook the dinner, because they are the ones fasting instead of their wives!)
    Your post reminded me of the detergent advert we all saw on FB sometime ago. The woman returning from work, gets into the kitchen, starts doing the laundry, helps the kid with his homework and also tries to fit in some left over work from office, while the husband flops in front of the tv after a ‘hard day’s work’!
    It’s the society and also the family to be blamed for this. Men have been used to getting pampered right since childhood and not encouraged to help out at home, unlike the women. That is what needs to be changed. And, I am proud to say that my sis-in-law has begun training my 7 yo nephew in all the household work that he can manage at his age! Frankly, more mothers need to do this!

    • You are absolutely right. In homes where boys are told never to step into kitchen or even lift a glass of water, they turn into spoilt men who expect to be taken care of. When we bring up our boys equal to our girls and initiate them into housework, they will be better and more caring adults. Then they will look at the house as being their responsibility too. I am happy that your sil is doing that. I do the same for my boys. And my husband cooks a lot when he is around and is very hands-on with chores at home. He actually taught me housekeeping after we got married. 🙂 So the boys have good role models to imbibe good habits from.

  15. The mental load is a real thing, yet it gets discounted easily. I guess it will take some time before shared responsibility (in the true sense) becomes the norm.

    Because, even these days, when men help out a lot, the problem lies in the fact that they are helping out. As in helping us out, in something that is our job. When it is as much their job.

    Which is why, this is one thing I reinforce to my extended family and friends, every single time I get the opportunity – that my hubby doesn’t help me out, he just does his chores, I do mine.

  16. Sigh!!!! The story in most homes… My spouse literally has to be asked to do things!! He pitches in only when I actually ask … well…. atleast two times or more….. It is such an upbringing thing, ingrained in them from childhood, probablly also havig seen their moms do all the chores at home. TO the extent, everytime my in laws see their son do chores at home, they feel insecure that their son now only listens to his wife !!!!! LOL 😉

  17. The comic was like a horror story to me. I had a big discussion about the same topic with my friends too and they said the same thing. The man in fact is more responsible when the parents are not around. But as soon as the parents come for a visit, he turns into a ‘laadla’ beta. And even the mothers discourage asking the man to do an errand. I would completely break down if I have to take that much mental load. Thankfully the men around me have been mindful… from dad taking care of dishes and laundry without even asking, to my husband doing the same.
    It’s as simple as – If you are hungry, you cook… if the dishes are dirty, it should be cleaned… if the laundry is piling up, it should be washed – irrespective of the gender. These are basic life skills and I don’t know why we still have men around us who don’t understand this.

  18. I so loved this comic. Mental load is a term I now quite like too.

    No matter what happens, no matter how much the husband helps, the onus of running a house falls on the woman. It doesn’t matter if she’s a working woman or not. I still remember those days when I was staying with my in-laws. My husband I used to return home together and the same time and the minute my MIL saw me she would ask me to go make coffee for my husband and I. I was just back from work for God’s sake! One fine day, it was my husband who told her that she’s being unreasonable as I was just back from work too and that she should be the one who should make coffee for us as she’s been at home at all. I fell in love with him a million times more that day.

    My husband is very helpful around the house, but i doubt if he has that mental load. As I’m typing this I have a shopping list, clothes to be sent out for ironing, what to cook for dinner and if I will have time to read or not on my mind. That says enough already.

    • So true, Soumya. It is steeped in people’s mindsets that women have to work at home no matter what they do in terms of professional work. And like you pointed out, this multitasking and accounting for chores just never leaves us.

  19. Well, I grew up with a dad who loved cooking, parents who shared the workload at home, so for me its a natural thing… They both worked full time as teachers, and shared about equally house, car— whatever work needed to be done, based on what they liked. Happily married for almost 50 years until my mum passed away last year. I loved the mutual respect and understanding they had for each other. I think we should share what we are great at and what we like to do, without judging one another. A choice for one family is not necessarily the best for another. But helping each other to making the common life is the best… Here we also have paternity leave for the new dads, and I think that brings them an understanding of how much work it can be in a house, home. I believe in feminism, meaning that you should not be judged by your sex, but by your skills. Equal pay for equal money for ex. Very interesting post, Rachna- really enjoyed it:-)

  20. Never easy for women especially when they have a full-time job and come home to kitchen duties and household chores. Even when you have hired helps, the planning, the stocking of grocery, veggies and emergency measures when the helps take off, is primarily your domain,

  21. I have much to say, but I won’t. Mostly because it has all been said on your post and the comments from the others resonate with it too.
    It is conditioning – plain and simple. Women are taught (either on purpose, or it seems the most natural thing to some people (eejits!)) that they need to do all of this before they take care of themselves.
    Just rubbish! And men, really need to pull up their socks and pants and just get down and do their bit (and more!) to make sure that one person is not picking up for another’s slack.

    For what it’s worth, I will always support this cause and in whatever small or big way I can.

  22. In today’s world everyone has to contribute and more so men! It is not fair to leave domestic chores to women

  23. I can relate so much to your post, Rachna. I would actually end up writing one. It is…it is always assumed women’s responsibility to take care of most of the stuff at home. Many of the chores are deemed like we are born to do them. So many reasons add up. Our upbringing, the thought process, mindset, the way our brains are conditioned….etc. No matter how much the husband helps, there will be one last chore on her mind all the time. It could be what to pack for lunch the next day or to put the recycle bin for trash collection. It just never ends….

    • I know, Latha. It is unending. No matter what we may say, all women are consumed all the time with what they have to manage next. I have never come across a man who has to be like this.

  24. Agree with you completely, Rachna. While the number of men ‘helping’ at home is better than before, but it is the woman who is responsible for the smooth running of the home. It’s all part of our upbringing and conditioning.
    It’s time we raise our boys differently, where they should not be mere executors of the tasks instructed to them but should take responsibility of the household chores. We are truly blessed that we have partners who help around, but there are so many women who have to do everything at home and at work without any support system.

  25. Great post Rachna. I too had read the comic and remember the “mental load” thing all too well ! Yes, there are just many inherent ways, we know that it’s always considered a women’s responsibility and men can only “help out” even for those who are lucky enough.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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