She walked out of her office too tired. The cash section had not tallied with the accounts, they had received a complaint from a customer and she had been receiving calls from her superiors. The complaint was against her, though it wasn’t her fault. She had done as her immediate manager had asked her to do and now, it was all upon her. As she was about to cross the road, a car honked past, cursing her. Her mind was so pre-occupied that she had crossed without bothering to look around.
She reached home by 7.30 PM. The house was as she had left it in the morning – a mess. Her husband would be home in a while. She had to cook before that. She freshened up and entered the kitchen. The clothes that were washed were still inside the bucket. She decided to put them out to dry before they began to stink. By the time all the work, cooking and cleaning were done, she was suffering from a severe headache. She informed her husband and went to sleep.
Next morning, she woke up listening to her husband getting ready for work. He was unusually loud that day. He did that only when he was annoyed. She suppressed a yawn and asked him what the matter was.
“You hung the clothes yesterday. They were not only wrinkled, but some of them were hung on those dirty rods. If you can’t do anything for me, just say it!”
She blinked off the remaining sleep, thought for a moment and said, “I had wiped the rod before hanging the clothes.”
“Really? Come with me right now! I’ll show you the dust. I know you are doing this on purpose. Office has always been your priority. When it comes to doing household chores, you are lazy! Here is what you could do. Just don’t come home and stay at office all day.”
From then on, he decided to do his laundry and never spoke to her for days together in spite of her repeated apologies. After a few months, there was another row between them.
“You call yourself my wife? Really? What have you done for me? For the past few months, I have been doing laundry by my own. You don’t have enough time for your husband, do you?”
She thought of all the days when she woke up early just to prepare breakfast for him, sent the children to school, took the days off for their open house, checked on her husband during the break when he was ill, bought all the groceries, prepared food after work. And then, she said nothing.
This was my friend Priya, a hopeless romantic at heart and a loving mother. Before her marriage, she took all the necessary coaching to become an ideal wife. She believes laundry and household chores are a woman’s job and she does them dutifully. When she is blamed, she accepts the blame. She tells me everything and I keep singing the ‘chores aren’t for women alone’ song.
As I sat in the living room of their house, her daughter walked in. She left her lunch box on the table and walked into her room.
“Ammu! Come here! Open that lunch box, wash it and then go. I can’t do all the work on my own. Besides, you’ll have to practice all this before you get married.”
Ammu looked at her brother’s lunch box on the table.
“Mom! We have had this conversation before. If Appu doesn’t have to wash, I don’t have to either. I am aware of your burdens. But I can’t be like you.”, she said defiantly.
“How dare you-”
“Priya, look at yourself!”, I said for the nth time. “You aren’t willing to change. At least don’t make your children like you. If you teach Appu that Ammu should wash the vessels and do laundry, he’ll expect that from his wife. At this moment, you are laying the groundwork to make another woman miserable. Don’t you realize that?”
I looked at Ammu. I remembered how she was before she met me. She was almost like her mother. I wasn’t able to change her mother. But, I was able to make her realize that she was to grow up to be an independent woman. Probably, the right direction in the right age was what mattered.
Priya wouldn’t give up as usual, “What would happen if she grows up without learning these stuff? What if her husband and his family expect these things from her? Her life will become miserable!”
“You know every chore, yet look at your life Priya! We won’t let her marry someone who will treat her like a servant. As simple as that!” I called Appu and asked the two of them to wash their respective lunch boxes. Priya was silent for a while and soon the conversation was forgotten.
I knew she wouldn’t change. But if I was with her forever, I will definitely be able to change the next generation. The root cause of the problem was right there before me. It was her parents’ mindset that was deep rooted into her and she was unable to snap out of it. To make it worse, she was instilling the same thoughts into her children.
The irony is that, women are the reasons for their own sorrow and burdens. We are the only ones who can liberate ourselves. It all begins at home.
Priya does her husband’s laundry now and things have turned back to ‘normal’ in their house. The only ‘abnormalcy’ is when Ammu reacts when she is asked to do chores and not her brother. Oh! The irony!
Here is a video that gives a strong message as to why laundry isn’t only a mother’s job. Every mother is pretty much like the lady in this video. There are many men who help with the chores, but a majority are like the guy in the video. Do watch it and share your views.