About a week into the nationwide lockdown against the spread of COVID-19, women, especially those granted the ‘Work From Home’ (WFH) option, have been hard-pressed to cope, as maids, caretakers and baby-sitters have stopped reporting to work. It’s only thanks to the division of labour between family members that women are able to sail through, they say.
“My husband is working in the IT industry and he has the WFH option. Since I don’t have the WFH option, the absence of our domestic help, and with kids at home, I am more of a full-time housewife, which includes taking care of the children, engaging them, and doing all the household chores,” said Marilyn Gracey, who teaches in a college.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has sent directions asking teachers to do ICT (Information and Communications Technology) learning programmes but, “The UGC does not know that we are quarantined as a family and women teachers are more of housewives now,” she quipped.
Shivakami works for Cohere Consultants, which is a pan-India consultancy platform covering legal, compliance and gender-related aspects of sexual harassment in the workplace. She has a daughter and she has to manage household work with office work. “Thanks to the support from my family and office, I am able to balance both,” she said, adding that her office supports her as well.
Since Ms. Shivakami and her husband were living abroad a few years ago, they are able to manage the present crisis by themselves, she noted. With a mutual understanding between partners, office work and household work could be managed by both spouses, she said.
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Priya Karthik, who bakes cupcakes from home, was accustomed to having ample domestic help to assist her. “It was challenging initially but, eventually, my family members pitched in. I am lucky to have them and they are helping me out in washing vessels and also in cleaning. There is no hard and fast rule that so and so should do the mopping. Whoever is free does it,” she said.
Ms. Karthik notes that this is also a time during which one could train children in helping parents with household work. “Since I love cooking, it is not a burden for me. I have extra hands to help me now in cleaning vessels,” she said.
Working things out
There are also people like John Pradeep J.L., a parenting coach who has worked with a lot of parents, having specific arrangements in place. “Our daughter is 6 years old. As soon as we heard about WFH, we re-arranged one of our bedrooms into a workspace and told our daughter that she could come into the ‘office’ only if it was really important.”
When his daughter could not resist coming in, Mr. Pradeep told her he could not play during working hours. “But I spend a good hour during lunch for playing with her. After 2-3 days of tantrums, she now waits for lunchtime and values that time so much,” he said.
“We have formed a parents’ WhatsApp group where we support each other and share ideas on how to engage our kids without too much of our involvement. Those tips and support help us a lot,” he added.