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Therapist, Mother, Maid: The Unequal Division Of Invisible Labour

It is 7:00 am, and you are rushing to wake up your kids for school. The older one shoots out of bed while the younger one bursts out crying that they feel unwell. But you know that is not true as they were healthy and active right before going to bed. Thus, you pamper them and get them to clean up. 


Next, you prepare a quick breakfast while worrying whether toast and jam will provide enough nutrition till the school’s lunch break. A look in the refrigerator has you reheating leftovers for their school lunches. One last look, and you are rushing the kids into the car and speeding off to school. 


You see the kids enter school and breathe a sigh of relief. Another morning conquered, and you are on your way home. The coffee machine beeps, and a hot cup of coffee is ready. At that moment, the phone rang, and it was the school administration. They say your youngest has forgotten their science project and needs you to bring it in before recess. Thus, the happiness of a successful morning came crashing down. 


After dropping off the project, you decided to treat yourself to lunch. You walk into a cafe and order yourself a salad and iced tea. You had barely eaten when your phone rang. Your husband called to inform you that a few coworkers and their wives would visit that evening. 


Although you are exhausted from running around all morning, you face the new challenge like a champ. You prepare dinner and clean the house. The kids also have something to eat. The school bus rolled around, and soon, your little munchkins were hanging onto you. 


The evening dinner passed without a hitch, and the guests left with memories of an entertaining evening. Soon, it was time for bed, and you dropped onto the mattress with a flop. All you could think of was that you did not dedicate even one hour to yourself. 


But morning came by, and you happily did everything all over again. 


Doesn’t this story sound familiar? You have seen your mother's experience with this or other family members. Even you may fall prey to this behaviour. It is called the unequal division of invisible labour. Women have been responsible for their emotional and physical well-being at home. 


While invisible labour is not limited to homemakers, women who work experience it as well. It is significantly more present in stay-at-home wives and mothers. These women create a safe and loving environment for their children and husbands. They frequently put their needs on the back burner to tackle various problems that others face. 


The stay-at-home mothers and working women are pulled taut like an elastic band covering work and home responsibilities. Offices do not give leeway to homemakers. They also face criticism from their in-laws. 


Another cruel aspect of being a homemaker is being responsible for the emotional well-being of everyone. Women often face outbursts from their partners when things are not going well financially. Sometimes, children argue with their mothers because they are upset about problems outside the house. Mostly, family and friends tend to use them as unlicensed therapists and push family drama onto them. 


One of the most demanding jobs a woman faces is being a mother. Whether a stay-at-home mom or a working woman, both juggle the responsibility of raising children. If a woman stays at home and raises children, society labels her as taking advantage of her husband. If a woman chooses to work after having children or the father cares for them, society claims that she abandoned them. 


Being a mother is a full-time job, and including that with other work wears down a woman. Fortunately, society is turning around, and husbands and fathers are stepping up to the plate. 


The antiquated belief that women are responsible for keeping a clean and tidy house still exists. The media often portrays women as helpers or secondary characters in their homes. They eat last, are always in the kitchen, and work tirelessly to maintain the house. All homemaking decisions fall on them with no backup. 


A movie that showcases these exact cases of oppression against women is the Bollywood favourite, “English Vinglish,” starring the late veteran actress Sridevi. Her character was that of a mother and wife whose education was cut short after marriage. She devoted her entire life to caring for her family. Eventually, she breaks free of her constraints and finds her voice. 


The viral song “Labour” by Paris Paloma also speaks of the unequal division of invisible labour. Invisible labour is the work put in by women using mental resources. The term has become synonymous with the oppression women face in marriage. There are several pieces of media depicting the struggles of women. Thus, such issues are now being brought into the light.

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