The theme for this year’s upcoming International Women’s Day (March 8) is #BalanceForBetter. It means exactly what it sounds like: that balance is good, something the world needs more of. Therefore, we should all strive for balance in every area of our lives.
While this sounds great in theory, I believe it is horse shit in reality. Because most women and men are going to interpret it to mean that women should work harder to strike a balance between work and home. Like you probably know, that is code for working women putting in the same hours as men at work while taking care of most of the chores at home. And do it all with a smile, while the “man of the house” lounges around, enjoying his right to chill after a long day at work. The mere thought makes you angry, doesn’t it?
What I am trying to say is that the onus of maintaining balance falls on the shoulders of men, not women. As much as I don’t like to admit it, men have the upper hand in maintaining gender equality at home. A woman can protest, complain and fight for her rights all she wants, but if her partner refuses to shoulder his share of household responsibilities, what other choice does she have? She has to cave and get the work done mostly by herself, with the man doing only the bare minimum.
Even if he does step up and show a willingness to do his bit, she will still have to manage him.
French comic artist Emma called this responsibility the ‘mental load’.
It all begins with the concept that women are supposed to take care of the house. If they want their man to help them, they must explicitly ask for help. Basically, the woman is the manager of all the household chores, while the man is her employee who does what he asks. As the manager, she has to plan and organize all the tasks, execute most of them, and then delegate a few tasks to her “employee”. As a result, she ends up doing most of the work (about 75%) while he does only the obligatory bare minimum (about 25%).
So even though he does some work around the house, it is never a fair share.
Emma elaborates that when he says ‘let me know if you need help’, it is the man’s way of refusing his half of the invisible yet very heavy mental load. Now, of course, this is neither his fault nor was he born this way. It is primarily our society’s fault that women are stuck with the work and the load. Little girls are conditioned to be homely via toys like doll houses, while boys are encouraged to stay away from the same and play rough.
What’s more, we see our mothers and fathers enacting the same roles as grown-ups. The result? We grow up believing that women are supposed to take care of the house, while men are supposed to go out to work. That even if we become working women, we must still be the primary caretaker of the house. I don’t know why it became acceptable for females to shoulder double the responsibility and not complain about it, but it’s the done thing these days.
Whose job is it to fix this disparity? Mainly the man, of course!
Look, both man and woman are equally responsible for their home. Yet women struggle much more with work-life balance than men. Household chores followed by the mental load are two of her primary stressors in life. To eliminate both, men have to share the mental load and like a good, motivated employee, take care of it without being asked or reminded. Of course, the ideal solution would be to go back in time and make sure no little girl and boy is conditioned into a suffocating gender role. But since we can’t do that, the next best thing is to spread awareness and take action now.
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and share this article with all your male and female friends right now! Here’s to living in an equal world in which balance is paramount!