Housework is often associated with women. As far as the traditional concept refers to a woman, she must be good at doing chores and other household duties. Caring for the elderly and children is considered a woman’s responsibility. Therefore, some people view the emergence of housekeeping services as part of the liberation of women: women who pay for housekeeping services are freed from doing household chores and can devote themselves to activities that add to their personal goals.
Recently, China Women’s Daily conducted a questionnaire survey: Did husbands and wives allocate the housework according to their work intervals during the pandemic? A lot of families used to assign housework based on their occupations, but most did not. Some say: “Women have traditionally been defined as those who take care of housework. The pandemic just trapped men and women at home at the same time, making this sense of role more obvious.”
In addition to work, many women also carry too much burden in the home, having to balance the responsibilities of the workplace and the family. They are burning the candle at both ends, fighting increasing pressure and experiencing problems that destroy their mental and physical energy.
Researchers have suggested that there are five main categories of chores in a household, including cleaning, shopping, laundry, cooking, and childcare. The biggest responsibility for men during the pandemic was shopping, while women were still responsible for many household duties. For example, 39% more women than men were responsible for laundry, 29% more women than men were responsible for cleaning, and 24% more women than men were responsible for supervising children’s attendance at classes and completing homework. The large amount of household chores adversely affects women’s emotional and mental health. Professors Cristina Benlloch and Empar Aguado in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the University of Valencia also researched household chores during the pandemic. Through telephone and online surveys of women, the project found that many women “felt like they were working 24/7 non-stop”.
Until the pandemic, schools were a place of study, the workplace was a place of work, and homes were a place of rest and living. Each of these different identities and corresponding behaviors are clearly separated by space and time. These days, children attend classes at home, and the parents work from home. Because there is no more independent space to separate them clearly, all functions are compressed in the same space. Now these women switch between family, career, and child’s “teacher” at any time, and the switch itself takes energy (a lot of energy), and every interruption and restart consumes energy, which naturally leads to fatigue, restlessness, irritability, and even anger. The stress cycle is re-established week after week as the old emotions appear again and new ones disappear.
There has always been a misconception that housework has become less and women are liberated from it with the advancement of technology. However, studies present contrary findings that housework has increased, not decreased. Nowadays, there are washing machines, but people have a lot more clothes than before; people used to eat simple meals, covering just the family’s nutritional needs, but now you have to be creative because kids can’t have the same food every day.
In terms of caring for the children, the current culture of childcare is characterized by ‘intensive motherhood’, which can be very difficult for women. Especially during the pandemic, we ought to rethink this intensive motherhood model and promote a cooperative parenting model. Parenting is not only for mothers but also for fathers. For example, some of the technical aspects of teaching children online should require the father’s involvement.
The burden of home and childcare duties has fallen mainly on women. It is time for men to step up and take an active part in the process. There is no reason why a woman should only bear the burden of the household alone without standing up for herself and asking for a cooperative mechanism to lead a healthier life mentally and physically.