THE HOUSEWIFE HANDICAP
It seems that no matter how much women evolve and grow in their careers, their house is the bar that most people measure them against. Order, tidiness, cleanliness, decoration and cooked food become important factors that, for others, determine women’s ability to remain the center of family and society life.
On a daily basis, household duties constitute an entire job unto themselves. According to the U.N., women in Colombia work 10.8 hours more a week than men, performing household duties before and after work; waking up at 4 a.m., cooking breakfast and leaving lunch ready, making beds and cleaning the kitchen. At night they cook supper, clean the kitchen again and check on kids’ homework. The weekends become the time to do the chores that have been postponed during the week such as ironing, grocery shopping and laundry, just to name a few. This means the average woman in Colombia sleeps less, does more chores and has more responsibilities than the average man.
In a still chauvinistic country, it seems difficult for women to get ahead when working means adding more tasks to the routine, instead of actually redefining them or redistributing them between all family members. Women now are expected to be more educated, more refined, thin, well-presented and, of course, great managers of their own home. They have to have all the knowledge of cooking and household duties that our grandmothers used to know, in addition to all the talents that are required for professional women today.
The trap of household duties remains in the exaggerated effort to perform routine tasks that take a great deal of time to achieve, that have to be repeated a few hours later and, in most cases, go unrecognized by others. It is almost like the Greek myth of Sisyphus, who was punished by the Gods to endlessly roll a boulder up a steep hill only to watch it fall down again.
There is an opportunity to help women take care of these tasks in a way that profits from technology and actually offers women a chance to focus on what is important for them. Some brands have begun catering to these needs by offering grocery shopping online or housekeeping services; however, there is still a long way to go. Online grocery shopping apps that promise one-hour deliveries tend to work only for small purchases, but not for the amount of products a household actually needs in a month. Housekeeping services are difficult to trust when they involve a strange person coming to your home. In addition, most of the services offered are actually for upper social classes, leaving a large part of the market unattended.
As long as women keep being judged by the rules that applied in a time when they didn’t work, we will always have a housewife handicap. We need to change the expectations on the roles women need to fulfill in society and open spaces for other members of the family, or even brands, to pitch in on the duties of daily life without having to sacrifice time on what is really important.
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