Every time there is a shift in our culture, it usually means that women have to manage more tasks to keep the household running. And so it follows, women are working harder during this pandemic.
“More Work For Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology From The Open Hearth To The Microwave,” by Ruth Schwartz Cowan is one of those iconic writings that remains relevant, even in the midst of a pandemic. Women, even those who have partners, but especially those who are heads of households have been left strung out by the dizzying amount of house work that they alone must do.
Food preparation—breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack, and finally dishes—swallows swaths of time. Remote learning means that paid work or needed rest is often interrupted. And let’s not forget about the damn laundry! Social isolation means that caretakers or help from family is not available. And, even when a partner is available, the “homemaker” is still targeted for these additional chores.
A recent New York Times article described the results of a survey about housework and outlined what we already knew—-men believe that they contribute more that they actually do!
Before this is further cemented as the norm, delegate specific tasks to everybody in the house.
To start, never confuse self-care with selfishness. Second, delegating effectively means giving up on the notion of perfection.
Children, six and above, can expertly navigate the Ipad, Nintendo switch, and Zoom. Also, they can’t wait to get back to soccer practice and swim meets. Which means they can run down the stairs to put clothes in the washer and press a few buttons. There are lots of tools on how to assign chores to children, including verywellfamily.com and parents.com, for example. Make a chart, assign age appropriate tasks, and dedicate a period of time to do the chores together before cutting the umbilical cord.
The same thing follows with the dishes, someone else can load and press buttons, it doesn’t always have to be you. But don’t sit, pout and stew in resentment. Ask for what you need and be specific, “I need you to load the dishwasher, turn on the machine, wipe down the counter, and sweep the floors.”
For this to work, let go of the Superwoman Syndrome. Resolve to let go of bad stress. Send the teenager or partner to the grocery store with a list, and don’t freak out if they buy the wrong brand. It really does not make a difference if they buy Prego instead of Ragu.
In the long run, everybody will appreciate what it takes to keep a house running. They will wonder how you have managed to do it all by yourself. More importantly, you will have acted to preserve your health and peace of mind.
There you have it. Spread the word.