Porn for Devis with Babies

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Household chores are the number one thing that couples with children fight about, according to a survey I read recently. Indeed, in today’s society where gender roles have become largely undefined, it’s up to each couple to figure out the division of labor. Will you cook while your husband cleans, or vice versa? Who will do, fold and put away the laundry? How about the bills, the grocery shopping, the light bulb that needs changing?

You may have read Lisa Belkin’s New York Times article over the summer about couples who do everything equally. They "work equal hours, spend equal time with their children, take equal responsibility for their home.” This small group of people understand “that this would mean recalibrating their career ambitions, and probably their income, but what they gained, they believed, would be more valuable than what they lost.”

I read the article with avid interest, and then thought of whether I actually know any desi couples who practice “equally shared parenting.” You already know my answer, don't you?

The vast majority of Devis with babies still take on most of the housework. We usually cook and clean more, spend more time with our kids than our husbands do, and have more responsibilities around the home. Even if our husbands share the household tasks, we are still the proactive ones who know when the laundry needs to get done, what the diaper bag needs to be packed with, what’s for dinner. At parties, we're usually the ones in the kitchen, setting out the plates and making sure the food is warm. I also realized that among most of the desi couples I know, the husband/father spends more time working. So it could be argued that both female and male roles among second-generation desis are more traditional. Either way, we usually get stuck with the mundane daily tasks.

This may be an obvious observation, but it interests me nonetheless. What is it about us Devis that makes us more prone to embrace traditional gender roles? Is it because our parents were more traditional, and we’re just once removed from the homeland? As far as I know, we didn’t know when we got married, or had kids, that it would inevitably be this way. Many of us planned for it not to be so.

Also, it doesn't come easily: most of us go through periods of figuring it all out (a.k.a. fighting), and then arrive at some imperfect yet livable situation for awhile, until we get sick of it and try to find a better solution again. A friend of mine jokingly told me that while her husband uses porn to get off, all she needs is a house that he helped her clean to get her in the mood.

Why, all these years after women's lib and migrating from the homeland, are we still stuck with the housework? And, perhaps as a more productive discussion, what works and doesn't work with the division of labor in your home?
9 comments:
Anonymous said...

Lovely post as usual - and a great blog. I am pretty new here - but now I check this everyday.

On this topic today of equal parenting - I believe it is a vicious circle all women are stuck in. Although none of us grew up thinking we would have to step back in career just because we have kids - we usually have no choice. The hubbys do not volunteer, and if we do not what will happen to the kids. I can only assume that since a lot of us grew up in an era when majority moms were stay-at-home moms, the sons have not seen equal parenting while they grew up. This is the first time as a parent themselves they are now suddenly required to take equal part in stepping back for the sake of family.

I think that if more mom-in-laws took a stand and encouraged their sons to help out the wives - it may make a difference possibly. If not the cycle continues. We have to step back (salary cuts - that gives the dads a free pass)- our sons see that, when they grow up and it is their time to take an equal role - they take the easier way out of expecting their wives to step back while they continue their life with career untouched.

On a similar theme here is a link to a recent very animated discussion on a similar topic - look at the comments too. http://www.svmoms.com/2008/10/draft-i-want-a.html

Anonymous said...

I don't mean this to sound harsh but are we STILL talking about these things? If you are unhappy with the way your household is run: change it. If you think your husband doesn't do enough: tell him. If we are talking pie in the sky sociological study here as to "why" Desis are one way or another (and along those lines do we really think it is any different for Indians than other groups?): yawn. Sorry, like I said, I don't really mean to be harsh but I don't agree with a culture of tolerance for bitching and moaning

sp said...

Growing up I remember seeing all the moms in the kitchen working away while the dads would sit out in the living room, and promised I would never do that. Now when I go to parties the men help, but the ladies are still the ones who do most of the work. It's not this way when I go to non-Indian dinner parties. I wish I could say my husband and I are more enlightened, but even in my household I am the one who does most of the housework, even though I work outside of the house too. He almost expects it, and if I ask him to help, he does for awhile, then lapses. He doesn't clean and put away things properly anyway, so sometimes it's not worth a fight.

I don't know the solution, but it's nice to know I'm not alone in going through these things.

deepa said...

I think this topic is on the forefront of the minds of many women I know. If you start with the assumptions that our husbands are good guys who appreciate us and want to help and be involved in the household and with the kids--it IS interesting to see the disconnect between such desire and what actually happens. I think my husband is a 100% equal parent and member of our houshold...when he is at home. But when he is at work, it is a differnet story. Interestingly, when I am at work, half my mind is still on the logistics of kids, the house, who needs what at what store. I don't know how this happened and at the same time, I am not fundamentally unhappy about the disparity.

I think it comes down to choice. If you have chosen to work part-time, for instance--as I have--and if you have done so because you can't imagine being away from your kids full time...then why would you be resentful of the fact that, when at home, you do more? I could go on and on...maybe I'm just appreciative that my husband is over the fact that I can't cook...!

Anonymous said...

It is easy to think that the choice is ours, and we should do something to change if we do not like it.

The only change I can think is separating from the partner who has gone back of the wedding vows of being an equal partner when kids came along. But what happens to kids then, I know a lot of us moms (Indians and others) stay in this relationship for the kids. Why should the kids suffer in these cases? Moms can be selfish too like men, and look out for themselves and achieve the equal parenting with a divorce (in cases the "fighting" leads nowhere) - but it takes a lot of mommy heart to do that to the kids. After all a lot of us chose our partners. It is quite hard to put your kids through that just because you did not imagine that the "ever-sweet-helpful-doting" man you married could change once he bacame a top shot somewhere, and started earning oodles more.

The workable solution then is to lower all expectations from husbands, and try to balance as best work and kids on your own whenever possible. Thats life!

Men usually are good dads eventually, just terrible husbands - in neglecting their wives point of view.

Sati Savitri No More! said...

Women's lib and equality are not part of traditional Indian culture. Our mothers and grandmothers were raised on stories of Sati and Savitri, Madri and Kunti, and a million other "chaste wives" who sacrificed everything, even their own lives, for their husbands. In our society the bride still goes to live with her in-laws and is expected to perform their "seva", even if she holds a fulltime career outside of the home. It is shameworthy in the traditional Indian community for a "beloved son" to come home from work and cook! No self-respecting mother-in-law would tolerate it.

Our folklore and traditions still grate upon our psyches even if we live thousands of miles off of the Indian Oceans Shores and even if we took birth in the 20th century and came to maturation in the 21st.

I agree that the only way to change things is to either voice your needs boldly to your husband (which means a face off with mom-in-law), or get a divorce.

Anonymous said...

yo, or marry a white guy. that way, if stuff breaks around the house, he'll know how to fix it himself.

Anonymous said...

It's so weird seeing the generational differences. When we go to India, my parents are the crazy liberals who don't have betrothed daughters. One time our cab driver was going on about sati--my mom was like would you jump in for her? And he laughed and insisted she was kidding.

Over here I see my parents as backwards Indians who were "arranged" and "stay together for the kids." My dad is HELPLESS without my mom. He literally called me up when she was away because he didn't know what to eat...

Now me and my (non-desi) husband have an ideal system set up. Not only does he fix things, he cooks and cleans! Although sometimes it gets weird--I can't load the dishwasher because I "don't do it right."

No kids though--only 2 cats. I pretty much have "mother" duty now so we'll see when real kids come along...

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