Not having been married myself, I do not know if I would be the right person to comment on this topic. But on the other hand, I thought perhaps, it would give me more space to do justice to this subject and not be biased. A married man may be a good father to the kids but not a good husband; he may be a good husband but not a good son-in-law, he may be a good son-in-law but not a good son, he may be a good son but not good in other roles. Perhaps, very rarely would one fit in all the caps perfectly. My write up is not to discuss who is good at what, but to look at ‘house husband’ as a concept which may require some contemplation in our society. Cambridge Dictionary defines a house husband as “a man who stays at home and cleans the house, take care of the children, etc. while his partner goes out to work”. Coming to think of it, is it okay to be a house husband? Or would it be too demeaning to ask a man to take care of the household chores while his wife is out to pursue her career? In an era, where career is given a lot of importance, undeniably there are many cases that we witnessed around us, whereby a woman is doing exceptionally well in her career and one of the reasons is because she has got a very supportive husband.
We applaud such men and we hold them in high regard. There are those who knowingly made a lot of sacrifices because he wanted to support his wife while pursuing her career. Others may have got into the role because of circumstances. Bringing up children in today’s world has become a full-time job and there are many women who gave up their career to take care of the kids. However, does it always have to be the women in the house to make such compromises? Not necessarily! While bringing up the children is an equal share of duty, love, care and responsibility of both the parents, the role of a house husband should be as equal and as important as that of a housewife. I do not see reasons for the disparity between the gender roles that either has to perform. As mentioned above, there are husbands who are good in their role as a father and who can really take care of the kids irrespective of the age and the household tasks, nevertheless, he is too hesitant to pick up the part as a ‘house husband’ because of the unpleasant reactions of the society, or the worrisome thought that he may be tagged as incompetent by letting his wife do the earning lot.
So are there any househusbands in our society? They may be there in plenty and are effectively doing their duty for the family; they may have made unknown compromises in their lives because of the love and prosperity of their better half and their children. However, their visibility may not be much because the very concept of a ‘househusband’ is not something that the society may be very willing to accept or otherwise gracefully welcome. While we celebrate Mother’s Day every year, many of whom may fall in the category of housewives, let us also consciously acknowledge the effortless sacrifices and dedication of such househusbands who are behind many educated and successful children and working women. In a society, where we have accepted the fact that all jobs can be performed efficiently by both men and women, switching of roles and responsibilities should also not be so much of a concern, as long as it is done with mutual understanding between the couple and one is good at its tasks.
The cosmopolitan cities have witnessed such roles and are slowly being accepted across sections of society. A BTech graduate from one of the original 5 IITs (2005 batch), having a stable career shared “When my wife started going office, I started taking care of the house and our child. We have a maid for cooking and cleaning. I enjoy taking good care of my kid and I am happy that my wife is doing well in her office. My wife leaves at 10 AM and returns at 8 PM. Sometimes, she has to attend conferences or office meeting for which she has to travel to other cities. At present, I work 4-5 hours a day when my child sleeps. Once my wife returns, she takes care of the kid and I complete my remaining job tasks”. He further says – “I am enjoying this phase of my life. I am spending time with my kid. I play along with him. I feed him. We watch cartoons together. Sometimes he watches sci-fi movies along with me. I make him sleep. We visit nearby parks and play around. Sometimes, we just roam around in malls and shopping complexes. I am helping my wife to focus on her career. Now I talk to more people as compared when I was working in office. Now I am able to find time to talk to my parents every day. I also find time for myself. I am fond of reading stuff on politics-national/international/geo. Now, I don’t give much value to earning money as compared to the quality of the time spent. Overall, it is a good deal for me!!”
His piece of advice for all is “One has to know about him/herself very clearly. Goals and targets of life should be clear. In my opinion, real goal, including all quick, short and long term, is happiness and satisfaction. As for me, there should be an absolute balance between YOURSELF and your family, YOURSELF and your job. There can be a temporary disruption in the balance and, therefore, other parties should be compensated well. It is two-way traffic. If you are working hard in your job, you should work even harder on YOURSELF. DO WHAT YOU REALLY WANT TO DO. I am very proud of my wife. I know my wife since September 2004 and we have been married since 2010. She is a very nice person and I considered her as my best friend”.
As per a Social Attitudes Survey by Economic and Political Weekly, 40 per cent of both men and women believe that a woman, whose husband is earning, should not work. Many women voluntarily opt to stay at home and ‘mothers’ since they believe that this is the primary role and responsibility of any woman. A recent report by Google and Bain and Co – Powering the Economy with HER-Women Entrepreneurship in India, found that 69 per cent of women felt that cultural and personal factors were the biggest barriers to their growth as entrepreneurs. Lack of confidence, self-doubt and a perceived gap in skills of networking, team building, risk-taking and financial management were factors that women experienced as impediments (Subramanian, 2020). The year 2020 had seen the rise of ‘House Husband’ in all neighbourhoods around cities. While lockdown was just a temporary arrangement, men losing their jobs have given rise to this concept this year across nations. (D’mann, 2020).
Another hurdle is the social expectation from mothers combined with inadequate childcare facilities. Many working women hit the Maternal Wall and drop out of the workforce after their first child. Workplaces are not supportive or geared to allow working mothers freedom and flexibility of childcare. Just as men are not involved in domestic work, they do not play an active role as fathers. A recent survey by TimesJobs found that 90 per cent of working women and only 10 per cent of men thought of quitting their jobs because of childcare issues. Going back into the Pardah or Ghunghat and staying within the four walls of the home is no longer an option for women today. The new economy demands equal participation. A 2018 McKinsey report says that increasing women’s participation at work by 10 per cent can lead to an increase of $770 billion in our GDP. If we want economic prosperity and social justice for all, change has to happen at an individual, social and institutional level. As women gain the confidence to step out of the home, men need to make way.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])