Keshav’s comments on my last blog prompted me to write this page!
My wife often states, like many other ladies:
- “My mother did not task me with any domestic chores till I was married.” (a tinge of pride)
- “My daughter has to struggle in the kitchen after marriage, anyway (cooking is degrading). Why bother her now; I shall do these chores without help.” (sacrifice)
- “I shall struggle till I can. Destiny will decide the course later.” (sacrifice and despair)
Where would be love if we take up these core tasks as duty, compulsion, and sacrifice or to save some money? If we consider it a burden, if we don’t value and respect the work we do, how would we get joy and satisfaction out of it? How can we add taste to the meal that we so cook? How will such meal nourish the body and foster the spirit?
If we grudge the tasks as wretched burden, injustice and exploitation, how can we seek help from our spouses or children or colleagues? More than getting a helping hand, how can we experience the meaning and happiness of working together? Thoughts and experiences we share with dear ones are those we consider pleasurable and meaningful. We enhance their significance and relevance by sharing.
Mark Twain’s 12 year old Tom Sawyer is punished by Aunt Polly with the task of whitewashing the fence. When with “a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit” he sought help from a friend, the friend walked away. When Tom induced apparent joy in doing the work and told another friend, “Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?” a stream of boys wanted to snatch the painting brush from Tom. They sweated whitewashing the fence and offered precious gifts to Tom in exchange for the privilege to work.
If we did something because we “had to” or “should,” the quality of the result and reward of satisfaction would be mediocre. It is our choice to involve with curiosity and commitment in the tasks we take up. It is for us to find greater meaning in our work. Another cogent story is of “The Three Stone Cutters.” Of the three, the first stone cutter says he was, “making a living wage.” The second said, “I am doing the best job of cutting stones in the entire country.” The third, “I am building a cathedral.”
Why stereotype works as women’s chore, men’s responsibilities, teacher’s duty, etc.? People are eager to have private tutors to even teach alphabets to toddlers. What a lost opportunity of parenthood! We brand work as a problem. Let us move up the chain to consider them as good challenges and then as great opportunities. Let us not brand certain tasks as below our position (“I am a manager; don’t expect me to write code” and “I am the principal; I do not teach”), some with gender bias, some as boring and meaningless, some as beyond our capability (without ever trying), some as we can afford to employ someone else…The issue is not with household chores alone.
In the eyes of society, only some jobs have glamour. Others are dull and despicable. What were respectable yesterday have now fallen out of grace though their relevance has not changed. As these tasks and professions are viewed with low esteem, people lose pride in them. This, added to lack of accountability and sense of self-worth, leads to toxic and suffocating communities.
Even accomplished people lament about their position and profession.
- “This teaching profession! Society has no respect. Parents do not care and cooperate. Children are indisciplined and not committed. What use teaching these brats? A call center job would pay me better.” If these are the thoughts racing in a teacher’s mind, what would be the future of the young?
- Many dentists say that they chose the course because they could not get admission for general medicine. I have heard a very successful dentist often stating “This stupid profession! I can’t even migrate to the US.” I have since stopped visiting him.
- Sangliana was a candidate from Bangalore during the last Lok Sabha elections. In his interview with Smart Vote, for a question “What do you consider your greatest failure in life?” he said “My merit was not enough to join IAS and I had to contend with IPS.” This statement from a very successful and highly respected police officer is surprising and disturbing. He certainly converted the situation to an opportunity. Then, why this remorse? We need an expiry date for each of our perceived or real wounds – shorter the better.