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Unveiling the Politics and Gender Roles in Unpaid Care Work: An Intimate Exploration

The Human Aspects and Gender Dynamics of Care Work

Last week, I found myself wrestling with the complexities of care work—a topic that is both personal and professional for me. My prose felt detached, almost academic. The words on my screen seemed to sap the very humanity out of a subject that is deeply human. Care work is a term that encapsulates a range of activities, including personal care, domestic work, emotional support, and care for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. So, shall we cast aside the dry, scholarly language and explore the rich tapestry of care work—the everyday stories, dramas, and dilemmas that are more relatable to each of us? Are we ready to dive in?

Call to Action: Let's start the conversation about care work in our own communities today.

Debunking the 'Women's Work' Stereotype in Care Labour

When care work is mentioned, the tag "women's work" often follows suit. Life's complexities defy such simple categorisation. In countries where labour is affordable, both men and women are employed for domestic work. In my household, men have predominantly been my domestic help. If we are paying men to do what has traditionally been labelled 'women's work,' does that not throw a wrench into the stereotype?

Call to Action: It is high time to liberate care work from this gendered box and recognise it as a universal responsibility. Let us challenge the stereotypes and norms and advocate for a broader understanding of care work that includes all genders.

The Complex Currency of Appreciation

Undervalued by whom? My children have always appreciated the nurturing and care I offer. As for my spouse and me, we understand the worth of our contributions. We find ourselves in a conundrum; while society may undervalue care work, those who benefit from it often hold it in high regard.

Call to Action: Let us redefine how we perceive and value care work. Celebrate it, do not marginalise it.

The Payment Paradox

Family members often provide care without financial remuneration. Yet, care work in a market economy is a paid profession. Finances add a puzzling dimension to care work. The irony lies in the language: when cooking moves from a domestic chore to a paid job, the "cook" suddenly becomes a "chef"—often a man.

Call to Action: Advocate for the financial recognition of all forms of care work. Should we not explore how feasible it is to remunerate unpaid work?

The Invisible Made Visible

It is a paradox that care work, central to our lives, often escapes the notice of national accounting systems, thereby rendering it 'invisible' in economic terms. Yet this work is essential to the economy as it enables people to participate in the workforce. Moreover, its impact within the domestic sphere is evident. The challenge lies in devising new metrics that can capture this complexity. For instance, how does one quantify the labour involved in cooking while simultaneously caring for a child and planning tasks for the next day? There is also the question of emotional value, often overlooked but undeniably significant.

Call to Action: Advocate for the creation of new metrics that capture the full scope and impact of care work, thereby making the invisible aspects visible.

Balancing the Scales: The Need for Advocacy

Context is key when discussing care work. For women who juggle a career and unpaid housework, the inequality is glaring when male partners do not share these responsibilities. Domestic spaces are far more complex than they appear; indeed, they present a layered landscape. In my household, men have predominantly assumed the role of domestic help, thereby challenging the assumption that domestic chores are 'women's work'.

Call to Action: Advocate for equal sharing of domestic responsibilities. Men's involvement in care work is not merely desirable; it is a pressing requirement.

Women's Dual Role and the Long Working Day: The Inescapable Hard Facts

The Dual Burden: Productive and Unpaid Care Work

Women often find themselves shouldering a dual burden: productive work that contributes to the economy, and care work that sustains families and communities. This overload of responsibilities can easily lead to overburden and a taxing, long working day. The result is a form of 'time poverty,' where the demands on a woman's time are so great that she finds it difficult to transfer her labour from care work to the market economy. This is particularly challenging when children are young and affordable childcare facilities are scarce.

Call to Action: Campaign for affordable, accessible childcare services that allow women the freedom to participate fully in the market economy.

The Challenge of Working from Home

I can personally attest to the struggles and benefits of this dynamic. I began working from home as a way to manage these conflicting demands. While this arrangement has its advantages, it comes with its own set of challenges, including the fragmented use of time and the constant juggling of professional and personal responsibilities.

Call to Action: Promote flexible work arrangements that respect women's time and multiple roles, and that provide the necessary support to make such arrangements feasible and sustainable.

The Inequality in Time Spent: A Stark Reality

According to a 2018 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), women invest an average of 4 hours and 24 minutes per day in unpaid care work, compared to men's 2 hours and 23 minutes. This stark difference means women dedicate nearly twice as much time, often multitasking, which further intensifies the effort required. The ripple effect of this imbalance impacts women's availability for paid work and other activities, putting them at a disadvantage.

Call to Action: Advocate for policies that acknowledge and address this time imbalance in unpaid care work. Let us also challenge societal norms to encourage more equitable sharing of care responsibilities between men and women.

The Overburden of Labour- and Time-Saving Technology

While technology promises to lighten the load…to make life easier, it often introduces its own set of demands, creating an added layer of complexity. Women are expected to employ labour- and time-saving technology to manage their dual roles better. Consider a full-time working mother, expected to stay connected to her job through technology while at home, only to manage household and childcare tasks using the same technology when at the office. This scenario offers little room for genuine relaxation or even a brief respite.

Call to Action: Re-evaluate the impact of technology on women's lives and advocate for genuinely helpful solutions that ease the care work burden, rather than adding to it.

By confronting these hard facts, we move closer to understanding the multi-layered complexities that women face daily. And in this understanding, we find the impetus for actionable change.

Concluding Reflections: Challenging Gender Norms in Care Work

As we navigate the intricate maze that is care work, let us not lose sight of its immeasurable value. Challenging societal norms and asking uncomfortable questions should be part of the journey. The essence of care work is its transformative power—the tangible difference it makes in the lives we touch. This exploration serves as an invitation for us to critically examine the multi-faceted realities of care work. Care work is a labour of love that demands our respect and acknowledgement, regardless of who performs it.

So, the next time you ponder the complexities of care work, remember: the landscape is far from black-and-white. It's a rich tapestry that requires us to think, reflect, and most importantly, act. And that, dear reader, is a thought worth your reflection.

Call to Action: Be bold in challenging outdated norms and questioning the status quo. Let us act now to give care work the respect and recognition it deserves, irrespective of who performs it.

Join the Conversation!

🌸 Share Your Experience: Have you faced challenges in balancing care work and career? We'd love to hear from you.

🌱 Take Steps for Equality: What action could you take today to make care work more equitable in your household?

💡 Fuel the Discussion: Do you agree that care work is undervalued? How can we change that narrative?

👥 Build Community: Share strategies that have worked for you in managing the complexities of care work.

Be Respectful:Maintain a respectful and inclusive tone; every voice in this discussion is valuable.

📣 Spread the Word: If this topic resonates with you, share the post and be part of the change.

📚 Educate and Empower:Share resources that help understand the importance and value of care work.

🔗 Connect: Know of organisations or initiatives that support care workers? Share them here.

About the Author

Nite Tanzarn is a highly respected Independent International Consultant, celebrated for her unwavering commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women. In her latest blog post, Nite focuses on the intricacies of care work, offering both personal insights and broader societal observations. Her narrative is both relatable and impactful, a testament to her lifelong dedication to social justice in diverse sectors such as transport, agriculture, and rural development. Nite is both a thought leader and an agent of change, tirelessly advocating for a more balanced and equitable world for everyone.

16 views6 comments

6 comentarios

05 nov 2023

The boys in our family are better cooks than the girls.

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05 nov 2023

When we were at uni, the boys used to cook for us, when we got married, the roles were reversed.

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17 oct 2023

I thought you were going to talk about yoga mums with their babies!

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
17 oct 2023
Contestando a

The imagery indeed paints a serene yet empowering scenario, showcasing a blend of care, bonding, and wellness. However, the essence of this post delves into the often unrecognised or undervalued labor that primarily falls on the shoulders of women. The picture metaphorically reflects the multiplicity of roles and the unseen effort invested in nurturing and caregiving, which forms the crux of unpaid care work. Although yoga mums depict a slice of this vast narrative, the discussion extends to the nuanced and gendered dimensions of unpaid care work, inviting a deeper reflection on its societal implications.



#NITETANZARNIntellectNest #UnpaidCareWork #GenderRoles #SocietalReflection #GESI #EmpoweringWomen

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08 oct 2023

Are not these roles God-given? There is work that is better performed by men and that, which women are better at. As long as each does their share, there is fairness.

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Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
18 oct 2023
Contestando a

Your perspective brings up an age-old debate about the role of nature versus culture in defining gender roles. While many hold the view that these roles have intrinsic or "God-given" roots, it's crucial to examine how societal norms and expectations often shape what is considered 'natural'. The issue arises when these roles limit individual freedom or perpetuate inequality. Aiming for a world where everyone has the freedom to pursue any role, irrespective of gender, helps us move toward true fairness and equality. Thank you for contributing to this important conversation.



#NITETANZARNIntellectNest #GESI #NiteTanzarn #GenderRoles #GenderEquality #WomensRights #GenderDivisionOfLabour

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