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Woe Is Me! “Men in My Family Would Rather Play Video Games Than Help With Chores”

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Apr 5, 2020

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Image credit: Amar (1954)

Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.


My husband comes from a family where men doing housework is considered a crime. Apparently, it reflects badly on the women in the family, who do not work. However, I do, and I’m expected to contribute to the household income as well as keep the place spic and span, according to their schedule of housework. I sit down to work by 9, get off work by 7, and then clean the house. Now that we are quarantined, my hubby and brother-in-law play video games all day and, still, my mother-in-law assigns all the chores to me. If I’m too busy, she does it even though she’s physically straining her disc prolapse. Yet, the guys never volunteer to help. How do I tell my family this is not OK?”

  – Trapped in the ‘40s


RD: It’s time for… MUTINY! Look, it doesn’t seem like your mother-in-law is having a great time, either. I suggest you join forces with her and adopt the age-old beat-men-with-jhaadu-until-they-get-off-their-ass practice. Everyone is conditioned to gender roles, and she might also be cursing the shit out of her son but perhaps is unable to voice it out loud. Again, what’s happening right now in your household is unacceptable. Since you have identified it and want to change it, it does, unfortunately, fall on you to ruffle some feathers in order to achieve some semblance of equality. If you’re waiting for them to volunteer, it’s not going to happen. But you need to set some ground rules; even if you feel you don’t have the authority to do so, go ahead and assume some anyway.

DR: I agree with Rajvi — mutiny sounds like a great way to take this bull by its horns! But, on a more serious note, I can imagine the agony, having witnessed it first-hand while growing up in small-town India. Your nemesis here is patriarchy; your male relatives are just what it spawned. And, the lockdown is not nearly enough time to take down the patriarchy itself — women have been trying to do that for decades now, and we’re far far away from achieving our goal. So, I don’t think having a mature conversation with the video game-enthusiasts will do you any good. But, you can take a leaf out of Gandhi’s book and opt for non-cooperation. Just don’t help them out. They want food — let them make it themselves. They want their surroundings clean — let them clean up after themselves. Might not be the worst idea for them to move their limbs around in the non-virtual world too. You just go about your day, minding your own business. Maybe, convince your mother-in-law to tag team with you on this. Maybe, it’ll end up being a great bonding experience.

SM: ABCDEFHESNZGAU. That is me screaming in incoherent frustration. Not sharing the burden of household chores in general sucks. But especially in a crisis situation like this, if you can see that others are overburdened and you continue sitting and playing VIDEO GAMES, you’re clearly extremely entitled. I’m sorry, I’m just venting on your behalf; I know that isn’t a solution. But I just had to. Growing up in a middle-class Indian household, I’ve seen this situation play out far too often, and I feel you and am rooting for you to voice your problems and better the situation. As for a solution, as Rajvi says, mutiny is the only option! I just want to add that a crisis like this is definitely a good opportunity to bring up how unequal and unfair this situation is. Hopefully, it becomes a chance to redefine how things work in this house. After all, family traditions need to evolve with the times.

ADT: So, I have a feeling that the men in your family are definitely callous but (hopefully) do have a heart. You know how sometimes your grandparents want to do an absurd amount of work to spoil you and, no matter how much you protest, they sort of bully you into loving you? And sometimes, you just accept it without question, because you’re getting everything on a platter. I feel like your mother-in-law spoilt the men in your house rotten exactly this way, and they’ve been brow-beaten into a very comfortable life. (I know right! Poor them.) In this case, I don’t think it’d be extremely hard to pull them to the side and bully them into loving their old lady back by contributing around the house once. Shame them thoroughly, let them marinate in said shame, and watch the video game controller get a little lonelier each day.

AM: I feel extremely sorry for you and your mother-in-law but not as much for her because she should’ve been more proactive in teaching her sons that helping with household chores is as important as playing video games when they were younger. And it isn’t your place or your duty to teach them either. So, the best thing is to not do anything but help only yourself. We all work from home and I can imagine the kind of toll it must be taking on you. It’s impossible to do anything after clocking in so many hours. Continue sitting at your laptop even after work is over and pretend to work. Then serve yourself some food and go to sleep. Who is going to be able to tell you anything then? If not to your brother-in-law and mother-in-law, I’m sure you can talk to your husband about it? If he doesn’t understand or offer to help, stop doing even the little bit.

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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