Homemakers are the backbone of any family structure. Whoever said that being a homemaker is an easy task has probably never done the job!
Traditionally, wives who stayed home and didn’t have to go to work were required by social norms to create and maintain a peaceful space to provide for her husband and children. Their roles would comprise of being a doting wife, a dutiful daughter-in-law, an empathetic caregiver for the children and/or ailing parents while also managing the cooking, cleaning and laundry, home maintenance, children’s education, finances and even socialising.
As wives and mothers of the 21st century, women have adapted, evolved and blossomed. Urban homemakers today are tech-savvy, work part-time or full-time jobs and even own a home-run business. No longer do they shy away from verbalising their needs yet assert their individuality gracefully. They work relentlessly throughout the day to ensure the proper functioning of the household while also managing time to stay connected with friends and family and for themselves to binge on OTT platforms, set healthy boundaries and upskill themselves.
Women today are making their physical health a top priority. This is evident with the rise in the number of women enrolling to yoga, gym, aerobics and dance classes. By late 2014, women were opening up to the idea of seeking help and making mental wellness also a priority.
EY did a study in October 2020 that collected responses from 385 homemakers from various age groups, family types, across various cities. They found that “..uncertainty and anxiety brought about by the pandemic has resulted in a sharp focus on health and wellbeing. As a result, homemakers are becoming flag bearers for family health and immunity. They are driving consumption towards the same”.
The unexpected and devastating pandemic followed by the multiple lockdowns was taxing on everyone, but homemakers were among the ones who got hit bad, turning their daily routines upside down and forcing them to adapt to this new situation. Most of these Indian households did not have domestic help or access to nearby local markets. The women were required to balance household chores, work commitments and familial relationships with possibly very little help from other family members.
They were suddenly surrounded by family members constantly demanding their attention and time. Although initially, it might have felt like an extended vacation, with no strict routine to be followed, eventually turned out to be extremely overwhelming and overbearing. With hardly any time for self-care activities along with social isolation, homemakers found themselves to be emotionally exhausted.
Stress, fatigue, loneliness, fear and anxiety were some of the emotional states that homemakers dealt with on a regular basis. Especially the constant fear of living amidst the pandemic and the stigma attached to contracting the virus had only contributed to their feelings of uncertainty. If someone in the household fell sick, it wasn’t an easy task to take care of the family member while praying for their speedy recovery and dealing with what people were saying.
Another unexpected task homemakers had to battle was managing their children’s education. Women with young children attending online classes had a new challenge – making sure their child attends classes and studies in this new format. Taking those few hours out of their daily routine to sit beside their child and understand how this system worked called upon their ability to adapt and evolve overnight. After school hours, became dedicated to keeping the child engaged and entertained throughout the day. But the mothers took up the challenge head-on and fought through with panache and creativity. From cooking or baking with their children to searching Pinterest and social media for DIY activities, they kept the boat afloat.
In my practice as a therapist during the lockdown, I spoke to some of these women and was marvelled at their ability to bounce right back after being put down. Yes, while many did express their negative feelings and thoughts and sometimes even complained about how unfair the situation was for them, I found that none of them spoke about giving up.
They came to counselling to find a way to understand and manage the situation while being able to take care of their own and the family’s mental health. They found ways to help one another in the community which gave them hope and purpose. They were open to re-learning and adapting depending on what their situation demanded. Some of them even found new meaning and fostered closer bonds with their partners and children.
So yes, the pandemic and lockdown was a difficult time period that affected the mental health of homemakers, but like JM Strong said, “She may be broken for a while, but that’s ok. She’s working on her, cause she’s not one to leave a mess lying around.” With the right approach and adequate resources, most of these women were able to cope and evolve into stronger, more adept individuals.