Stereotypes have always placed women in the home. Either to maintain their domestic careers or to make good use of their “caring abilities,” women are often told that they do housework better or that their professional careers intrude on their responsibilities. Women have been able to overcome these barriers, both socially and legally (in certain aspects), which has led to an increase of women in the workforce. However, now that we are all forced to stay home, women have been working a lot more.
This can be attributed to the role of gender in housework. It is not seen as manly to do certain types of housework, like washing dishes or doing the laundry. Hence, men are less likely to actively take responsibility for housework – placing a heavier burden on women. This makes it more difficult for women to work from home as they do not get defined breaks from work as they have to plan their day around the chores they need to finish. Breaks from professional work are usually punctuated by housework and childcare, which means that women end up working more, without being given a choice. Men, on the other hand, have it easier as they may help out with some housework but do not tend to take responsibility for it. Statistics published by the New York Times, looking at the contribution of men and women towards housework, show that men still do significantly less than women. Men and women were both asked to say whether they or their partner did more, and more men owned up to the fact that their female partner carried a greater burden.
Sociologists, like Duncombe and Marsden, have pointed out that women often face a ‘triple burden’ in their lives, as they are expected to maintain housework, paid work, and emotional work. Emotional work has become a lot more important during this time. The feeling of confusion has consumed a great majority of our daily lives, and this, too, is left up to women to deal with. The stereotype of men not being able to deal with emotions has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, ultimately leaving it to women to deal with emotional work. The strain of the triple burden is a lot more prominent now as families have to be self-sufficient, leaving women to handle the majority of this work. In normal times, women may still be working more, but they may also have outside help. Children would be going to school, and women would have a wider support network than that found in an isolated nuclear family. As a result, the burden of emotional work falls on them during these times.
On the whole, women have always had to deal with the strain between their personal and professional lives, but working from home has made it worse. Between juggling their career and being responsible for housework, they may not find time for themselves. The solution to this problem lies in the socialization of boys, wherein boys are taught that work is not defined by gender roles. The self-fulfilling prophecy of men not doing housework and emotional work for reasons rooting from masculinity makes it harder for women to advance professionally. This is a struggle that cannot be overcome by the legislature but requires men to learn how to share the triple burden responsibly.