Rather than whinging about the smallest inconveniences, maybe it is best to count our blessings. If there is one of the many lessons we could learn during this lockdown period is to appreciate mothers, wives or essentially the homemakers without whom the house we live in may not feel as homely.
If we have not realised this before – the tidy house we live in does not clean itself; the food on the table does not cook itself; the good smelling cloths we wear do not wash and fold themselves. There are reasons why things are organised at home, even sometimes not perfectly.
Thanks to the homemakers for shouldering most of the housekeeping chores. By the third week of the MCO, we should now see how a homemaker’s work is laborious, valuable but often slip away unnoticed.
Taking a gender neutral definition, a homemaker is a person who manages the household for the family, especially as a principal occupation.
Figuratively, if our home is a company, the homemaker is the Director of Domestic Affairs; making sure domestic operations are intact and everyone in it is taken care of – that is their strong suit. Around the world, the vast majority of women wear the homemaker’s hat. A reason for why the term is interchangeably used with ‘housewife’.
However, it is no longer the case today as anyone can be a homemaker and some choose to share the housework loads. For homemakers who also work in the offices, they carry the burden twice as much.
The life for a breadwinner may revolve around constantly chasing deadlines, one after another. For the family members, from waking up, rushing to the office or schools and then coming home exhausted later in the evening, we might not realise that doing the bulk of domestic work is no small feat.
A homemaker spends their waking hours keeping things on track at home, even during this lockdown period. MCO or not, homemakers toil away. Their daily grind goes on as usual, like a convenience store that opens 24-7.
A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2018 argues that macroeconomic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product typically excludes the value of unpaid household activities provided by the homemakers. In reality, homemakers’ contribution constitutes an important aspect of the economy because it subsidizes the cost of care that sustains families, eventually increases the quality as well as standard of living.
In essence, a homemaker’s role is indispensable not just for the households, but also for the economies to function. For that reason, it is wrong to make light of a homemaker’s time as less important and their job less challenging. Turning a house into a home is a thoughtful process, physically and mentally. It demands organisation, discipline, patience, intelligence and creativity – a tough job only a strong-willed, multi-tasker can do.
This piece is not about preaching equality, nor does it aim to point out who is doing the heavy lifting at home. Rather, it is merely urging Malaysians to acknowledge a homemaker’s sacrifice that benefits the family all along. For that, if you are a homemaker, be proud and give yourself a pat on the back.
If you are taken care by one, you might not be able to repay everything a homemaker does but you could express your gratitude today. A simple thank you would melt the tiredness away and make their day. Likewise, this lockdown period is the best time to reflect on the little things we unintentionally take for granted.
* Dr Zurina Moktar is an expert in business model innovation, technology commercialization and biodiversity conservation. She holds a PhD in Engineering from the University of Cambridge, UK.
** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.