We can see everywhere that when it comes to doing household chores, society considers that it is women's duty to perform it, and that it has nothing to do with men, unless they agree to ‘help’ when assigned tasks.
Women have only two hands, but in heterosexual relationships they are almost always expected to organise and handle everything in and around the home on their own. Men rarely contribute their fair share of household duties, and when they do perform tasks, they see it as ‘helping’ their wife rather than doing what needs to be done.
Women perform so many unpaid tasks, such as caring for children, cleaning, cooking, and washing, that many people believe it is somehow ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ for women to perform these duties. However, these chores should be done by both men and women. There is no gender when it comes to doing household chores. It is unjust that society binds women to these jobs by assuming that it is not that tiring like going to work outside and earning money – which most women in Cambodia also do in any case.
This isn't to say that women don't wish to break the stereotype. The problem is that – even if they recognise it as unfair, that they must complete and manage the majority of household tasks while their husband is expected only to ‘help’ or ‘support’ – they know that if they quit doing all of these things, no one will pick up the slack, and essential tasks will simply fall through the cracks and not get done. Their children’s and their own wellbeing will suffer as a result. So, they continue to fulfill society’s unfair expectations of mothers and wives.
Telling women to ask their husbands for ‘help’ only exacerbates the situation, adding to women’s burden of ‘mental load’ (the constant weight of needing to perform, schedule and assign tasks, which will be discussed more in the next blog). We should not see men performing essential tasks within their own house as ‘helping.’ In a fair, equal and loving relationship, true equality requires that men step up and take on their share of housework. Equally as important is that men independently recognise what tasks need doing, and have the initiative to undertake them without needing to be asked and reminded. This also has the added benefit of showing the next generation of sons and daughters that housework knows no genders, and that women should not be expected to face a double burden of paid and unpaid work alone.