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“Unpaid Work” – What We can Do to Re-Balance

Unpaid work is widely recognized as the backbone of thriving families, communities and economies. Everyone deserves an equal chance to learn and grow, rest and relax, and to engage in paid work. To address the current issue where women are the dominant contributors to unpaid work, there is a decision to be made that is: "Should females continue to assume the main role to unpaid work?". I believe that this decision is an "internal decision" to be made by all of us. Change begins with our thoughts and feelings.

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This phrase, “unpaid work” is well spoken by many. According to United Nations Women, unpaid work stretches from cooking and cleaning, to taking care of children and the elderly.  Unpaid work is widely recognized as the backbone of thriving families, communities and economies. So important that if we stop doing all the unpaid work, the global economy would collapse and society would stop functioning.

Whilst unpaid work happens across men and women, it is a fact that women do most of the unpaid work across the world. As a result, women have less time to:

  • Learn and grow
  • To engage in paid work
  • Rest and relax

Have we all considered why women are the dominant contributors to unpaid work?

There are probably many answers to this question.

My personal story is this: It’s not that we want to. It’s that many of us learned this is what we should do since young – through our parents, our environment, our culture.

Growing up in a culture where girls should take care of the boys at home, one memory I still recall very well was I got shouted at by my mother for not tidying up my bed when I was around 7-years-old. When I asked why my two brothers would not have to do the same, the response I got was: “because you are a girl. Your brothers could be opted out because girls would do the tidying for them.”

I disagreed with that. And I still disagree with it to this day. Though for years growing up, I witnessed countless times where my mother would tidy up my brothers’ beds, whilst I got disciplined if I didn’t.

Despite the rage inside me for the unfairness, the experience did something much bigger to me.

Specifically, a seed was planted deep inside me that “girls have to do household chores, but boys don’t”. This seed eventually sprouted and grew bigger inside me. It was so powerful that, instead of challenging against it, I accepted that as a way of being as a girl.

This state of being eventually became subconscious, where from then on, I assumed accountability of unpaid work. Over the years, I assumed more responsibilities to keep my family home clean, unpaid, and subsequently extended to my own family post marriage.

Have you experienced something similar?

That we let the beliefs and thoughts planted in us from young to keep on repeating themselves to this day? More importantly, why do we lack self-awareness and courage to set boundaries when we feel it becomes too much?

My turning point

Until last year, I didn’t think the option to speak up and to ask for a change was available to me.

When COVID came, many of our lives got shook up like a major earthquake. The immediate adjustment to no external childcare support, having to work-from-home. Suddenly, it all just got too much that I decided I had to re-adjust how I think and feel about unpaid work.

At that time, I was fortunate to have been on a journey to learn about mindset and loop of thoughts. I realized, there is some innerwork that could be done inside me in order to successfully re-balance unpaid work within a household.

This is what I did:

  • I stopped believing that “I must do all the household chores at home”.
  • I replaced with a new belief that “a household is maintained more effectively with team effort”.
  • I learned and practiced reaching out to my husband as well as my children for support and help.

My results?

As a result, I got a gift!

This gift is called TIME.

I secured additional free time by re-balancing unpaid work at home with my husband. I spent the free time I regained to learn new things, including getting trained as a Rapid Transformation Therapy Practitioner (RTTP).

On reflection, if I hadn’t decided to make the change, the experience I shared above wouldn’t have happened to begin with. At the same time, if I hadn’t created the environment to support what I desired, the change I wanted to happen wouldn’t have sustained to this day. Overall, I am grateful.

What can we do?

To address our current imbalance of unpaid work performed between women and men, I believe there is a decision to be made from within us across males and females, that is: “do we still think that women should continue to be the dominant contributors of unpaid work?”

With my hope that some of us would agree to a need to change the status quo, I propose that we need to spend time and effort to learn and practice to speak up, to ask for help, and more importantly, to consider changing how we think, feel, and act on unpaid work.

Above all, people treat us based on how they see us treating ourselves.

In Kung Fu Panda 1, Master Wuguay reminded us:

“Yesterday was history. Tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why we call it ‘present'”.

YES – we can’t go back to change our PAST. But it can be our fuel for growth to build a better tomorrow. It’s not what happens that makes the biggest difference in our lives; it’s what we make of what happens most.

Together, let’s decide how much unpaid work we are to do, and not blindly follow what others tell us how much we should do. Ultimately, we are the driver of our own life and the master of our soul.

#unpaidwork #womenhistorymonth #ChoosetoChallenge #IWD2021 #innerwork #mindset #selfbeliefs

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