Why we urgently need to distribute care work more fairly
There was a time when the everyday life of most families looked like this: She took care of the household and children at home, he brought the money home. Since then, things have changed a bit – or not. Because care work, i.e. taking care of the children, cleaning, caring for, cooking, shopping, is still primarily a woman’s job. What is new, however, is that in addition to household chores and kids, most women now also have a paid job to rock. It’s important, of course. Because people who only do care work their whole life often end up in poverty in old age. However, what is also a fact is that the constant balancing act between family and job and the struggle with social role expectations is bringing more and more mothers to the brink of burnout, as studies have shown. It can not go on like this!
One:r has to do the care work job. But why the mother?
Even without children, women do more unpaid work than men, but it is maternity that really widens the gap in the expenditure on care work. This phenomenon, which particularly affects people in their mid-30s, is called the “gender care gap”. In this age group, the gender care gap is a whopping 110.6 percent. This means that women spend more than twice as much time doing care work as men every day because they have small children to look after.
These numbers are sad, because it takes two to have children, at least in heteronormative relationships. But they probably won’t surprise anyone, after all we all grew up with patriarchal structures. Gender stereotypes such as “The baby belongs to the mother” or “The mothering instinct is in women’s blood” run deep – even in our own heads. Many mothers struggle with a guilty conscience because they have the feeling that they are not fulfilling any of their roles properly. Not being able to give 100 percent at work and not at home either.
Our coexistence, our whole society, is based on care work
It’s actually crazy: Care work is essential for the survival of our children and our society. It is incredibly important, and yet hardly anyone can or wants to do it properly. Many mothers, especially single parents, tear themselves apart because not only can (or want) to be a mother, but they also have to (or want) to earn money. Some (not all!) fathers, on the other hand, no longer want to take on activities in the area of care work because they feel that this devalues them – because the male view of care work, but also that of society as a whole, is still so negative. Or they can’t, also for financial reasons. Which brings us to the issue of the gender pay gap, which favors traditional family structures with a male main breadwinner. So what to do to get out of this struggle?
Care work must be upgraded – but how?
In order to eliminate the imbalance between the sexes, the Federal Republic of Germany has committed itself to a family policy that wants to keep both mothers and fathers in work – preferably full-time. All parents know that this is not a promising approach, at the latest after the first winter in the daycare center, when the child is sick at home almost non-stop. Because what often happens in such a case, at least in the case of well-earning parents with a 40-hour week, is the following: They try to further delegate the care work in order to be able to do their paid job. To grandma and grandpa or a babysitter (no gender was deliberately used here!), who of course gets a lower hourly rate for their care work than they do in gainful employment.
Because – which brings us back to the topic – in our society, care work is either poorly paid or not paid at all. It is obvious that such a system promotes social inequality and is guaranteed not to increase the value of care work. So what would really help? First of all, of course, appropriate payment for babysitters, educators, nursing staff and Co., which shows: We see that you are doing an extremely important job from which we all benefit.
And otherwise? Perhaps a general reduction in working hours to under 30 hours per week, which would allow both parents to work part-time and distribute care work more fairly. Above all, however, educational work that shows: Hey, the distribution of tasks according to gender is nonsense and mostly unfair. After all, do we really want our children to still be struggling with problems in 20 or 30 years that we haven’t been able to get a grip on ourselves? Even.