Last night, right before my mother was about to be done for the day, I called her to my room. Without wasting anyone’s time, I asked her, ‘Maa has papa ever changed our diapers?’ To which I expected a, ‘you know how men are’ ‘he did once or that day when I was out’, but to my surprise she said, ‘never’. Now, my father is a very generous, loved-by-all kind of a man, and hearing something like this was like a slap in the face of someone who preaches equality in home, but has a history of unchanged nappies in her own room.
Now since we are looking at an even bigger picture, haven’t we all looked down upon potty cleaning as a menial work, that someone has to even dine with patriarchy just to throw it away on someone else’s head? E.M Forster once remarked, ‘we have been trained since childhood to think excretion shameful, and grave evils have resulted both physical and psychological, with which modern education is just beginning to cope’ where some have had their hands dirty, some still stand apart, cringing.
As shocking as the revelation was, it opened my eyes on ways the clean up job is considered to be less stinky for women than their counterparts. A baby is bathed, dressed and then presented for your kisses and adoration but the realization of how much solitary labor it takes to do a job so tedious is lost in the whole ‘a mother’s love is the purest’ translation, no matter what, this slang cannot conceal the fact that it overlooks the feeling of disgust for the stained diaper of her child, or the floor of her room that now reeks of her pet’s poop.
Cleaning ‘dirt’ or poop is not a menial job nor is it something that has been curated and parcelled for even those sweepers in your street for whom you find it convenient to leave your pet’s poop, thinking ‘that’s their job right?’. This perception not only promotes social exclusion but also leads to severe health consequences for sweepers. The more we start becoming accountable for the trails of dirt we leave behind, the more it becomes less shameful. And once the stereotype and shame with excretion is wiped away, per conversation, it might still stink but not to the extent it restricts you to pick that dirt up and throw it in the dustbin.
To explain it further, that is your child/pet too, and not just to cuddle and pose pictures with, but to be present and active in their lives, and maybe (more than a probability) eventually, you become a good parent who engages in a more healthy, self-improving conversations with your child, only after you are done with feeding, bathing, dressing, swaddling, bandaging and soothing.
Unpaid labour like cleaning up and taking account of the changes in the body of your child also teaches you to appreciate that not everything has a price and sometimes helps you bond as an experience of a lifetime which is something every parent has to get hold of. Eventually, we as a generation would understand love in its least capitalized form, no need to buy gifts or sponsor long vacations, just clean after your baby.
Till then, till the time the stigma goes away for good, I guess the women of my house will keep cleaning after our pet, sometimes out of their obvious duty, other times when no one’s ready to be accountable for their own.
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