Women As Caregivers

Women as Caregivers

Mention the term caregiver and what is the first image that pops into people’s minds. It is invariably one of a woman’s who is entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the needs of the family. By default, everyone thinks of women. For years, caregiving has been considered a woman’s “duty” – men are breadwinners while women are caregivers. This thought process has been prevalent for many years and unfortunately continues to prevail.

  • When a member of the family falls ill, women are habitually expected to look after the invalid.
  • It is not even something that warrants a discussion in many families as it is the woman’s responsibility to look after the family.
  • While men are expected to take care of the finances, women are expected to stay at home and tend to other member’s physical well-being.
  • Women being entrusted with caretaking affects them and the society in many ways.
  • While the stereotyping of women as caregivers spans all strata of society, it should be noted that the expectations of women from rural areas are higher than their urban counterparts and consequently, the time they spend on unpaid care work is also higher.

How Does This Imbalance in Caregiving Affect Women?

Education

  • Women being entrusted with caregiving translates to them having lesser time to spend on their education.
  • Girls who are expected to help their mothers with caregiving invariably not only spend less time with their studies but they are also deprived of socializing and spending time with others their age which is actually much needed for an individual’s overall development.
  • While boys are encouraged to study, for girls, education is considered redundant and they are pushed to unpaid care work.
  • When the caregiving starts to take up more and more of their time, girls are even forced to drop out of school/college.

Financial Dependence

  • Women are not paid for the care work they do at home; they are not even recognized for it. Often the caregiving work takes up all of their time and they have no choice but to remain unemployed.
  • As a result, they are dependent on their husbands for their financial needs.
  • This affects the way family members perceive them; let alone appreciation or gratitude, women are not even given the respect they deserve.
  • Women who don’t work also do not save up for their own future needs.
  • The women who are intent on working have to find jobs that fit around their caregiving responsibilities.
  • This limits their job opportunities considerably. They often end up with low paying jobs with no job security.

Lack of Representation

  • When women are confined to their homes because of their caregiving role, they have no means of accessing the society like men do.
  • As a result, many women often do not even know whom to reach out to for help or that there is help available.
  • In terms of the bigger picture, this means that women are not represented and as a result public policies are not formulated with women’s needs in mind.

Effects on Health

  • Caregiving does affect both the physical and the mental health of women.
  • While mentally, some women do feel fulfilled at being able to look after their loved ones, it also has adverse effects as women burdened with caregiving may go into depression or experience increased levels of anxiety.
  • Women also give up on socializing to take better care of their families.
  • They often put their own health on the back burner as they find it difficult to keep doctor’s appointments since it means someone else taking over caregiving for a while.
  • As a result, women seek medical help only when it is absolutely necessary.

The Pandemic and Its Effect on Unpaid Care

The caregiving burden increased further during the pandemic as the time that women spent on caregiving was equivalent to them working full-time jobs. Some women were caregiving and doing their part in contributing to the family’s finances. In short, they were overburdened.

  • The pandemic placed additional responsibility and stress on everyone.
  • As domestic help had to be stopped, household work as well as caregiving responsibilities saw a rise.
  • Who took on this burden? While studies have shown that both men and women stepped up to the task, women did end up taking on a lot more.
  • The tasks that women took up were also more rigorous and often daughters ended up helping out more than sons.
  • More women than men quit their jobs (possibly due to the increased hours spent in caregiving) as they were unable to manage both.
  • The gender gap in caregiving was most evident when women were not involved in paid work outside home. Interestingly, when men were out of paid work the chances of them taking up caregiving was still a lot less compared to women.

Making a Change

  • People must be made to realize what caregiving involves as only then will they be able to appreciate and understand a caregiver’s role and importance.
  • Only awareness will bring about a change in the way caregivers are perceived.
  • Caregivers are indispensable to our health care structure.
  • With the lifespan of people on the rise, the need for caregivers too will be on the rise. We need to stop looking down upon caregiving jobs and instead appreciate and encourage the people involved in it. If this change in perspective is not achieved, caregiving will continue to burden women and young girls.
  • The healthcare industry as a whole need to step up and engage with caregivers to make sure their requirements are taken care of.
  • Men taking part in caregiving has to be normalized and people should stop thinking of it as something extraordinary.
  • Often, caregivers are not medical professionals. As a result, they face additional stress when they are required to make a decision regarding their loved one’s well-being. Caregivers need to be given access to reliable sources of information.

Caregiving is not easy and the task caregivers perform deserves recognition, understanding and support. It is the society’s responsibility to make sure that caregivers too are taken care of.

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