Work is a word we often associate with leaving the house to do something outside the home. This outside-the-home work has been historically seen as more important than the unseen world of work that exists inside the home – the world of homemaking: of rearing children, cleaning, and cooking meals.But homemaking it more than this: it is not simply keeping the house but creating a home environment within the house, making it liveable, comfortable, a haven for those who return from the outside world.
The often invisible, little discussed, physical, intellectual and emotional labour involved in creating a home has historically been done by women. Susan Moller Okin argued in 1989 that our society rests on ‘the old assumption…that workers have wives at home’ (p. 8). What happens to this invisible labour when, in most families, both partners work and have children to raise? And why don’t we talk about it more?
Since the coronavirus outbreak the lines between ‘working at home’ (what we normally think of as ‘outside-work’) and housework or housekeeping (inside-work) have been challenged and blurred with so many ‘working from home’. Yet with schools closed, there are new childcare and child education labours added to parents’ list of responsibilities. Who is taking on this labour so that the world of work (now taking place in the home) can keep on ticking?
We want to hear your stories – who in your families keeps your house? Or, who works on your home so you can ‘work’? Perhaps you have been able to do your professional or paid work from home while your partner or family members support you. Or perhaps you are supporting your family by keeping the house while they work online or brave the outside world to go on the Covid-19 frontline.
Dr Emily Cox-Palmer-White
Dr Cox-Palmer-White is an academic researcher in gender theory, philosophy and science fiction and works as a private tutor. She lives with her husband and father in London and has been working from home since the coronavirus outbreak.