⚠️ Caution: Men at Rest
I come home from work at 6 and I can't immediately lie down and watch Reels. If I did, that would mean the dishes wouldn't get done and I'd need to order out, again. I don't want those things to happen, but I also really don't want to work anymore. I want to rest. I want to release my body from the constraints of tasks.
Unfortunately, it seems that there's a long way to go before I get that rest. I'm starting to get a little frustrated. Why can't I rest? I've worked all day. Why, world, do you not allow me to rest?
Not hiring someone for housework is my own doing. I have no one else to blame for what I've decided to take on here. If I decide to call it quits, I can again make ample time to rest, but something tells me that's not what I should be doing right now. Something tells me I need to change my relationship with rest.
Mothers and Leisure
Growing up, to see my mother at rest was a rare sight. She was, and still is, always busy cooking, cleaning, organizing or offering support to friends and relatives. I have often wished she took more time to rest. The pace at which her life operates seems unsustainable to say the least, but she has sustained it now for decades.
My life in comparison has had ample avenues for rest. Whether through deliberate choice or structural reasons, I've always benefited from others helping me in my personal tasks. Rest has always been aplenty.
Setting up a new life in Bangalore, I decided that I wouldn't get house help, at least not right off the bat. How much work could it be to take care of one person? As it turns out, more than I could imagine. My days are now packed with tasks, whether at work or home. I lie down on my bed at 10, thoroughly exhausted, and pass out. I was describing my predicament to a friend and said, "Jaise mummy log ka nahi hota hai? Poore time kaam aur fir thak ke so jana. Vaisa hi chal raha hai."
I've been living life this way only for a few days, and I've felt some resentment build up within me. I don't know who it's directed at, but it's there. I should be able to rest. Why isn't the world giving me the space to rest? I deserve it!
The Right to Rest
Historically, rest has been seen as a right of the workforce. The 8-hour workday was fought for so that we could have 8 hours outside of work and sleep for 'what we will'. Of course, this division was not nearly as neat for homemakers.
When fathers come home from work, the whole house starts to adjust itself around their emotions. They're often exhausted and hungry. Mothers rush to get the food ready. The man returns from a long day of hunting, and must be served the rewards of his hunt.
As men, our lives have always followed this unsaid dynamic: You go to work, you get to rest. Not having that for a few days has made me see how our mothers' lives were never operating on that cycle. Work is a constant. You stay active the whole day and then you sleep. There is no resentment. It is just how life is.
I think up to this point, I've only experienced the challenges of daily adult life as a man. Out for work, in to rest, the whole world ordered around this body clock. A more current rendition, of course, might involve hiring women as cooks and cleaners, now that there is an aspiration to equality in marriages. Nonetheless, there is something very similar about the experience. I'm tired. Please, world, order yourself around me.
Rest and Entitlement
I think my body needs to be trained to stay active once I return from work. It needs to shed the idea that work is at the workplace, and home is a space of respite. Only men have been able to see things in such binaries, and I think those of us who aspire to be equal partners cannot afford to continue doing so.
I started writing this piece a couple weeks ago, and have since admitted defeat and hired help for some of the housework. A life without leisure was manageable but not desirable, and my philosophical commitments only take me so far.
This time, however short, did change my perspective on rest. I was able to shed some part of my entitlement to rest, and my body doesn't immediately ask to lie down when I come home from work. I'm on my feet, and ready to tackle household tasks. I haven't gotten where I want to be, but it is a step forward.
📖 What to read this week
This is not your typical Balcony recommendation. It's just raw emotion on a page, and it might make you cry. That's all I'll say about it.
Trigger warning: suicide, self-harm