The Worth and Dignity of the Homemaker

Light of Truth

Paul Thelakat

Vinod (29) and his wife Poonam (20), while commuting on a motorcycle in Delhi at around 7AM on 12.04.2014, were hit at an intersection by a Santro Car and died.They were survived by two toddler daughters and septuagenarian parents. The High Court of Delhi commuted the motor accident compensation of Rs 40.71 lakhs awarded by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal to Rs 22 lakhs.The insurance company offered a compensation of Rs 6.47 lakhs for the death of Poonam and Rs 10.71 lakhs for Vinod as terms of a settlement. Although the deceased’s father pleaded that Vinod was earning Rs 14,000 every month as a teacher at a Public School in Delhi, he was unable to substantiate his claim with any documentary evidence. The notional income for both the deceased was adopted as the lowest minimum wage applicable for unskilled workers in Haryana, instead of Delhi. Similarly, 1/3rd of Poonam’s income was deducted towards personal expenses and future prospects were denied to both the deceased. The anomaly between the gratuitous increase of income between Vinod and Poonam and the usage of unskilled minimum wage for Vinod was brought to the notice of the Supreme Court of India. Any compensation awarded by a Court ought to be just, reasonable and consequently must undoubtedly be guided by principles of fairness, equity, and good conscience, the Supreme Court ruled. The total motor accident compensation of Rs 22 lakhs awarded by the High Court to the claimant appellants was increased by Rs 11.20 lakhs to reach a new total of Rs 33.20 lakhs by the Supreme Court. The judgment by Surya Kant was concurred by the other two judges.

Justice Ramana argued that the courts in India have recognized that
“the contribution 
made by the wife to the house is invaluable
and cannot be computed in terms of money.”

But Justice N.V. Ramana of the bench gave a separate judgment which dwelt on the topic of the duty to grant compensation to housewives on the basis of the services rendered by them in the house taking into account their age, honour and rights in accordance with the Constitution of India. Citing earlier judgments, justice Ramana argued that the courts in India have recognized that “the contribution made by the wife to the house is invaluable and cannot be computed in terms of money. The gratuitous services rendered by the wife with true love and affection to the children and her husband and managing the household affairs cannot be equated with the services rendered by others. A wife/mother does not work by the clock.” The key findings of a survey suggest that, on an average, women spend nearly 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members versus 97 minutes spent by men on average. Similarly, in a day, women on average spend 134 minutes on unpaid care giving services for household members as compared to the 76 minutes spent by men on average. In India even more women on average spend16.9 and 2.6 percent of their day on unpaid domestic services and unpaid care giving services for household members respectively, while men spend 1.7 and 0.8 percent. This phenomenon of women taking care of families exists all over the world, including Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Finland and the United States of America. Men spend more time in paid work than women and the converse is true for unpaid work. The implication is that women provide household services by which other members of the household benefit. The conception that house makers do not “work” or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that still persists and must be overcome. Those who engage in household duties like cooking, cleaning of utensils, looking after children, fetching water, collecting firewood have been categorized as non-workers and equated with beggars, prostitutes and prisoners who, according to the census, are not engaged in economically productive work. This unfortunate silence when it comes to the value of housework has been a problem. Most importantly, there must be a step taken towards the constitutional vision of social equality and of ensuring dignity of life to all individuals. There can be no method that will magically ascertain the true value provided by an individual gratuitously for those that they are near and dear to them. Various methods can be employed by the Court to fix the notional income of a homemaker, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. But the court shall not assess “the compensation too conservatively, nor too liberally.” Jeo Baby’s The Great Indian Kitchen is a film of 1 hour 40 minutes length dealing with the event of a typical Indian Kitchen with its action in pictures and sounds. What is most conspicuous is the absence of language. It gets itself reduced into the commands of men and the response of the woman in the kitchen of high caste Indians. It is simply a story of the subjugation of women in the kitchen without language and without the right to speak.
In the childhood memories of every person, there’s a large kitchen, a warm stove, a simmering pot and above all a loving mom. Everything happens in the kitchen with the mother. Happiness is a household affair within a big kitchen. Organisation is learned from kitchen and the mother. Cooking is greatest ceremony and feast. Mothers in the kitchen bring families together. The Supreme Court has honoured our mothers and their kitchen. The best inheritance a parent can give children is a few minutes of his time each day. The denigration of homemaking isn’t just a problem confined to the secular world; it exists also in Catholic circles. Decorating, meal planning, cleaning, and all the myriad connecting parts that go into making a home sometimes are considered unworthy of attention from serious minds. The word homemaker isn’t a dirty word. It’s an incredible opportunity that we have to give to others, not just on a material level but on a spiritual level. There is a growing number of highly educated women that are bucking the working-mom trend and choosing to be housewives. Do these women look stupid or illiterate? No.
A survey on career and job satisfaction revealed that stay-at-home-moms are more satisfied in their roles as homemakers than in any other profession. It is an honour to be given the job of keeping the home safe, clean, cared for, and welcoming. Homemaking is more than housekeeping. Homemaking takes into account the spiritual values: love, peace, tranquillity, harmony among family members, and the security of the family. We want our homes to be a sanctuary, but also a foreshadowing of heaven. We want to get home with the Father in heaven. Like other aspects of homemaking, reaching a point where one is aware of the worth of her work and satisfied that she does it well requires time and diligence.

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