Skip to main content

Of Women & Burnout #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth

Image Source

I've been wanting to write this post since the start of the month, finally got to it now. Why? I simply did not find the time. Why? Read on.

Burnout (as per - Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place. Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

I read this post on LinkedIn recently. While I completely agree with the article, I think that it is not only the women leaders who are at a higher risk of burnout. Every woman is. Women at a junior level might not even get to a leadership level because of burnout. Women who take care of a home would be more prone to a burnout. Bottom line is, women definitely are at a higher risk of burnout. I'm not saying men aren't. As a woman, I choose to talk about why I think women are at a higher risk.

Image Source

The above image appeared as a tweet on my timeline some time recently. I thought it must be nice to have a woman or anybody else who enables a man to have a routine like this. Where have dinner means just eating dinner and not cooking and washing up. Imagine finishing a tough day at work and coming home to a homecooked delicious and warm meal. Then having the time to do whatever he wants to do.  Sigh, the pleasures of being a man.

When someone, irrespective of a man or a woman, lists out their plan for the day it is only natural for one to look at their own plan. These are the things I usually do in a day. Of course some of them don't feature on the list everyday, but they remain on my mind.

~ Wake up and have a cup of coffee. Read the newspaper while having coffee.

~ Empty the dish rack of the utensils washed the previous night. Arrange them in their places to make it easy for when I'm cooking.

~ I have planned the menu of the day the previous night in my mind. Time to put it to action.

~ Cook lunch.

~ Cook food for the pet. Chicken, rice and vegetables. Each one cooked separately. I do this once in 3 days.

~ Clean the house. Put everything back in place.

~ A quick breakfast.

~ Start work. Mails, meetings etc.

~ Deal with an anxious pup who feels the need to climb on your lap every time they fire a shot (to shoo away the birds) at the nearby airport.

~ Play with the pup to make him feel loved and heard.

~ Empty the clothes rack of washed and dried clothes. Fold them and arrange them in their respective places.

~ Run the washing machine for the next batch of clothes. 

~ Put them out to dry.

~ Feed the pup.

~ Take the pup out for a walk.

~ Eat lunch and wash the utensils.

~ Office work and meetings.

~ Water the plants.

~ Vacuum the house.

~ Mop and dust the house.

~ Fill up the water bottles.

~ Keep track of groceries/fresh produce.

~ Book/follow up on the laundry sent for washing.

~ Keep track of a gazillion online orders buying stuff for home.

~ More office work and more meetings.

~ Cook dinner.

~ Dinner for the pup.

~ A walk for the pup.

~ Eat dinner.

~ Wash the utensils.

~ Groom the pup.

~ Check work emails.

~ Hit the bed.

~ Mental load of what to cook the next day.

~ Mental load of what other household chores are pending for the next day.

~ Exhaustion doesn't let you sleep immediately. Else, it is the heat.

~ Toss and turn and sleep poorly.

~ Wake up and repeat.

Most of this get done when I'm working from home. On the days I go to office, the chores get piled or ignored. As a woman with ample passions and hobbies, including even a single additional activity would mean that something else on the list gets left out. I used to feel bad about it before, but now I've come to terms with it. A quick workout would mean the plants would not get watered today. Thirty minutes of reading would mean I order in lunch. It always is a trade, come what may. I used to have a maid until some time ago. She would wash the dishes and vacuum/mop the house. The rest of the chores were still left to me. Of course I have a supportive partner who finds time from his busy schedule to take up a few chores as and when he can.

Many women have spoken about the stress of domestic life and chores. Trust me, it is as exhausting as they make it to be. Some women say that some of us are lucky as our partners "help" us with chores. I hate the word help in this context. When a man offers to help, it still means that the primary onus of the chore is on the women and men are only expected to assist if they want to. Will a man's to-do list ever have chores? I highly doubt.

I wouldn't be lying if I said that I face burn-outs quite often. A majority of my day goes in tasks that are mind-numbingly boring and dull. Not to mention repetitive. It is almost impossible to not feel overwhelmed. This is not normal stress. A burn-out is much beyond that. It questions you as a person. It drains you out beyond measure. It detaches you from everything around and wrecks you emotionally. Self-doubt creeps in at that moment and your brain refused to see any worth in you as a person. Nothing seems good enough, least of all you. Domestic chores can do that to you. Perhaps now we can understand why our mothers, aunts and grandmas were so tired and angry all the time.

Household chores are not the only thing that can lead to a burn-out but it definitely is high up on the list. I know of well-deserving women letting go off promotions as they would not be able to handle the additional work while managing a home. A colleague of mine adjusts her work timings in such a way that she can drop and pick up her children and then drive them to their multiple extra-curricular activities. She works late night to complete her work once the children are fed and tucked into bed. It is only normal to think what the father of the children does at home.

It is time for things to change. A home should no longer be the reflection of the homemaker. It should be a reflection of all the people who live in it and contribute to it. When we were working on the interiors of our new house and the kitchen was somewhat ready, my MIL clearly pointed it out to me that "my department" is ready. Back then, I was a woman with 10+ years of experience in the corporate world, leading a team in a highly demanding industry. Yet, the kitchen was my department. My partner immediately pointed it out to her that it was not. It was something for both of us. This is how the change must start.

I have a partner who understands my ambitions and my determination towards work and believes that household chores are not meant for a woman alone. Yet, at times I feel the burnout. Now imagine those women who don't have this support. It sends a chill down my spine just thinking of it. We need household chores to be gender neutral no matter what it is. I also know of some women who believe that it is their duty to be servile and cater to the needs of the man. If you are one among them, good for you. Don't judge those who don't believe in this archaic norm.

Let us break the chain. Let us refuse to do the things we can't or don't want to do. Let us focus on more important things that matter. Let us pursue our ambitions and passions and not get burdened by the chores that give no meaning to our lives. Teach your sons to be independent. They don't have to be high-flying chefs or Marie Kondos. They just need to know how to survive and take care of themselves and their surroundings. The men need to pick up chores around the house and not just offer help. It needs to be a priority for them too and go on their lists. Everyone in the house need to contribute to chores to make it a home. 

Let's start at the very beginning. Home. 


  1. very well said Soumya. Men need to put chores on their to-do lists too and take up a lion's share of it too. After all they contribute by half measures to the fruits of these efforts too. Hugs and love Soumz - take a break and chill out some more sweety!!

    1. You bet! I hope men realize it themselves and start picking up chores.

  2. It felt like you wrote everything I feel too. The schedule looks the same minus the pet for now. At the end of the day, the things that get sacrificed are the me-time and the hobbies! Sigh!

    1. I'm sorry you are going through this too, Nibha. Please voice it out with your partner and get them to take up some chores.


Post a Comment

Just like me, say what you feel. While constructive criticism is welcome, please keep it subtle and kind. Thank you!