Imagine getting up early to make breakfast, do chores, and help the kids get ready for online classes before work. Then you head out to buy the essentials, come home to prepare dinner and clean up before sneaking in some time with the kids before bed. This is the reality for many Filipino women who juggle both their professional lives and the brunt of care work.
Care work refers to all unpaid tasks and responsibilities done at home, such as cleaning, laundry, meal preparation, looking after children and the elderly, and so on. It is traditionally seen as “women’s work” in many cultures, including the Philippines.
The weight of care work at home
Nowadays, younger couples are not so stringent regarding gender roles in care work. Married couple Atty. Third Bagro and Dr. Tina Langit-Bagro are behind the Instagram account @mrsdomesticated, which shows how sharing care work equally is the way forward. They both currently work full-time and have three young children.
“Even before the pandemic alam na namin yung importance ng sharing gawaing bahay between the couple,” explained Third aka Mr. Domesticated. He considers looking after his children as his care work of choice. “Favorite time ko yun with them.”
Tina elaborated, “With the pandemic, mas na-open yun time ni Third, and other fathers also, to do more for their homes and their families.”
Third is the first one to wake at to prepare breakfast before he goes to wake his children for school. He also helps his children throughout the day with schoolwork when he isn’t working.
“Usually pag kailangan nang matulog, si Tina na yun with the kids ulit. Ako na yung magaayos ng kusina kase gusto ko bago matulog maayos siya… minsan nakakapagdilig din ako sa gabi. Yun mga halaman sa loob ng bahay… titignan ko kung okay lang sila, tapos magdi-diffuse pa ako ng oils sa mga halaman!” Third exclaimed.
Recognizing and redistributing unpaid care work
Oxfam Pilipinas and Investing in Women, together with other partner organizations, are at the forefront of raising awareness of the value of unpaid care work and helping communities create an environment that supports equal opportunities for men and women by highlighting positive deviant practices.
Positive deviance, in a nutshell, is one way by which a specific set of community members are able to address common problems faced by a larger community in a manner that works and is efficient for the concerns faced by everyone in the community.
In the context of the pandemic, data gathered by Oxfam, a leading advocate on the discourse of unpaid care work both globally and in the Philippines, shows that men spend more time on care work compared to pre-pandemic times. However, women and girls in the household still spend more time doing care work than the men and boys.
According to Lot Felizco, country director of Oxfam Pilipinas, “Early this year, we conducted a National Household Care Survey, and the data showed that women spent 13 hours per day on care responsibilities, including the supervision of dependents and secondary activities. Meanwhile, men spent only eight hours per day on care work.”
Felizco added, “In terms of care work as a primary activity, women did this for 6.5 hours a day—three times more than the average time spent by men doing the same.”
The increase in handling care work during while dealing with COVID-19 surges, quarantine restrictions, distance learning, pay cuts or loss work, and more stressors could worsen already stressful situations in households.
“If we think about it and look at it from another point of view, care work is real work. It requires effort and skills to properly complete a task, it takes time to finish care work. It has value,” said Leah Payud, resilience portfolio manager of Oxfam Pilipinas.
“Some families [can] afford helpers to do the domestic and care work in their homes because they believe that their time can be used for gainful activities, such as engaging in business or other professional work that will benefit their family. There is a real value in performing care work, and it should be recognized and rewarded,” added Payud.