Problems of measuring and public recognition of women’s work are not merely statistical. This article highlights the co-performance of stereotypical gender roles, where men and women jointly seek to establish the status of women as housewives rather than as farmers and of men as providers, thereby upholding a particular social order and simultaneously reinterpreting the meanings of existing norms to include new realities. Evidence from rural north India demonstrates the discernable disjunctures between social norms, narratives and action. Conscious of the growing insecurities faced by their husbands in the context of a rapidly changing economy, women try to allay rather than aggravate them. Instead of asserting their identities as ‘workers’, their strategies for gaining recognition and reciprocity from their husbands focus on reconstituting gender relations in the household, by expanding individual spaces and making incremental gains within the existing social order, rather than struggling for wider transformative changes.