Every morning, as I wake up, my husband of 4 years gives me company (albeit after 4 callouts and 3 back-to-back alarms), forcing himself out of bed and getting freshened up for an early morning workout. At about 7, we both begin the day’s cooking. He makes us both a nice breakfast as I prepare the takeaway lunch.
Sounds like a nice happy family fairytale, right? But the story was not quite the same 4 years ago. It was tough to get him to own household chores by himself. And every time, I nagged about him not doing enough, he would just say, “I never said ‘No’, you just need to ask.”
That’s where he missed the point. I didn’t want to ask. I wanted him to know what needs to be done and get it done without me having to ask. But as I realized quite later, I was missing a point too.
It’s no news that most men, especially Indian, don’t contribute to household chores proactively. The emphasis here is on the word proactive, because most of our progressive men would, rather happily, do anything that is either delegated to them or requested of them. They are more than willing to help. The catch is—you just need to ask.
The point is they can’t be blamed. The men in our culture, even today, are not conditioned to participate in household work—right from their childhood. And it’s pretty unfair to expect them to suddenly become the ideal homemaking husbands we all desire. But that’s a concept alien to them. Most of them grew up seeing their mothers cook, clean and manage the house while their fathers went out and worked. It worked well that way, back then. But times have changed. Haven’t they? The mothers, most of them, are now working too, going out, slogging off as hard as their husbands, earning the bread and a better lifestyle for their family. But what hasn’t quite changed is, what happens within the house. They are still the primary owners of the household work—doing everything it takes (or getting it done) to keep the house running. We women, have somehow, settled with the fact that is a way of life, a way of nature. We find it easier to do it ourselves than asking for equal participation. Some want to avoid the nagging and arguments, some want to maintain the peace while some just want to get it over with—quickly.
Sadly, this shortsightedness is not only stopping our husbands from changing, it is also ensuring our kids learn the wrong thing. Not only are we letting our husbands conveniently catch up on their favorite sitcoms as we take charge around the house after an equally long tiring workday, but we are also letting our sons internalize that that’s how it would work for them too. We are conditioning them to grow up to be the same as their fathers. And while we are unconsciously wiring their brains to believe that homemaking is a woman’s job after all, we are constantly asking, “Will men ever be ready to be homemakers?”