Housework for the man

ETA: This post has been picked up by Blogadda as one of the top posts for the Tuesday Tangy Picks. Thank you BlogAdda!!!

We often hear women complain that the men in the house do not chip in with the household work because they are either mostly inept at it or they simply refuse to do something that they think is the women's prerogative. Just want to add a disclaimer here that this post also does not intend to generalize the situation and suggests to say that men have to pitch in with housework even after they have slogged their butts off at work and come home dead tired. I just wish to draw attention to the general attitude that many men have towards doing housework.

A quick rewind to a couple of generations ago: when the roles played by a man and a woman were strictly defined and neither stepped into the others' shoes. The men rarely ever even realized what work the women did but the women never complained, in fact subscribed to the discrimination even, 'cause they never knew anything different.

Times changed with women getting educated and working out of homes to bring in a size-able income - at times more than the man. Unfortunately, this did not automatically result in her downloading some of her home duties towards the man. She is still expected to do most of, if not all, the work at home. Yes, there are a few men who wait for the wife to come home to a warm meal. However heartening it is to hear of such tales, it is far and few. Also, since she is not paid for it, there was (is) no quantification of the numerous tasks that involve in keeping the home well-oiled and running. To the extent that the men gloat over themselves for doing the lion's share of work outside home and also getting the moolah to keep the house running.

I feel the problem lies with the conditioning of the society, particularly in the upbringing of the man. The patriarchal nature of the society got so ingrained in the woman that it began to reflect in the way the future men of the society got raised. She, while not being used to have her husband participating in the household chores sub-consciously kept her sons away from the same work. A young boy who does not see his father chip in with the housework sees it as the way things are meant to be. To a large extent the woman is responsible for not bringing up a boy with the sensitivity that if he does the work around the house, it is not big of him to so so. He need not do it only when the woman is absent/incapable/unable/disabled. The basic etiquette to clear up a mess in the house, putting things at the place where they belong to, washing, cleaning and clearing after a meal, that is cultivated in a girl at a very early age is sadly not done for a boy. He is allowed to just sit in his place and call for the mother for water, food and other things. His plate after dinner is washed by someone else, he is not required to learn cooking and also understand what entails having a house in a ship-shape order.

The guy about to leave house for studies is given a quick crash course in the basics of cooking, not with the intention of teaching him the art but just as a temporary survival guide that can keep him alive till he can afford a maid or gets married. Once the maid or the wife arrives on the scene, whatever little housework he knew is quickly 'forgotten' and the man behaves as though he never stayed in a organized and structured home.

In a nuclear set-up, if the wife is working, they may have a maid or two to help around and the husband may then pitch in a bit. Yet, the major chunk is done by or is expected to be done by the wife. Arrival of kids on the scene makes it only more daunting for the woman for she now has the additional work of baby care. Here again, even though the child is equally of the father, the tedious tasks of cleaning up the child after the potty, bathing and feeding the child is largely shouldered by the mother. Some new age fathers are an exception, though.

When a child is old enough to understand instructions, he or she must be trained to pitch in with the chores starting with the ones that will make them independent and then slowly graduating to other age-appropriate chores around the house. Dignity of work must be instilled early on and there should be no demarcation of work gender-wise. The boy should be equally encouraged and if need be even coerced to cook and wash utensils. The need and desire to pursue a career should be fueled equally in a girl as in a boy. The choices they make later will then be informed ones and not the only ones they have been forced to adopt. If we as the present generation mothers start this change, maybe a more equal and balanced society will not remain a dream.


  1. So true, Uma. My feelings exactly. I don't have too much sympathy for the women of the previous generation who claim that their husbands never do any work, when I have seen those very same women turn away their hubbies and sons from the kitchen/children even when they DO want to help! We definitely must train our sons and daughters alike to be independent and handy around the house. Good post.

  2. Well said Uma.. After reading a couple of posts on this subject, I am all the more determined in this area ;) !! Although we have tried to make sure that both kids learn to do all the basic chores equally, now all the more I will keep in mind that my son shouldn't get conditioned by anyone else in the family that he will have someone cleaning up after him. Hubby even if doesn't get into the kitchen(which I don't really want him to also!) is a very good example for cleaning up so I have hope :).

  3. Uma - very well expressed and written! I so totally agree with you. I feel that sometimes I don't tell the kid or husband to do something because "I can do it myself", "I have time now", "let them sit". Which is fine once in a while but not as a daily way of life. We should learn to let everyone in the house do their own work and help others with their too.
    I especially agree with the part about kids seeing this divide of tasks as normal. One should practice what they would like their kids to learn. Don't preach one thing and do another!

  4. Aparna: Thanks Aparna!
    I am determined too. It will need more patience to stop people from cushioning certain things because of the child's gender. Let's wish each other luck!..:-)

    Simran: Thank you so much!
    Basically, the attitude needs shifting. They need not do it always if they have had a tiring day outside and the lady has had it a little easier at home. But the tasks must come naturally to them and not as a manner of extending oneself beyond the familiar zones.

  5. Wow!!!! Congratz Uma for your great achievement :)

    Errrr... just wanted to ask you how to patricipate in Tangy Tuesdays and Spicy Saturdays in Blogadda... I am a member of blogadda, but I have not participated in these. Your guidance will be appreciated :)

  6. Hi Uma,
    i completely agree with you on this one... it's the difference in the upbringing of a girl and a boy that makes all the difference... i hope gen now mothers won't instill different ideals in their sons and daughters...

  7. Tan: Thanks a lot!!!
    Actually, it is the team I guess that picks up posts. I do not know how they do it. Earlier, even I had attempted to nominate my own post but I fell flat on my face when there was no acknowledgement of even the mail..:-O

    Radhika: Thank you Radhika!
    I do hope so too...

  8. I fully agree with your view points. Old habits die hard but there are several men folks including highly educated ones who believe in continuing the age old tradition i.e. 'This job belongs to woman in the house, not mine'. As long as mind set is not changed women will continue to suffer and man folk would be sitting in drawing room watching TV !

  9. S.R.Ayyangar: Thank you sir, for reading and appreciating this post.

  10. It really puts me off to see some women dote over their hubby and sons and don't let them to even pick their own under wears from the cupboard! The less I say on the subject, the better:)Btw, its good you blogged about it:)

  11. Vidya: Absolutely! The sons get spoilt and the wife gets the tag of a nag!
    Thanks :-)

  12. Oh, I so agree with you!! hubby would actually help in the kitchen, if not for his mom, so i make sure my son does his share of the chores, no matter what anyone says!! he is still small, but he knows he can help out with some things! hopefully he will really understand the importance of these things as he grows older!

  13. Anu: Hi Anu, welcome here!
    It's gr8 that your son is willing to do the chores..kudos to you!
    Btw, I think you know my sister Chitra. I remember seeing your name on her FB friend's list.

  14. Nice post Uma.

    I think its also liberating for the man to not be dependent on women for their work. So many older men I see seem totally lost if their wives are no longer around, while the other way around seems to have no problems (in terms of day-to-day stuff).

  15. Choxbox: Hi Choxbox, welcome here..and thanks a lot!!! :-D
    completely agree with your point.

  16. Nice post.
    When my second child - a daughter was born, one of the first things my MIL told my son was that 'she will iron your clothes for you when she grows big'!!
    I hope I can bring up my son and daughter with the right views. :)

  17. Anon: Thanks!
    I am sure you will bring your children with the right perspective. Good luck!

  18. Hi Uma, totally heart your post! This kind of conditioning is so imbedded in most Indians. In the West, working parents share all the duties - cooking, taking care of kids, cleaning! And what is wrong with that? Makes both the partners self-sufficient in each way! There were days when I would get back home at 9 pm to be greeted by my hubby at the door - What's for dinner? Grrr... Change, change, change!!!!

  19. Completely heart your post. Unfortunately this conditioning is so embedded in our Indian psyche that it will possibly take a long time to change. I can see my hubby totally lost in the kitchen and find it irritating at times :) I for sure, am never going to stereotype jobs/roles for my daughters. They will learn how to change tyres, fix fuses, driving, and everything!! Good post!

    1. Yes, I want my son to learn cooking, cleaning and do all that requires maintaining a home. Being self-sufficient is very necessary and gender-roles need to be thrown out of the window!

      "I can see my hubby totally lost in the kitchen and find it irritating at times"
      Totally agree to this!
      Thanks Chatty!

  20. OK so I'm officially a late-latif but I have no idea how I missed this post! I completely agree with you and blame the attitude of men on their upbringing. Or the typical Indian raja-beta culture, as a friend terms it :) Even now, most men will not help pro-actively. They have been trained by their moms to not enter the kitchen, to not clean the dishes, to not put the clothes out to dry etc etc.. We have to train the future generation of both genders to be an equal participant in the household chores. With more women like us, I see hope :)


    1. Hey Preeti, are you the same Preeti from Hyd??
      Oh yes, the raja-beta just irks the hell out of me..just the other day, my mil kept gloating over the fact that our first child happened to *luckily* be a son. I argued my bit but was fuming more out of frustration. Agreed, there is a two-generation lag here but I see that this notion hasn't really changed much..:-(
      More to women like us :-)))

    2. Oh yes, it's me :)
      LOL at ur MIL's 'lucky' comment. What's luck got to do with having a son? :)
      It's sad, though, that a woman feels this way. No point arguing. They just don't get it, do they?

    3. so nice to see you here, Preeti :-)))
      Really re no point arguing..she tried four times until she finally begot my husband! So I see no point even talking to her about this..but my blood boils at the thought!
      anyway, how are things with you? Do you guys still stay at the same place? How was your US trip?


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