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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.