Last week I went to a cousin’s marriage where all our kids met for the 1st time. The kids were playing amongst themselves when my cousin’s 9 year old son exclaimed, “Now I will get one more rakhi from my little sister!” The little girl’s mother asked him to come down every year to get rakhi tied. He casually exclaimed –“I have studies now and when I grow up I will go to office like my dad, so no time. But Priya (his 1 year old sis) will anyways grow up to take care of home like my mom so she can come down at my place.” His dadi and mother were all praises for his wits but I was disturbed by what he said. He had little respect for his Stay-at-Home Mom’s work and also he considered his dad more superior to anyone else in the family.
Just the next day, an aunty was complaining to my mother-in-law about the kind of upbringing girls are being given these days. She was of the view that “Girls should at least know how to cook a simple dal and chapatti. How will they manage the household in future?” I just refuted saying – “If you expect the girls to cook chapatti then at least teach your sons to knead the flour.” That is what I call – gender role diversity. In an endeavour to become gender neutral we are making the daughters unlearn but the need of the hour is to make the boys learn. Please don’t stop teaching the importance of household responsibilities to a girl, rather teach her the importance of involving her family in the process. Make your boys respect the importance of daily chores and the efforts that go behind it. I am of the belief that kids learn better by observations. So create a gender neutral environment at home and lead a life you would love to see your kid grow up to. Here I have shared a few tasks which are otherwise well integrated in our lives but often raise a brow or two when shared in a gathering.
1. Role Reversal : Have you ever noticed that when you dine out, the waiter invariably slips the bill to the man of the family? This is because the society considers it to be a man’s responsibility to earn and take care of the expenses. Once in a while, question this stereotype and take your family out for dinner. Purposively pull the bill from your hubby and make the payment. Pass a gentle smile and handover the payment to the waiter. Your confident smile will say a lot about your family values to the waiter and the on-lookers alike. As a SAHM you can make the payment from your savings or take charge of your husband’s credit card.
2. Hold your stake in financial matters : Usually I hear girls saying that they are poor with arithmetic and have little knowledge of markets and hence, the financial matters are taken care of by the hubby. But ladies, financial matters is not just limited to investments and numbers. Even a calculator can do the calculations for you but you need to decide the budgeting part. How to plan the finances for an upcoming purchase of heavy electronics or car? Where all you can cut down and by how much? What would be the appropriate time to do major purchases? You should hold an opinion on all the financial matters and be vocal about them.
3. Share the load : A husband’s job is not just to earn and come back home to hug the cushion on the couch and doze off to sleep. He started slogging at the office much after you started your day and his day does come to an end after coming back home. But what about you ladies? Your day doesn’t come to an end even then. You have to serve your husband, arrange the kitchen and then if your baby permits, doze off to sleep. Few steps that we follow to share the load and come to an end of the day together are:
- While I make chapattis, my husband lays the table and serves food. Then we all sit down to dine together.
- Post dinner, arranging the dishes and utensils in the kitchen is hubby’s job.
- We have two laundry bags at home: one for undergarments and other for rest of the clothes. Everyone in the family is trained to put clothes in the allotted bags. My hubby puts the clothes in washing machine on delay start at night and in the morning our son helps him to hang them dry.
- Morning tea is simmered by me and the last coffee before retiring to bed is brewed by him.
- Last and most important of all, when he comes back from office, he handles the kid for an hour while I enjoy my ‘Me Time’. J
4. Respect every member of the family: Never ever quarrel or abuse each other even jokingly. Kids pick up really fast and any kind of disagreement in the family has a detrimental effect on the child’s emotional development. Also, any decision big or small should involve the men and women of the house alike. Respect each other’s views and put forward your concern assertively but not adamantly.
5. Talk about it openly: Allow your husband and son to serve water and snacks to the guests. Appreciate your husband’s involvement in household chores to your friends so that your son looks up to gender role diversification with admiration.
6. Gender Neutral Picture Books: In association with Navneet, the pioneers in the field of educational book publication that reaches over 45,000 schools across India, Ariel launched #SharetheLoad Colouring Book- The first gender equal colouring book for children. It is a revolutionary colouring book that shows pictures of both the man and the woman doing household chores like laundry together. So as kids learn to colour within the lines, they also learn an important lesson of gender equality.
I always believe that a child should be raised like a child, neither a boy nor a girl. His/her gender should not decide his/her actions, rather his/her heart should pave the right way in the life. Don’t allow the society to outline the list of things your son can do and your daughter cannot or your daughter should do and your son shouldn’t even think about.
Don’t wait for the kids to grow out of your arms and force the principles on them in the later stages of life. Rather, set them free to absorb from your lifestyle. When they observe everybody respecting you and your work, your kids will also honour the household chores and provide a helping hand whole-heartedly. This will not only pump your self-esteem but also give you the luxury of ‘Me Time’.