I watched in captivation as this dad changed his daughter’s diaper. She had pooed and he needed to change her at the crèche changing table before taking her home. I was waiting for my turn to change my son’s diaper. I watched as he wiped his daughter’s bum from front to back, wiped it repeatedly till he was sure it was clean. I watched him wear her a new diaper, flipping her with all confidence and alacrity, lovingly pinching her cheeks, the little girl giggling happily and I was so caught up in the father and daughter time together so much that I needed to be reminded it was my turn to change my son’s diaper.
This is the scenario of dad’s and their children that I have seen in Europe. Fathers bringing their kids to school and shopping malls alone without their wives in tow. These men wipe runny noses. You see them pacifying unwilling toddlers who do not want to stay in their buggies. These dads are so good at pacifying their kids that I, as a woman, whom the society purportedly believe is born with an instinct to nurture, lacks the kind of patience they exhibit with their toddlers.
I remember a time I needed to take my daughter for immunization, and my husband was not around. It also happens to coincide with a day when my son’s crèche was on holiday. So we needed to find a way to get to her doctor. I was so frustrated by having to restrain my son every now and then and also manage my little baby. I was almost in tears before we got to the doctor’s.
On getting there, I saw this dad who also had two children, his toddler should be about the same age as mine. He was so good at managing both kids that I was so in awe of him. I was watching him keenly to learn more tips on how to manage my son and daughter should we find ourselves in such a situation again.
This is not limited to Caucasian dads alone, I have also seen African dads do the same thing abroad. Things which the African culture forbids them from doing back home in Africa. Some of the African dads look a bit embarrassed when I see them do daddy duties when out with their kids, probably because I am an African woman and I might be feeling they are being emasculated. I give them this reassuring smile to let them know they are doing well, and they need not feel emasculated.
This is what the African society has taught our men, and it is what I grew up observing back home in Nigeria. The stereotypes of gender roles. The believe that it is only a woman that can nurse her children has destroyed our family life, which in turn has spilled into our society and created a lot of negative impacts.
As Africans, we need to realize that taking care of children and managing the home is not gender specific. I know that with my first child I knew next to nothing on motherhood and mothering a child.
Despite the fact that I had read books, it didn’t help. I got to learn on the job daily, And till today, I am still learning and not yet a perfect mother, (not that there is one anyway)
Some years ago, while I was still in Nigeria, a woman who was a senior friend told me how she goes to work with blood shot eyes everyday. She gets so short tempered at work, snaps at every little thing, and her junior colleagues are beginning to get weary and tired of working under her.
She over heard one of them saying that she needed good sex and maybe her husband was not giving it to her. I asked her if sex was the problem, she told me, no my dear, I NEED HELP FROM MY HUSBAND NOT SEX! I felt the pain, desperation and helplessness behind this statement, she further told me how she overworks herself at home and that she is almost at her breaking point, and she just wants to quit it all. I hugged her and afterwards I left.
Years later it dawned on me that her problem was gender roles and it’s ideology, and it was having an extremely negative effect on her entire life. This is the reality of most women today, you see some married female bosses acting so wicked at work, giving their junior colleagues a hell of a work time, those ones on the other hand scared and afraid of her.
Some of the junior colleagues of such women have sunk into depression, and they dread each morning when they have to wake up and prepare for work. We might as a people feel this is far fetched, but these are some of the problems that ascribing the sole responsibility of taking care of children, an able bodied man who is a husband, and extended family members who are also sometimes thrown in the mix. together with keeping the whole home clean and running on the woman creates.
The woman also needs to plan good diet, she needs to make sure everything runs well so that the home does not crash. This is such a huge mental load for any human being to bear solely in our society today.
Today’s society is not fit for heaping the management of the home on the woman alone. it has a negative effect which will cascade on the entire society at large. Some people keep saying it is our culture for women to manage the home, this is acceptable in the times of old when things were different from what it is now.
My grandmother was a typical example of a woman of old, and she was so very industrious and a farmer who farmed on various large expanses of lands which were hers. She was able to concentrate well on farming because while I was a child I noticed that she had nothing less than two house helps with her. Not only that, she also had young relatives living with her, and we were sometimes also part of her brood when we go on holidays.
All of us went to the farm with her, and were given our own small duties as young as we were. After each day’s farming, my grandmother gets back home with all of us and dishes out orders on cooking. Someone will peel the yam, another one is rinsing, someone is fanning the embers of the fire at the cooking section, another one is washing the pestle and mortar, someone is warming the soup, another person is arranging plates for serving. It was a beautiful division of labor and the mental and physical load was off my grandmother which in turn made her so accessible, sweet and energetic. Ready to take on a new day of farming again.
Compare that scenario with today’s scenario where a career woman without a house help has to do all these without the help of her husband. How do your think she will be sane with so much to do inside the home and at work?
Besides, we are already in the era where no one wants to be a live in help to any family again, so the use of employing a maid will soon fizzle out of our society, and your home would have to be run by you and your partner.
Besides, it is not every African family in many countries in Africa that can afford a cleaning service or all the home appliances which could make life easier. Even with the help of appliances, there is still a lot of work to be done and the mental load involved can be consuming for just one person to handle.
Gender ideology in the home is not healthy, and it is not ideal for today’s world where both the man and the woman are working.
The implication of shifting the second shift, a terminology used to describe home making in the industrial times by “Hochschild” in her book “the second shift” which is our reality today where many mothers and wives work is that it could create frustrated women who becomes short tempered and difficult to live with in a marriage, in and outside the home. Her husband sees her as rude and obnoxious, her children and people outside her home sees her as a terror. She unknowingly abuses everyone around her one way or the other. Whereas this might not be so if the man does his own sheer of the home keeping and become a true partner to his wife in every way to move their family forward in a healthy way.
In conclusion, traditional gender ideology or roles, which heaps the sole duty of keeping the home on a woman in these career oriented times we are in, is not healthy and is not fit for today’s society.
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