House Chores: Societal Perceptions and the Boychild
By: Theophilus Femi Alawonde
Photo Credit: A boy washing his clothes (Image Credit: www.dreamstime.com)
When I was very much younger, one of the things that my mum used to pride herself in was that she had no bias for her boys when it came to house chores. She would say this every opportunity she got — that all her children could cook, wash and do all house chores. Was it true? Of course, it was! But the fact remains that while we could do these things, we were seldom mandated to do them.
It is often claimed that the boychild enjoys some privileges when it comes to the allotment of house chores to children in a family. For some families, the boys don’t do any house chores — none at all. In some other families, the boys are assigned specific house chores like the washing of cars. There are some other families where the boys are adept at doing all house chores but are seldom asked to do them. It is no gainsaying that most families are stricter with the female child when it comes to the assignment and completion of house chores. If Jide were the only son in his family, and he and his siblings failed to complete the house chores that were jointly allotted to them before Jide’s mum left for the market, Jide would most likely receive lesser backlashing from his mum, as compared to his sisters. If we could ask Jide’s mum why she scolded Jide less for the house chores that he and his sisters were jointly and equally guilty of not completing, she would most likely give reasons bordering on how Jide’s sisters need to take initiative and be up-and-doing, as they would manage households in the future.
Jide’s mum’s reasons are not enough justifications to shield Jide from an equal share of the blame. However, we cannot fully blame her for having such perceptions, as her perceptions are only a reflection of societal norms. Does this then mean that society has been doing things wrongly? Does it mean we should not give our girls the right upbringing that will help them fit into the wife-materialness archetype? No. This essay isn’t about whether or not girls should be taught valuable skills such as how to complete house chores.
The focus of this essay is on the relationship between the boychild and house chores. For some families, the boy could go off all day to play, only to return home in the evening — to his meal, of course! This shouldn’t be! Ours is a society where many boys are exempted from house chores or are not seriously mandated to do house chores, especially in families with two or more girls. It is this same reason that makes boys who are adept at doing some house chores (cooking especially) feel like they are somewhat special or one-of-a-kind.
One’s ability to do house chores is a basic part of living and family life, therefore, all children — male or female — are expected to engage in and learn how to do all house chores. House chores should not have specifics. And here’s a good justification: what if no child in that family is of the gender stereotyped to perform such chore? Here is a scenario: the washing of cars is stereotypically a chore performed by boys. Does this then mean that only the boychild should learn how to wash cars? No! What if there were no girls in that family? They wouldn’t wash their cars? Or, they would always take them to the car wash’s?
At this point, you might have got the message somewhat wrong. Therefore, I want you to know that this article isn’t saying chores shouldn’t be assigned. This article isn’t against Titi being the cook or plate washer, and Bayo being the car washer in Mr. Ogedengbe’s house. No! The message is child, is that boys should not shy away from any house chores. Neither should parents exempt boys from learning some household-care skills. Boys should learn to cook, learn to clean; learn to do all house chores. It doesn’t stop there. Boys should also be actively involved in the day-to-day chores in your family.
Yours could be a family where the chores are not evenly spread out: perhaps you have only two chores daily, while your sister struggles under the weight of ten. In such a case, don’t be an accomplice to the indulging of your parents. Take on some of the chores assigned to your sister when you’re done with yours. Don’t say: “I’ve washed plates and dad’s car. Let Titi do the other ten chores. After all, they were assigned to her, not me.” No! Take on initiative too; think of the things that your parents would expect you to have done before their arrival. Do those things. It doesn’t have to be your sister(s) taking initiative every time.
It is a fact that children are wont to shy away from house chores. It is factual that the boychild is inclined to shy away from house chores, especially given that societal perceptions favour him. However, he needs to know that house chores have never killed anyone. The boy also needs to know that it is good to take on initiative and handle responsibilities; these are skills that help one develop into a fine and well-rounded young man. Your boys should also know that evenly-distributed chores, or them helping their female siblings out with chores will foster stronger filial bonds.
As a boychild, here’s one thing you must never do while relieving your female siblings of the overload of chores: don’t do it like it’s some favour. Don’t blackmail them with it: “if you don’t give me some meat, I will not wash the plates in this house again. You will suffer under the weight of your house chores!” Also, do not do those chores just because you feel like it. Take them on as added responsibilities to help relieve a fellow human of an overload of chores. Charity, they say, begins at home. Your niceness and “gentlemaness” should also begin at home.
A boychild will most likely receive special treatment and waivers when it comes to house chores — it’s the way of society. However, we all must know that not all societal beliefs and traditions are right. And in doing away with irrelevant traditions and norms, we all have our parts to play. Dear boy, the next time your mum assigns twenty house chores to your sister while assigning two to you (in the guise of she is the female child), tell her: “mummy, we are all children, and since I have only two house chores in a whole day, re-assign half/some of my sister’s chores to me. That way, she wouldn’t overwork herself.” It would sound totally strange to your mum, and she being an African parent, her reaction might be dismissive. However, she would most likely do what you requested for, and she would also do even assignments of chores, going forward. That way, you’ve effected a little change in your own family. And if the family is a micro-representation of society, it would mean that you’ve also effected a little change in society.
Dear parents, you need to know that the world is gone past the stage where household care is exclusively for women. In the world of today, household care and one’s ability to perform simple human-care tasks are necessary for everyone’s survival. Therefore, ensure that your boys also have their equal share of household chores. After all, the girls are also your children, and if you wouldn’t give lesser portions of food or other goodies to your boys, why assign them lesser or no chores? You must also know that an overload of chores doesn’t make your girls more hardworking. Lesser chores won’t make them lazy either. Therefore, train your family members to approach house chores non-stereotypically, an watch the change begin with you.