Homemaking and Housekeeping

"Your dad does dishes?" my friends would often ask when they came to my house and saw my dad at work in the kitchen.

"Your dad doesn't?" I would reply with surpise.

I'm grateful that growing up I learned that homemaking and housekeeping are collective efforts. They aren't meant to be relegated to the girls or left to the mother to control. My only sibling is a younger sister, so I don't know how things would have been different if there were sons. Perhaps the chores would have been divided differently or something, but I know everyone would have been expected to contribute.

There are no innate female superpowers that make all women instantly amazing at these things. As with most skills, they have to be learned, taught, and cultivated. There were certain aspects I grabbed onto quickly and easily, but others took a lot of patience.

Cooking is something I had to really work at it. I didn't have much interest in it for a long time. Somehow I got cultural messages that women were "supposed to" cook and make meals for their family and that was their primary purpose in life. It wasn't 'til I lived on my own and realized that in fact cooking was a way to provide for myself, an art form to creatively practice, and a great thing to share with people I loved, that I took to it. It's somewhat true that third wave feminists have been too reactionary in the area of homemaking - going from doing everything to nothing. I'm happy to see more women reclaiming that space and men picking it up because they want to, not because they are supposed to (or supposed to not).

My now husband had a similar awakening when we were dating, and we have been learning and mastering cooking together since. It has been wonderful for our relationship, particularly when we get to host others. Even now, when new friends see us working together in the kitchen, they're like "I like the team effort. Is this normal?" Honestly we can barely make a meal without each other!

I must confess I agreed to go on a blind date once simply because the guy had been to "chef school." His mother had sent him and his brothers to cooking classes as teenagers. She wanted to be sure they would be husbands who cooked for their wives. That idea was quite attractive.

When I was single I enjoyed making meals with friends, preparing for parties with roommates, etc. It doesn't have to be a solitary investment until you find a partner.

I've never understood the whole "men watch sports while women cook" at family gatherings. It bugs me to no end. My favorite part of family holidays is that my whole family - mom, dad, my sister and our husbands, all get in the kitchen together. The preparation is so fun and bonds us together. Too often, men "helping around the house" is about men assisting women in their "role" as the keeper of the domestic sphere. It's so much more enjoyable when it's a truly people working together.
It's also important to remember to be flexible with these things. Different points in life will require that one partner do more housework than the other. The idea is not to be perfectly equal - please don't ever make a chore chart for your spouse! - but to communicate and help each other. Just recently I realized that I had almost unconsciously picked up a majority of the housework, primarily b/c we weren't communicating. There were deeper reasons for this, that required some long conversations and changes on both of our parts. At least temporarily, it means we've restructured our budget to allow someone to clean our house every 2 weeks. I put dinner in the crock pot one day a week and he makes breakfast (and brings it to me in bed!) every Saturday. The rest of the time it's a shared effort. We feel much more in sync when we are both tending to our home life.

All this to say, homemaking and housekeeping are collective efforts whether you are single or married - and they are not a "woman's job". They are skills that can enhance your life if you let them, instead of considering them a burden.

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