“Look at what a great husband you have.”
This is what I was told by an elder who meant only kindness when my dear husband prepared a gorgeous salad to go along with dinner.
I normally do the dinner making in our home and I do it quite happily. Well, on this particular Thursday, after going to work, pumping only God knows how many times, picking up my big boy from school, making his dinner, getting him fed, taking care of the baby and cleaning the house, I decided to squeeze in one more thing; the daunting task of taking my three-and-a-half year old for a haircut.
The bowl-cut was no longer cutting it (pun intended) and something needed to be done quickly. Haircuts are dreaded by our little man and it takes a lot of dancing, sometimes literally, to get him to sit through this supposed torture. Well, out the door we went, and during the time we were conquering the barber’s chair, the husband rolled up his sleeves in the kitchen to help move things along once we were back.
When we came home, dinner was ready and I was greeted with these words to remind me how lucky I was that I had such a helpful husband. I smiled, agreed and happily ate my delicious salad.
It didn’t bother me to hear what a great husband I have. And there is no falsehood in the statement. I do in fact have a fantastic husband. But in reflecting on this later, it made me think, “Is he a great husband because he is a partner, a 50-50 member who’s committed to this team or because he stepped out of a gender role?” In the thousands of meals I’ve prepared over the last eight years of being married, I don’t ever recall anyone telling dear husband that he scored an amazing wife because she can cook. I am merely fulfilling an expectation.
So does it make me extraordinary when I pull the weeds in the backyard? Or how about when I get the tires rotated on my car? Do I deserve a pat on the back for having had a career outside of the home too?
Never have I been told that these are remarkable nor do I think that they warrant an extra “job well done.” It’s just a part of being a grown up. We both step up to the plate to help each other out.
Some things take much longer to change, and a cultural stigma on gender roles is one of them. Not only are gender roles a problem, but somehow a man extends himself into a different domain and he’s a hero. A woman does this and it is either overlooked or even at times, shamed. One of the strengths in our marriage is our willingness to help each other and put gender roles aside.
In today’s fast-paced world, it is more important than ever that both a husband and wife are equally capable and willing to cross an invisible line into what may be considered a husband’s job or a wife’s duty. There is no such thing. My husband can skillfully erase all wrinkles with an iron and I can come to the rescue like it’s nobody’s business if there’s a spider on the loose.
Look at what a great husband I have because he’s my rock and he’s committed to taking care of our family whether it means paying the bills, fixing the broken sink or, yes, sometimes making a delicious meal. My husband is role-modeling for my sons what it really should mean when someone says, “be a man.”
There is no “boy job” or “girl job” in our home and we plan to keep it that way for a very long time. I want my two sons to be equally talented at earning a college degree as they are in running a household. And I wouldn’t expect anything less of their wives.
So how do we do that when the world keeps telling them that they have boundaries because of their gender? And how do we raise them to look past someone else’s gender and respect them for their talents and abilities and not what they “should” or “shouldn’t” do?
It means taking them to their cousin’s tea party even though they were the only boys attending. I dressed them in their dapper button-down shirts and bow ties and we made pearl necklaces just like everybody else. It means combatting comments like, “Pink and purple are girl colors, right?” with letting them know that a lot of girls like pink and purple, but anybody can enjoy these colors—and then seeing Daddy rock a pink polo-shirt.
It means removing words like “Policeman” or “Male Nurse” from our language since gender is irrelevant to passion and talent. It means my boys play with their cars and trucks just as much as their pots and pans. It means Daddy jams out to Taylor Swift (I’m going to be in trouble for sharing that) and Mommy kicks butt in Xbox.
They are watching our every, single move. And the collection of these experiences are going to form their outlook on gender roles. If there’s a chance that gender roles will fade away in the future, the change needs to start at home with how we raise our children. After all, they really are the future.
We are committed to demonstrating to our boys that gender has nothing to do with being a good human, following your heart, and doing what you love.
It is our hope that one day our sons will think back to when Mom and Dad did it all, and that will give them confidence in their ability and desire to do anything they choose to do. They’ll be able to put society’s expectations aside or better yet, champion that change. And when that day comes, we will be their biggest cheerleaders…Daddy included.
Author: Anisha Pandya Patel
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Flickr/Spirit Fire