I was at a Singles’ gathering last weekend where I spoke on how to secure your future by getting the pre-marital relationship right. I shared some examples of how some women became a shadow of themselves simply because they got married. Why? The husband does not feel comfortable with the wife achieving so much outside of the home so that she will not neglect her “primary duties”. When I pressed further on what those primary duties are, the responses are cooking, washing clothes and dishes, bathing the children, ironing clothes, ensuring the house is neat and everything in their place, and of course, servicing her husband in the “other room”.
When I considered the vibration in the audience, I noticed that the picture many of them had was that of their mother. The question I believe many don’t ask their mother is if she was enjoying her marriage, or she was merely enduring it. Many women have sabotaged their future by the preoccupation with housekeeping. Even many religious teachers do not help matters: they say that a woman’s primary responsibility is her husband and the children, and that every other thing is secondary and negligible.
Understanding our Different Roles in Life
We can classify roles in life into two broad categories: Involuntary and Voluntary.
Our Involuntary roles are the characters we play in this movie called life, without our choosing. That is, we do not have any control over it. For example, based on your gender, you are either male or female, boy or girl, and man or woman. I understand that there are arguments today regards this classification, but obviously, those are contrary to nature. However, our involuntary roles do not come with any limitation on who we can become or what we can do. If there are any, they are people-designed and culture-made.
Our Voluntary roles are those characters we play in life by our own choosing. That is, we are (supposed) to be deliberate and intentional about those roles. For example, I am a man by nature, but I chose to be a husband and a father. Likewise, any woman who chooses to marry chooses to be a wife, and possibly, a mother too. However, we see different variations of this in our world today: some would rather not choose the husband-wife role, but embrace the father-mother role. There are many married men with children who we cannot call fathers, and there are many married women with children who we cannot call mothers. Yet, there are many men out there who have never impregnated a woman but are better fathers – having played that role effectively to many. Likewise, there are many women who have never carried a pregnancy but are better mothers; a typical example was Mother Teresa. This then means fatherhood and motherhood is a mindset and requires some skillset that marriage cannot guarantee.
When we came into the world, the universe had prepared others to receive us and to nurture us so that we can survive. Our primary purpose on earth is to then give back to that universe that received us, so that others can survive too. We function in this role fully either as a man or a woman. Whatever we do, we must solve problems for others (of course, at a profit), so that the universe can keep being habitable for us all.
If you decide to then take up an additional role as husband or wife, you should work on your capacity to deliver on your expectations to your spouse without jeopardizing your contributions to the universe. In light of this, any man or woman who believes that his/her spouse is meant only for him/her is self-centred. The wife must fulfil her roles to her husband, and the husband must fulfil his roles to his wife without compromising on their space in the universe. Likewise, when they add the roles of fatherhood and motherhood, they should fulfil their responsibilities to their children without jeopardizing their two initial roles – man/husband or woman/wife.
Home Making vs House Keeping
Where many families get it wrong is in clarifying what it really means to build a home. In fact, some religions teach that it is the responsibility of the woman to build the home. But where they often get us confused is in explaining what it means to “build the home”. In this section, let us try to delineate the similarities and differences between these two often confused concepts.
#HouseKeeping is about the activities – cleaning, cooking, washing, and other chores in the house. #HomeMaking is about the atmosphere – the conversations, camaraderie, communication, openness, warmth, feeling of belongingness, etc. There are many families today so preoccupied with housekeeping, that they are having little homemaking. Engaging in activities does not mean the people are productive. While the activities of housekeeping may make the people survive, homemaking makes them thrive.
#HouseKeeping is a job which anybody can do. #HomeMaking is a responsibility, what everybody should do. While the household is small and your roles as man/woman are not too demanding, you may be able to combine housekeeping and homemaking. But as demands increase on your time, you can delegate housekeeping. However, you cannot and should not delegate homemaking. Why? The survival and continued relevance of your family depend on homemaking, not housekeeping. Housekeeping can be a paid job to someone whose expression in the world as Man/Woman is helping people meet their domestic demands. But if the demands on the family do not make room for housekeeping, it may help to outsource it, especially when you don’t have children, or when they are not old enough to take up such responsibilities. This will free up some extra time for homemaking.
#HouseKeeping may make the wife appear good and acceptable to the in-laws. But it is #HomeMaking that will make her respected (in the long run) both by the in-laws and the society at large. It is African to want acceptance by in-laws. Most in-laws judge their “wife” by how much of a good housekeeper she is. Hence, if her responsibilities as a woman do not allow her to accommodate housekeeping, they will judge her as rude, unhomely, and wasteful. But as her influence grows in the society, some will envy her the more, but many will begin to esteem her as their role model. But I wonder why they spare the husbands of such treatments.
#HouseKeeping can give you a clean house and good food, but only #HomeMaking can give you peace of mind. One of the things I observe sometimes in counselling is how people can live together fulfilling their traditional roles but without finding fulfilment in their marriage. Marital fulfilment is beyond the chores; it is about the cares. It is beyond the activities; it is about the atmosphere.
#HouseKeeping drains physically, mentally, emotionally, and otherwise. #HomeMaking replenishes and refreshes. When we approach chores with the housekeeping mentality, it can be draining. However, a family can still do chores, and use the time as bonding, training, and mentoring moments. If done this way, it becomes homemaking, as the process can be refreshing, and an opportunity to connect with one another and especially the children. Without this connection, the result is usually exhaustion.
#HouseKeeping may make your children domesticated, but it is #HomeMaking that makes them disciplined. It is important that children are involved in the chores in the house – this could be a good way to train them to be responsible. But it is not supposed to be something forceful, hence, they may become rebels; domesticated and rebellious. Disciplined children will know what to do, when and how to do it, especially without supervision. Domesticated children may appear to know what to do at home, but go haywire when there is no one looking over their shoulders.
#HouseKeeping focuses on traditional functions of the man and woman, often sabotaging one role for another. #HomeMaking focuses on the wholesomeness of everyone in achieving their life roles. I close this discourse where we started from – the different roles we play in life. As an adult, you are first a man or woman before taking up the role of husband or wife. If you approach your family from the #HouseKeeping paradigm, as the husband, you may insist that your wife gives up her role as a woman, or that the role becomes limited, with the excuse that she is better adapted to take care of the children. However, if you see family from the #HomeMaking paradigm, you will be more interested in the wholesomeness of everyone in the family. Wholesomeness is knowing that you are doing the best you can, with all the resources at your disposal, without having a feeling that something is dying inside of you. For example, giving up your role as a woman in exchange for your roles as a wife or mother may not be a sacrifice; it may be sabotage. There are many successful men and women out there who understand this paradigm (though they may not name it so), and have mastery in all their three basic life roles.
In conclusion, the wellbeing of everyone in the family is important. Everyone should be the best they can be, do the best they can do, and achieve all that their heart desires, without feeling that others are getting ahead at their own expense. You cannot build your home if you are not building your capacity to maximally fulfil all your key roles in life. Also, do not allow the magnitude of the dreams of your spouse threaten you.
The sky is wide enough for all birds to soar.
I hope you find these tips helpful.
Dele Ayo Bankole
Life Transitions Coach