Blessed are the husbands who help with house chores

Home Away from Home with Abi Adeboyejo 

Email: Twitter: @abihafh

HAFH2Speaking for my sex, I know we always do our best, looking after the children, the home and the man. We cook and clean, mend and protect, kiss and cuddle the most demanding babies on earth and these are the husbands! What do we ask for in return? Just a little help now and then.

Why is it that men can be all loving and supportive in the privacy of their homes, but become domineering, authoritative dictators when in public? We ladies talk, and we know this happens a lot when men are outside their comfort zones. For most Nigerian families living abroad, husbands and wives help each other in completing most of the tasks in the home. There are no maids, drivers, gatemen or other domestic staff to help, even in the reasonably comfortable Nigerian household. It therefore goes without saying that men realise very early in  their married life  that they have to help their wives with  domestic chores if they do not want their wives  to die from domestic slavery (I mean, labour)  before her time.

A simple ‘please’ is all I have to say to elicit help from my hubby. Most of my  friends have concurred that their hubbies are very efficient in doing all sorts of chores: from putting the kids to sleep to operating the washing machine, from doing the grocery shopping to taking the kids to their weekly enrichment activities when necessary. We all also agreed that we always thank our menfolk very profusely for their help in many different ways. Because this is a family newspaper, I won’t go into details of what kinds of ‘thank you’ our men get for helping us but let’s just say the rewards are very appropriate in this cold, lonely and sometimes unfriendly part of the world.

It just makes things work a lot smoother, I think. We can count on our spouses to remember to buy some milk when they stop by at the filling station to buy fuel for the car. They remember to cut the grass on the lawn and put the bins out on the correct day of the week when the bin men come for the waste. Personally, the most touching thing my hubby did for me was at a time I was an emotional wreck. I had just lost my dad four days before and my kids were to take group photographs with their classes at school. I didn’t remember to fix my daughter’s hair before I rushed off to work and left the kids with hubby to drop off on his way out. When I collected the kids from the child minder later that day, her hair had been neatly combed and parted into two buns and tied with colourful hair baubles with flowers in them. When she told me her daddy did her hair for her I just burst into tears. I had never failed to do my daughter’s hair but the first time I failed to do it, my hubby was there to do it. That, for me, is perfect team work.

What then happens to these wonderful, caring men when they go home to Nigeria? What is it about home that makes a man strut his stuff, even if it means that he acts in a very uncharacteristic way? The loving and domesticated husband becomes the ‘Mr Big stuff’. Gone is the hubby who helps you pour cereal for the kids while you are getting them dressed for school in the morning. A friend complained that on her last visit to Ibadan with her family, she had to cook lunch on the one-burner gas cooker while trying to warm some baby milk for Junior who was screaming his head off because of the heat. She also had to get the kids ready because they had a party that afternoon but to her surprise and annoyance her hubby, ‘Mr Lion King’, just sat in her parents’ living room, talking to his friends and watching TV. When I asked what she expected him to do, she said he could at least have helped her dress the kids, as their outfits were already ironed and laid out. This was the same man who could change Junior’s diapers with one hand, while balancing the boy on his knee.

My cousin and her family just came back from a trip from Lagos. When we picked them up from the airport, my cousin and her husband weren’t talking to each other. Without prompting, she narrated how he had ignored her while they were in Nigeria. He told her that his friends would think he was ‘weak’ if he was seen helping her. His mother actually said that she was glad that her son had not become one of these ‘overseas Naija men’ whose wives had them under their thumbs.   But is this really the case?

Does being supportive of the one you love mean that you are being hen-pecked? Surely, a man must be confident in himself to look after what is his. This attitude of leaving all the house work to the women is fine where there are other sources of help in the house. Many houses in Nigeria have domestic servants who can cook, clean and keep the house running, leaving madam with time to look after the kids and ‘Oga’. Even this arrangement is fraught with problems, as sometimes the wife gets over-reliant on the servants to do the chores, including personal chores like cooking for her husband. Perhaps this is why there are more and more stories of maids having affairs with their boss’s husbands. It is only fair that if the maid does all the chores for her boss’ husband she can do ‘that’ as well!

Housework shouldn’t be seen as a woman’s duty. If shared in love, it fosters a closeness that can be very rewarding to both parties. When a man understands the amount of daily chores a woman does, then he probably will not get upset when she says ‘no’ at night. And if he wants some, he can help her get the work done faster, so she still has the energy for him too.

The main point however, is that it is a give and take situation. Women have no problems doing chores (well, most of us don’t) and in many cases we can do it all. But if a man is man enough, he will understand that helping his wife isn’t a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it shows a man of essence, a man of strength, a man who knows that a helping hand is always a loving hand.