When we were in Nepal, Scott’s aunty remarked that I was lucky that my husband helps me out with the household chores because her husband doesn’t. They seemed to have this unspoken agreement that uncle would do his job to support the family’s financial needs but everything related to running the household would be aunty’s concern. This is not unique to them. Many Nepali households run this way.
I could be wrong here, but based on my observation, I have come to think that the idea that men don’t do anything at home only starts after marriage. Scott knows how to cook, wash the dishes, do the laundry. I’ve seen his cousin brother do the same things. But the most I’ve seen Uncle do in the kitchen is boil water. Baa (grandpa) almost wouldn’t even raise a finger if he doesn’t have to, but I think this is a combination of age and stature. It seems that when you do household chores as a single man, you’re perceived as hardworking and helpful. But when you do household chores as a married man, it somehow implies that your wife can’t do chores or that she made you do chores.
On one occasion a neighbor dropped by the house and when Scott gave him tea, he asked “Did your wife prepare this?” Really dude, you had to ask?! Scott said yes. But he lied. He made that tea while I stood there. At that time I wasn’t confident about my tea-making skills yet, especially if it was going to be served to guests. And being the micromanager that Scott is, we figured it would be better and faster if he just made the tea. It would’ve been even better if we could just admit that he made the tea, or that no one would ask about it, and who does what is a non-issue.
It still is, unfortunately. But we’re fortunate that this was not the case in the households that Scott and I grew up in. My father has always been the better cook, and my mother would be the first to admit that. My mother-in-law has some mobility issues so my father-in-law helps her out with most things. Now, Scott and I strive to help each other out in any way we can, inside the house and outside, in domestic and professional settings. With just the two of us in a tiny apartment, there’s really not a lot of chores but here’s how we do it: I cook on weekdays, he cooks on weekends. Whoever didn’t cook will do the dishes. He scrubs the toilet, I scrub the shower. He does the laundry (machine wash :-P), and we both fold and keep the clothes. He vacuums the carpet while I move the stuff out of the way. Any deep cleaning is done by both of us.
When we were in Nepal living with my in-laws, Scott would help me in the kitchen, especially in the early days. We would be side by side in the kitchen, with him doing the more complicated task. I would boil the milk (which is really just watching over the milk to make sure that it doesn’t boil over) while he prepares the tea. And then he would make the dal while I make the tarkaari. (It’s quicker to make dal than tarkaari, but I couldn’t quite figure out how much dal, water, and spices to put in it.) I am fully aware that I got away with these because I’m not Nepali. I simply did not know what to do and had to be taught, preferably by someone who was comfortable speaking in English with me, aka my husband. We also washed our clothes together. Or I would handwash them and Scott would help me with the rinsing. Men’s clothes, especially his winter clothes, were too heavy for me. I got away with these because I was sick at that time and easily felt fatigued. I think my in-laws were also secretly worried that I had a “more comfortable” upbringing and all these changes were “too much” for me. I’ve written at length about the challenges of a cross-cultural relationship, but when it comes to household chores, I definitely had it easy. And for all the things that were tough to deal with, I’m thankful that there were some easy things to balance them out 🙂
Who does what in your household? How did you decide on the assignments? Did your in-laws and respective cultures factor into the arrangement?