Where does equality start? In the kitchen!

As I’m becoming the step mother of 4 children, 3 of them in their teens, I have to ask myself, should I teach the boys and girl all the same, or not. And if not, why not. They have started doing chores and I’m feeling really proud of them how willingly they are doing them and above all, learning. They never had to do them before and yet they seem to be yearning to learn more.

Basic things like washing the dishes, learn how to do the laundry (come on, it’s really just pushing a couple of buttons!), what cleaning products to use to scrub the bathtub, how to make pancakes, mop the floors, go shopping. They get attention, time spent together, and in the end praise and a valuable lesson in the value of work.

Best partners so far have always been those for me who had a mother who expected them to take over some responsibilities. So the answer is really quite simple – I should teach the girl and boys the same tasks and not make any difference. 

Also children learn from observing their parents without realising. Parents can’t be slobs and then expect the child to have a tidy room. Yes, I’ve seen cases like that. Funny thing is, I wasn’t the tidiest kid myself, my room was often a mess, but at least I kept surfaces clean, never left food around to go bad, no sticky tables or floors. My mother’s nagging to put things away, a plate from the living room and bring it into the kitchen for example, definitely worked as well. It’s fairly automatic these days and I hope it will become a good habit also for my partner’s children. 

So where did it go wrong? Far too many people these days don’t have these good habits. I’m not surprised that many men don’t have them, they were spoiled by their mothers. Slovenian mothers are particularly famous for that, or Italian I guess. I get it that a male dominated country produces entitled men, but countries who claim equality of sexes are quite disappointing in that regard.

There seems to be a bit of a difference though between Europe and the UK when it comes to this topic. Good house habits need to be learned. That kind of knowledge needs to be passed on then. But what if there was an era, say the 2nd wave of feminism in the 70s, in which women saw house chores as a form of oppression and started to refuse doing them and also refuse teaching their children how to do them. Then you suddenly have a generation without that knowledge and they can’t pass it on, not about cleaning, nor all those little things which make a house a home, or about how to shop and budget in your household.

I had to ask myself if Slavic countries are just more stubbornly macho, perhaps because of the influence of the Catholic Church, or do women just love cleaning there so much more? Neither. The answer lies in the history of politics. Yugoslavia for example determined right after the WW2 that women are equal, have the right to vote and to work. The pay wasn’t the same for women as for men, but fairly close. All the rights for which other countries had to fight for even as late as in the 1970’s, we had from the get go. So when flower power hit my country, it mainly influenced the fashion, the boot cut jeans and long hair, but it didn’t inspire to burn any bras. And therefore the old habits and knowledge were passed on, the good ones to the daughters and some bad ones to many boys.

I was told it happened differently here in the UK. I can absolutely understand the need to shun house chores in the form of protest, but did the fight go too far? Men are still very clear on their role (well, most of them I hope) and still see themselves in the role of the provider. Being in a relationship means pulling your own weight. Is it really enough to produce 4 or 5 children but not be able to teach them how to deal with their daily chores later? To be a mother is a full time job, yes. But the way I saw the women of my country do it, they had no time to watch Eastenders on TV. Maybe in the evening after all was done. But they would cook and clean and shop and run around, making sure the homework was done, the house was in order and their men fed. And there was no such thing as “takeaway”, all was cooked fresh from scratch. And I hate to say it but they also had jobs. They had to, one salary just wasn’t enough. And being on job seakers was a disgrace. But those were different times, no one ever really had to be on job seakers for long, there was always plenty of work to go around. Same can’t be said for the current system in the UK. 

I’m asking myself: if the men know they need to provide and have a clear role in the household, what is the role of the woman – considering the whole debate of equality and fairness and feminism. If it’s not keeping the household intact, what is it then? Well, maybe instead of throwing household chores out of the window, our mothers of the 70’s should have tought the boys (and girls) how to take over responsibility – equally. This is where it all starts and ends, with the mom. 

Sounds unfair? It’s also unfair how little acknowledgement a father gets for being a parent. No matter how great he is, even if he’s ten times better than the mother, the mom will always be appreciated more, loved more, seeked out more by the children. It’s only natural, there’s nothing we can do about it. So like it or not, us mothers, we have a huge responsibility – to make our children into great partners. And a big part of that is teaching them to manage a household without a second thought. Because let’s face it, most of us don’t have the money to hire a cleaner and a cook and a gardner. No matter how poor, in Europe people are house proud. The poorest household will still have flowers on their balcony and coffee for guests. Knowledge costs nothing after all when it comes to taking care of your home.

Why does equality start here teaching boys and girls the same things? Because if you have a couple some day and they both keep the house effortlessly in order, they will both have the time to go and work and have fulfilling lives. Happy adults make for happy parents. Don’t all children need happy parents? 

I know the sytem right now sucks in many ways, not just here but in the whole of Europe. Even those countries like Slovenia, who used to have free childcare, that is all changing. The state is taking away any support that was there before and we are left with impossible choices – like for example for a woman to go back to a job she had or not because childcare would eat up almost her whole salary. This is ridiculous! 

What can be done? I don’t know. Companies could help by adding a bonus in the form of free childcare at work. Greed can’t rule everything, it makes it literally impossible for two partners to be equal in their lives, even if they wanted both to work.

Many things in the way we act, which are not ideal these days, are not our fault. But there is a lot we can still do I hope, not give up on what’s right, make the effort to teach our kids whatever we can and if we don’t have the knowledge, even parents can look things up these days on Youtube. I wonder if that’s why Martha Stewart became so popular lol. Because she was teaching things we should have learned from our mothers – and fathers of course. Nothing wrong with a girl knowing how to change a tire on her bike;)

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