This post is sponsored by Merry Maids Father’s Day program.
A few years ago, I had to have a serious conversation with my son about gender roles after this conversation with my wife about folding laundry:
Son: Why are you teaching me how to do a girl’s job?
Wife: There are no boy jobs or girl jobs. We all contribute to this household. Besides, I’m teaching you how to be self sufficient. Folding clothes is a skill you need to know.
Son: Can’t I just get me wife to do it?
To put it mildly, my wife was not pleased with my son’s comments (click here to read the full account). I don’t what influenced my son’s beliefs because they certainly didn’t come from me or my wife. Perhaps formed them from watching TV or by observing gender roles in our extended family.
I grew up in a traditional household where the chores were divided into women’s work and men’s work. Women cooked, cleaned, and cared for children while men handled the lawn, home repairs, and auto maintenance. I was always a bit troubled by this division of labor. It didn’t make sense to me that work could be gender-based. It made more sense for everyone to pitch in where ever they were needed. I was so bothered by the division that I wrote a dissertation on the topic for my Gender Studies class in college (I got an “A”, btw).
On a more practical level, I decided to eliminate these gender roles in my own household. I had to begin by showing my kids that dads do contribute to household cleaning and other chores. By setting the example, it became easier to convince my kids that anyone can do any job regardless of gender. They see me cooking, doing the laundry, washing dishes, and vacuuming and I teach each child valuable household skills that will be useful when they move out on their own.
But I’m not the only dad who does this. More and more fathers are sharing the home cleaning responsibilities (they probably read my dissertation). According to the 2015 Merry Maids Father’s Day Survey, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of those surveyed agree that dads share the home cleaning responsibilities. And dads certainly have some tricks up their sleeves when it comes to tackling home cleaning chores, whether indoor or outdoor. Respondents said they learned a lot from their dads about cleaning, with reminders to keep outdoor spaces clean and organized (40 percent) and to clean as you cook (39 percent) being the top-rated tips.
Back to my son and the laundry. It’s been 5 years since that fateful exchange occurred and my son has adjusted his attitude significantly. Changing his mindset began with my teaching him how to properly do the laundry. I started by showing him how to sort the clothes. I won’t go into the details of our lesson because my sorting method is too granular and detailed. Suffice it to say that my son knows the difference between whites and darks. Next, I showed him how to load the clothes in the washing machine, adjust the settings, and add the detergent. Then, I taught him about the different settings on the dryer (dryer tip: clean the lint guard after every use and only use half of a dryer sheet). Finally, I showed him how to fold his clothes and put them away.
My son still does not like doing laundry, but he now understands that it is his responsibility to contribute to the household chores. More importantly, he’s learned that household tasks are not gender-based. I hope that he passes these lessons to his children when he becomes a dad.
Join the conversation: How are the chores divided in your household? How do your kids contribute?
P.S. – To celebrate the roles dads play in our homes and all the fatherly cleaning advice they impart, Merry Maids is hosting giveaways throughout the entire month of June on Facebook. You can visit the Merry Maids page to share their dads’ best cleaning tips and enter for a chance to win a Merry Maids cleaning and a tool kit.