I’m very fortunate that my husband is the main cook in our household. We eat meals that are delicious, healthy and often better than anything you’ll find in a restaurant. However, over the years, I’ve learned a fair share of recipes, too. That way, if my husband has a busy month, is away for work, gets sick, or I just feel like it, I can whip up a decent meal too. I often help with the preparation or hang out and take pictures for this blog.
Even in this day and age, I know that my experience is unique. Among my friends, co-workers and family, most of the cooking is done by women. This is true even if she works full-time. Whether due to real interest, societal expectations or a combination of both, once married or living together, most women embrace traditional wifely duties with gusto. The husband either appears less interested or overcooks one dish and is banned from the kitchen forever. It’s no wonder that woman often work a so-called “second shift” after coming home from their 9-to-5 jobs.
The problem is that cooking requires more planning than say scrubbing the tub. It’s also a lifelong daily commitment unlike, say, mowing the lawn every so often. You have to plan meals, do the grocery shopping or write the list for your husband, and then do the cooking. And those ten dishes you know get boring pretty quickly so you have to get creative and consult magazines and food blogs to keep your family happy. Oh, and you have to pack lunch for yourself, husband and kids, too. What happens if you’re busier that week or feel sick or just want a break?
A Missed Opportunity
Unlike mopping, dusting or vacuuming, cooking is unique because it can be an enjoyable and rewarding “chore”. If both husband and wife are relative beginners, it’s an opportunity to learn something fun together. If one of you is already an expert cook (like my husband), you can still teach your spouse. I’m the perfect example!
Truthfully, I’m more similar to the typical male when it comes to cooking. I would have been more than happy to watch TV and wait for a delicious meal to magically appear at the table every night. My husband, however, realized that this would not work well in the long-term. It took a mix of gentle persuasion and insistence to push me into cooking. On a practical level, he wanted some nights off and didn’t want me to be completely helpless if he worked late or was out of town. He also wanted to share the joy of cooking with me. So if you’re female and already undertaking all the cooking, try to include your husband. You may be amazed at his creativity and skill in the kitchen if you give him half a chance.
If you’re still not convinced, here are some food for thought:
1 ) A newlywed friend of mine insisted on doing all the cooking for her husband. They both worked full-time and she had the longer commute. I gave her that same bit of advice. Her response was that she loved to cook so I dropped the subject. Many months later, she announced that she was “on strike” from cooking and grocery shopping. For several nights, her puzzled husband got take-out or made sandwiches for dinner. When the fridge was empty, he finally asked her if anything was wrong. After that, he tried to help more around the kitchen and did more of the grocery shopping. To be fair, he could have taken the initiative sooner. However, this entire drama would have been unnecessary if she hadn’t taken on all the cooking duties in the first place.
2 ) While returning from a work trip, my husband and a guy friend started discussing their home lives. Like my husband, his friend was the main cook in the household. Unlike my husband, his friend never taught his wife to cook. He lamented that he often returned from long work days to an empty fridge. If he didn’t buy groceries or cooked, the wife went out or ate junk food. My husband was amazed by this. I may not be able to whip up risotto or leg of lamb. However, if I know he’s working late, I know how to stock up the fridge and try to make several food that is easy to re-heat.
3 ) Recently I read an interesting article in Redbook about the importance of equality in marriage. (I wish I could give you the source but I was browsing in a doctor’s office.) Most women try to take over the household and childcare responsibilities, even if she is working and her husband has more egalitarian views. As a result, the husband becomes an irresponsible “child” that she has to take care of along with the children. This situation eventually takes a toll on the woman and places stress on the marriage. Although you would think that the man would enjoy his irresponsible role, most actually don’t enjoy being treated like a child in household matters.
Sometimes I think the real reason women are overwhelmed is the high expectations we put on ourselves to be the perfect wife, mother and career women (for some). Yes, our rigid corporate system, lack of paid mandated maternity leave, and lack of vacation time do play a huge role. However, if we took a step back and let men take on more responsibilities, we would find the work/life balance much easier. It’s not just cooking. It starts from the moment she gets engaged. The woman usually spearheads the wedding planning. Soon she is writing the thank-you notes, planning the holidays, buying gifts for her husband’s family and friends, and of course, doing the cooking and most of the household chores. Once children enter the picture, it’s no wonder that they feel like they must drop their careers. Instead of dropping careers, how about dropping the apron and spatula once in a while?
Obviously all this doesn’t apply to women who stay at home. If you don’t work, you probably should do most of the household chores. However, I would still encourage both spouses learn basic cooking skills so that the other isn’t completely helpless in the kitchen. Unlike dusting or vacuuming, cooking can’t wait and it’s nice to have a spouse cook for you if you’re overwhelmed or ill.