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Men playing their part in home chores make for happier families

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
Statues of Rahima Moosa, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophie de Bruyn at the Women's Living Monument in Pretoria celebrate women's contribution to the liberation Struggle. /Thulani Mbele
Statues of Rahima Moosa, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophie de Bruyn at the Women's Living Monument in Pretoria celebrate women's contribution to the liberation Struggle. /Thulani Mbele

As we mark the month of August, we are reminded of the gallant sacrifices of the 1956 women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria

It is their sacrifices that have ensured that all of us enjoy this democracy.

It was women, when men were in exile, who kept the home fires burning, ensuring that children were taken care of psychologically, physically and emotionally.

The work women do in homes often goes unpaid, unacknowledged and is not considered real work.

None of us can put a monetary value on women's sacrifices when it comes to keeping the home fires burning, and their overall contribution to the Struggle. We would probably not be able to afford to pay our mothers or wives if we were to attach a monetary value to the unpaid labour that women do in the home.

This month of August, I could not help but think of how societal structures have unevenly distributed responsibilities to women and men.

The disproportionate burden of unpaid labour, including routine housework, shopping and caring for family members, falls heavily on women. Our society has normalised this so much, that we see nothing wrong with this unequal distribution of care and domestic work.

Many women work nine-to-five jobs, above this, they still have to get home and partake in unpaid labour in the home.

The reality in many homes is that when a man gets home after work, he puts his feet up and catches up on the news or sports. Women, on the other hand, get home, take off their office clothes and go into mom/wife mode.

Women have the double burden of having to show up meaningfully at work and home while men have been taught to be career and money driven. This has implicit, beneficial consequences for men.

Many men are able to accelerate in the workplace and be attractive for big corporate roles because they don't have to rush home to take care of the household.

Society has made us buy into the idea that women must be able to balance it all in the name of being "superwomen".

A "real" woman must be successful at work, but also get home on time to cook dinner, check the children's homework and have food ready for her husband.

Men get a free pass by just playing the role of providers. The way patriarchy functions is that a woman's worthiness or what is usually referred to as being "wife material" is measured by their ability to do tasks associated with care and domestic work.

We casually hear men say "today's women are too independent, they cannot make good wives". This thinking is premised on men being taught that their sole purpose is to bring in the money and the women must stay at home and care for it.

This type of thinking has remained embedded in the minds of many men, even when we have seen the great contributions women make beyond the home.

According to the 2019 State of the World Fathers report, "when men take an equal share of the unpaid care work, it advances pay equality, women's health and wellbeing, and healthy relationship dynamics for couples".

This Women's Month, join me in thinking deeply about our role in the home as men, specifically when it comes to childcare and domestic work.

Just maybe some of the answers we need to deal with the levels of violence in our country and gender inequalities may be found in the active involvement of fathers in the home; that is, active involvement that goes beyond money.

I believe changing the narrative of men's involvement in the home is beneficial and freeing for men too.

I think it may aid men into knowing that their roles in the home do not become obsolete when they can't bring in income. I say this because many men feel worthless if they cannot bring money home due to unemployment. Active involvement in the home is a win for us all.

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