On domestic chores, marriages and the 21st Century | Dailytrust

On domestic chores, marriages and the 21st Century

Last week, young folks on Naija Twitter argued for hours over whether or not a wife should cook for her husband if both of them worked and the wife was tired. It depresses me that in 2022, young Nigerians are still debating kitchen responsibilities in a marriage, and arguing over how much household chores a wife should do (to earn the “good wife” title).  Someone even tweeted that it was the man’s job to bring in the money and the woman’s to cook. I am guessing that person has never heard of women bringing in as much or even more money than their spouses.

There are times when it feels to me, reading Naija Twitter, that we’ve regressed to a time way before the 21st century. Folks in saner climates are debating laws unjust to women, and finding ways to ensure that women have access to power, and our young people are tearing pant over whether or not a wife should ever be too tired to cook. 

The argument isn’t even about whether a woman should ever be too tired from working all day to cook for herself, but for another adult to whom she’s married. I don’t know how a grown man is unable to feed himself, and has to wait for his wife to return from wherever before he can eat. The irony of it all is that the idea of the kitchen being a woman’s place is one I haven’t seen replicated in the hotels I’ve been in, in Naija. In fact, I’ve seen more male chefs than female. Very happy chefs who take a lot of pleasure in their work. Apparently, the men-can’t-cook syndrome only shows up in non-paying spaces. Once it is to earn money, the kitchen becomes as much a male space as it is a woman’s. Okay oo. 

The idea of the good wife being one who’s willing to cook for her husband is exacerbated by the advice often given to new couples by officiating priests and pastors at weddings. It can’t be atypical advice because 2 out of 2 weddings I attended in the past few years, the priest/pastor made sure to remind the new bride that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” and one even went as far as to acknowledge that the bride, as a nurse, would have days when she’s too exhausted to cook, but “remember that your primary duty is to your husband.” 

I didn’t realise that my eyes could roll as far back as they did that day. Na wah. Imagine if the young couple was to take his words to heart, to live like he’s told them to, the frustrations that would cause? This 20-something year old not even allowed time to rest because of “good wifing?” Luckily, the couple – to the extent that I know them – probably also rolled their eyes inwardly at that archaic piece of advice. Biko, no woman should be marrying a man to have him regress to a toddler she has to fend for. There’s a reason why marriage is an adult affair. 

Marriage should be enjoyed by both parties. The only prescription for a happy marriage, in my experience, is a willingness to support your spouse. I know that if I need to be away for work, that I have the full support of J. In the same way, he has mine. Whichever one of us has the time/inclination to cook does so or we order out. Two of our four boys love to cook, and sometimes they do. The other two never have to. And if they don’t want to, they never have to learn to either. Being able to cook might have been an essential skill in the 19th century, but no one really needs it these days.  

So to have young people in their teens and their 20s listing their future wife’s ability to cook as one of the top qualities she must have doesn’t make sense. It shouldn’t make it at all on the list of things to look for in a person you want to spend the rest of your time with. Abi you’re interviewing her for the post of a cook?

No amount of good cooking will make up for all the other really important stuff: someone you are attracted to; someone you can have a conversation with; someone you can laugh with; someone you want to raise children – should you want children – with; someone you respect (and who respects you); someone you can be vulnerable with and so on. If a woman ticks all of those boxes but needs a compass to find her way to the kitchen, so what? If eating home-cooked meals is that important to you as a man, and your wife detests cooking, then learn to make them. It won’t kill you to do so. 

I am not advocating for wives not to cook or to cook oo. Let the women (and men) who like to cook, cook. Do whatever works for you in your marriage, but do not let some outdated gender norms dictate how you split domestic tasks in your home. And please, in the 21st century, let the debates of our young men and women rise above the elementary school topic of whether or not a wife should ever have a reasonable excuse not to cook for her husband. 


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