In the era of ever- blurring gender based marital- role demarcations, it does sometimes get difficult to adjudicate who does the cooking. Who is the master of the kitchen? Who dons the mantle of the chief bread- maker? Who puts grub on the table; day after day after day. And nights too!
There are three likely scenarios:
1. Stereotypically, irrespective of the woman’s work/ financial/ academic status and achievements, she does the majority of the cooking. This is the mostly likely scenario.
a) SHARING. Where both spouses are in the kitchen at the same time, with their hand’s in the same pie i.e. helping each other in the same task.
b) SPLITTING. Here again there are two further sub- classes. One where, both are in the kitchen at the same time but do clearly demarcated tasks, with no interference/ suggestions/ input/ help/ opinion from the other. The other is when only one spouse is in the kitchen at any particular time.
Now, most would say that Scenario no. 2 is the best in terms of equality and team work. Especially if both partners work outside the home. True. But, there are inherent problems to this assumption.
The basic premise that man and woman can EVER be equal itself is wrong. The statement is akin to claiming that potatoes and tomatoes are equal. Man and woman are fundamentally, physically, physiologically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually different. Branding them equal therefore leads to several problems.
Though the woman tries to vehemently convey to the man/ husband that cooking should not be considered a cardinal marital obligation just because she is of the female gender; deep down, primal rooted instincts draws her to defend and secretly claim her turf- THE KITCHEN. She might want things to be her way- spice- jars arranged in a certain manner, dishes and pans of a certain color, décor of a particular type. It is very hard for her to supress the urge to take over and make the space hers. Once she claims the space, the husband can conveniently use it as an excuse and back off. Or, even if he is well- meaning, he is intimidated by the crazy, territorial woman.
Then there is the man, who publicly preaches equality and fairness in a marriage. Who voices the desire to help out in the kitchen or even take over the entire responsibility. But a secret part of him is deeply disturbed by the situation. That secret part still believes the kitchen is a woman’s business. This man growing up, most probably had a lovely stay-at- home Mum who served him super-tasty, hot, fresh from the oven, straight from the stove delicacies three times a day. Poor wife. She stands no chance. Cooking is her singular fate!
Another problem with both the husband and wife being in the kitchen together is the “Honey! I know best” syndrome. Usually occurs when both spouses are equally competent (or incompetent!) cooks or have similarly matched egos. Each spouse believes they are right, or that they know better- and the constant meddling in the other’s business lead to arguments and rifts. For e.g. a man may measure ingredients to the nano- litres while the woman may do things by the eye…. See how problems can arise?
Will the problem not be solved if they do different tasks with no inter-personal involvement? For e.g., what if the wife cooks and the man does the dishes? Or vice- versa…. This may work for a short period of time. But ultimately one or both may start to wonder if they are getting the short end of the stick. Why do I have to do the dishes everyday while she just fiddles over the stove for ten minutes and then walks away? Or, why should I labour over the hot stove while he washes a couple of pans and plates and leaves to lounge on the couch?
So, what is the solution to this conundrum?
I honestly do not know!
As a couple battling scenario no. 2, we still are in the process of figuring out a way to make things work in a manner that befits everyone’s agenda. Will we find a solution soon? Maybe….
Or, maybe the problem is too new. Maybe our generation will battle it our entire lives. And maybe the next generation will resolve the issue and be happier for it….
And hope, they go from this….
Do share your thoughts.
Till next time…