By Francis Ewherido
I had a discussion with someone recently. I said it is the duty of the wife to cook in the house. She shot back, “where is it in the bible?” I am not a bible scholar, I have never seen it in the bible, but my response to her was, “is it against the bible?” I know that Christianity did not come to abolish our culture; rather Christianity is meant to complement our culture, especially when cultural practices do not negate Christian teachings. In the African society that I am familiar with, cooking is the primary responsibility of the wife. The wife cooks for the husband and the children. As the children grow older, they, especially the daughters, join the mothers in the kitchen to help out.
Culture evolves and times are changing, but new developments should not obliterate culture and replace it with a foreign culture. Cooking remains the wife’s primary responsibility, but current realities are changing this paradigm. Part of these changes mean that the woman can no longer be the sole cook in the house. Rather, she is the chief cook. Being chief cook presupposes that there is at least one other cook. I encourage young men going into marriage to have basic cooking skills. My sons do their cooking – by training and by choice – in the house. Cooking skills are necessary for modern day husbands because of changing circumstances.
In the past, the flexible nature of the economic pursuits of the wives made it possible for them to perform their cooking task effectively. These days, many wives work from 8am to 5pm or 6pm, just like their husbands. Sometimes, husbands get home before their wives. As a husband, what do you do if you get home first? Stretch your legs in front of the television, while you are hungry and while away time, until your wife gets back? Loving husbands get into the kitchen, bring out a bowl of stew from the fridge and boil rice, yam or whatever they are eating for dinner, for the whole family, before their wives get back. The love of the wives for their husbands grow because of this gesture; such actions also help to strengthen the marriage. I recommend this for young husbands, but the wife must not develop a sense of entitlement. I repeat, cooking is the duty of the wife in Africa.
Also, in those days, mothers travelled or moved from their home to the daughters’ or daughters-in-law’ when the latter give birth to help out in domestic chores and taking care of the new baby. These days, many grandmothers in their 40s and 50s are career women. They will not leave their jobs to do omugwo. Moreover, some of today’s husbands will not donate their wives for this omugwo business. I have already put my children on notice. If you live in the same city with me, my wife will come around in the morning and come back home in the evening. But if you live far away, you and your spouse have to sort out yourselves. My wife will not be going anywhere to do omugwo.
The primary reason God created a woman is for companionship. Companions are people, who spend a lot of time together. Companionship is paramount in marriage and so shall it be with me, especially as I grow older. So, young husband, if you end up with a father and father-in-law like me, what will you do? Will you leave your wife to do the cooking and other domestic chores immediately after childbirth or you will take over, pending when she is strong enough? What if your wife gives birth via a caesarean session? One woman hit the kitchen the very day that she and her baby were discharged from the hospital. A few days later, she had complications. She almost died. I encourage every young husband to join his wife in the labour room. It is a bloody affair, so brace up for it. By the time you experience the birth of that child, who will bear your name, your chauvinistic views about cooking and doing domestic chores will change.
Another reason a husband needs to have some cooking skills is if the wife is ill. During your marital vows, you promised to take care of her in sickness and in health. It is at such times you practice what you professed. Also if your wife travels, what happens? One young man responded that he will eat out. I shook my head and told him that it is an irresponsible behaviour. Money that you are supposed to be saving for children’s education, estate plan, emergencies, etc., is what you will be frittering away at eateries. It is more expensive to eat out; that is why it should not be a habit for young couples, especially. Once in a while, you can take your wife out for a treat, but eating out every day is a no-no. I encourage young couples and those preparing for marriage to open accounts for their children’s education, the house they plan to build later and emergencies. There should also be an account for the family health care or you can subscribe to a health plan with an insurance company or a health management organisation (HMO). No to frittering away of money.
I heard a particular case that really irritated me. The husband does not know how to cook, but that is not the issue here. He refused that the wife, a university graduate, should work. He wants her to take care of the children and the home, no problem. But part of the reasons he wants the wife home fulltime is that he eats only food prepared the same day. So the wife cooks breakfast, lunch (if he is around) and dinner fresh every day. If he were financially stable, I will not say anything, but he is not. Yet he kept a wife, who could have been working and earning some income, at home fulltime so that she can cook fresh food for him every day. I don’t get it. The people, I know who eat only freshly-prepared meals, are rich and have cooks. His behaviour is a monumental misplacement of priorities.
The point is that if you are a husband, especially young husbands, and you have no inclination towards cooking and helping out in the house, get a cook and domestic staff, if you can comfortably afford them. If not you must help out at home. If you don’t, then you are not acting in love. That said, cooking remains the wife’s duty. I am only saying husbands should be support strikers, while the woman remains the main striker.
I decided to weigh in on this matter because it is currently causing frictions in some young marriages. One, some wives believe cooking is a shared responsibility. Two, some young husbands feel it is solely the wife’s responsibility and would not lift a finger. Three, some husbands are aggrieved because they feel their wives have developed a sense of entitlement because they help with cooking. Now, even when the wives are home and free, they still expect their husbands to cook. My advice is, husbands, help your wives with cooking when necessary, just as they help you in your duty as a provider. Wives, encourage your husbands. Cooking is your duty; do not develop any sense of entitlement, please. Young husbands and wives, make una get sense o, una marriage big pass each of una.