A Personal Story: Our First And Last Gender Role Swap Day
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A Personal Story: Our First And Last Gender Role Swap Day

The idea came to us out of the blue

We were sitting one rainy evening, after dinner, in the living room, my husband and I, when our young son barged in to announce that he was starving again. He was looking at me, as if inadvertently hinting that it was my job to jump from the sofa, leave whatever I was doing, and fix him a sandwich or a snack of some sort.

I naturally got up, without even questioning my role as a loving mum, who not only reigns in the kitchen, whenever she is not working and taking care of the household chores, but also consoles the tears, listens to the problems, helps with the homework, you name it. Don’t get me wrong, however! Daddy is a brilliant parent, too. Considering that we have a son, he is always there for him, whether fixing his bike, playing football or teaching him how to swim. Still, that evening, when I was engrossed in working on one of my short stories and my kid “demanded” food, I automatically satisfied his needs of a growing boy. Then I returned to my laptop, only to find that I had lost my work, because the battery went flat before I managed to save my document. I unwittingly cast probably one of the most angry looks I was capable of at both my men. I was boiling on the inside and was determined to induce guilt, regret, shame and remorse in my partner somehow, to no avail, however, because he was totally oblivious to my troublesome and yet, quiet suffering.

“Right, that is it!”, I said to myself, then continued aloud: “I just lost my work! I know it’s only a hobby, but I love writing and this story was going really well, and now it is all gone, and you my darling, I thought we had a nice dinner already and…” - My voice was turning into a helpless whimpering, which was interrupted by my husband’s feeble question/suggestion, which referred to the fact that our son should be capable of making his own sandwiches by now, with him being 10 and so on. This I took naturally as another hint of accusation. After all, I have not taught my kiddie how to fend for himself in the kitchen. Was it because my husband was the main breadwinner and I was expected to do the “mother-load”?

Gender roles in a kid's eyes

The evening was about to turn into a sour fall out for everyone, especially, when my son confirmed my biggest fear. It seemed that he now had a very generalized and prejudiced understanding about gender roles within the family, firmly set into his fragile value system and general views on what makes the world go round, because he looked at me again and whispered: “But, mum, you have never shown me how to make a sandwich. And anyway, I am not allowed to use knives!” I swiftly tried to changed the subject, muttering under my nose that I did not have problems with the butter knives… I felt slightly sick at the fact that we, as parents, were embedding unintentionally rather distorted ideas in our boy on how he was supposed to perceive a man’s and a woman‘s role in the family.

The described incident above might seem petty and quite insignificant, but it unleashed multiple questions in my head that required immediate answers through an open and sincere discussion with my partner.

To note, we are a happy couple and we do not have any major marital problems. We agree on most things, related to raising our son. We naturally observe certain rules that makes our marriage a happy and understanding partnership, without actually abiding to a consciously concocted list of Do-s and Don’t-s. Hence, the parenting incident from that evening came to us as a shock, because we realized that sometimes we were unaware of how our own behavior and leading examples could blueprint some indiscriminate beliefs and models, connected to traditional gender roles in the family and society in general, which could form a dangerous path for our son on his way to adulthood.

Addressing the problem

On the following evening, we gathered in the living room and played a quiz game, in which we had to answer five questions, related to what jobs around the house each of us thought should be normally performed by mum and dad. The answers, we got, were quite similar. There was a slight discrepancy between my hubby’s replies and mine. I simply decided not to argue over who usually rolled out the wheelie bins on waste collection day every week. We laughed a lot and managed to extend our game by also coming up with some general examples for dads, who were brilliant cooks and mums, who were great at D.I.Y.

And this was when, our son got the idea for us to have a swap day of roles for one day every month. We all agreed that these roles were only hypothetically defined as being purely male or female, for the sake of our game. We did intend to have some fun, as well as make the reverse role day a learning experience for all of us.

The Swap Day

So the marked Sunday arrived. My husband got up earlier than usual and skipped his regular lie-in, which he had been so accustomed to. I found him and our boy, preparing breakfast in the kitchen. The worktops were covered in flour and drips of egg mixture. The mess somewhat promised pancakes on the menu, but I could not be certain in this moment. I said that I was going to give breakfast a miss that day and take the car to the garage. It needed servicing, which was at least one month overdue. I had great trouble finding the right motor repairs shop, because my navigational skills, I dare say, had always been rather poor. I spent half a day getting lost and frustrated, having difficulties, when I tried to work out the car navigation system. Finally, I phoned my partner and asked him for help. He, on the other hand, sounded cheerful and overly happy. His offer was to come and get me, leave the car at the garage and then, we all went for a late lunch.

Afterwards, we had a great time in the park, that afternoon, playing badminton and football. My son kept boasting about how the boys washed the dishes and that daddy figured out how the clothes dryer worked. It turned out that it was not pancakes that they were making in the morning. They had found my recipe for savory cheese muffins and quite successfully baked them to take on our afternoon picnic, which was all planned by them in advance.

When we returned home, I noticed that the entire house was in an immaculate condition and thoroughly cleaned. There were no remnants left from their morning experiment in the kitchen. Areas, which were only seen to during our spring clean endeavors, now looked in pristine order. I was very pleasantly surprised. In this moment, the only thing I could think of, in order to “counteract” my boys' mammoth efforts and get even, was to fetch the lawn mower straight away and go in the garden. My husband smiled and said that he did not mind cutting the grass himself and that I should have a rest. He admitted that while we were in one of the most beautiful parks in Sydney, he called some local professional guys to clean the place, because he wanted to surprise me and at the same time, spend more time together as a family that afternoon.

It was all worth it

I thought that he had been cheeky, but clever. We all laughed the experience off and agreed that it did not turn out to be the disaster that it felt like at first. We learned that as a family, we should all help each other and be interchangeable, when it comes to most house chores and duties and that we should not assume roles, determined by gender. Our son was inquisitive and actively participated in every discussion or conversation that followed. He even brought up the subject about single parenthood and we agreed that gender roles diversification in those families, sometimes, meant very little.

This innocent discovery of his made us feel very proud of him. It also made us realize that our swap role day was totally worth it.


Street Talk

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