So one of the many jobs that I do around the house is all of the cooking for the family. My wife is a woman of many talents however she never got around to learning how to cook. On the other hand, I learned as a teen when my own mother went back to work with the stern warning that on days when she worked “the family would have to survive on whatever I made.” Suffice to say that I come from a lineage of good cooks and her threat was essentially hollow. Modestly speaking, I am a competent cook and can face the numerous challenges created by the hodge podge of items left in my fridge at any given time.
Fast forward to a few days ago. I was making dinner and my daughter Maya was sitting at the island watching me prep. After a short time, she stunned me saying, “Dad… you know that I don’t want to have any babies so I’m not going to get married and have sex. So I won’t have a husband. Dad, when you’re dead… who’s going to cook for me?” Now there is so much to look at in her comment that I don’t even have time to think about all of the threads but the one that jumped me the hardest was the fact that she figured without a husband there would be no one to cook meals for her.
I’m not one to worry too much about gender roles and role models for my kids. Both my wife and I have our talents and we do the jobs in the home that best suit our strengths. It never once occurred to me that because I do all of the cooking my kids might think that this is the natural job for all men. The kids see their friends moms and their grandmothers all making meals in the kitchen so why would Maya figure that without a husband she would starve. Once I got past my shock, I reminded her that I had been teaching both her and her brother how to cook but she didn’t seem too satisfied. I think that I forget that I am a role model to my kids and expect that they find them in the greater world of school, friends and pop culture.
I’m usually at a loss to find good male role models in the media today. My son, Milo, is drawn to books and TV that have strong female characters. There is a lot of Wizards of Waverly Place, iCarly and the like that get watched by both kids. God, he would rather watch She-Ra over He-Man on Teletoon Retro. And I think that I can understand this since when I do watch TV I have a hard time finding men that are not portrayed as idiots that may have good intentions but succeed by misadventure only. Why is it that almost all of the men on TV need female characters to to either save or forgive them for whatever goes wrong? Is there some great conspiracy of women out to portray men as stupid and helpless or is it a conspiracy of men out to convince us that they can’t help being stupid and helpless so we should just accept them as such? I don’t know but it is clear that I am going to have to step up my game if I am going to be the role model that my kids deserve.