Though there is no dictum that prohibits men from staying at home and managing the house, this "unusual" set-up is seemingly still unaccepted in the Filipino psyche. Husbands receive flaks from in-laws, friends, co-workers and, miserably, from themselves.
It was in the mid-nineties when this set-up was seen to be a growing trend in the Americas, and Uncle Sam wasn’t bothered at all. Will the Filipino bite the bullet? Is Juan dela Cruz ready to accept? Are there exceptions to the rule? Is there confusion somewhere?
Picture this. A wife leaves the house early in the morning to catch her service vehicle or drive her car that will take her to her white-collar job in the financial district. Meanwhile, the husband starts the day preparing the breakfast and lunchboxes of kids. While the wife is immersed with her 9 to 5 jobs –juggling tons and pounds of paper works, attending various meetings and conferences of whatever kind–dear husband tends the garden, dusts curtains, minds the spinning of the laundry, attends to playing children inside the house!
A reversal of roles of sorts? Maybe. But a momentary peek into their life reveals practicality and wisdom.
This unorthodox set-up may be unbearable with the common notion that man is the breadwinner and the wife is only a support system. Though numbers are not criterion of truth, statistics bare that there are more female than male. And women have proven otherwise that they can also take the front seat and give the men a run of their own money. History will document the achievements of Eve through the passage of time. There are female heads of states, top honchos of big corporations, tycoons and magnates and other leaders of various kinds. Cleopatra showed that she had something between her ears more than just an icon of beauty. Ditto with Margaret Thatcher, Marie Curie, and Mother Teresa.
Our culture, though we dismiss and deny, has been more patriarchal than utilitarian since time immemorial. The male domination has always been the norm. That explains the reason why, in middle of the past century, only a handful of women shared the limelight and were allowed to pursue careers of their own. And if they did shine, they were either single, widowed, divorcees, or separated souls –not your next-door domesticated wives.
Filipino society is traditionally a man’s world. The family is governed by the father or any male member of the family.
But like any system, it can also succumb to changes and some modifications to keep up with the times. So, the tradition is slowly being eroded by the pragmatic and practical approach. At first, resistance will take place because a new set-up is being adopted. But in the end, pragmatism will rule.
If the concept of househusbands is already being accepted, self-admission is another matter. Even wives will not admit to their circle of friends of having a stay-at-home husband.
Why is this so? Filipino men still have a high regard for self. Household chores are dismissed as menial (read: uninteresting, too light). If not called for by necessity, men will not take the initiative to do domestic chores.
And more likely, working mothers or wives will not entirely give up the management of the house. The moment she sets foot inside the house, she will readily go to the kitchen and start cooking or sweep a floor full of mess. It may be in remote cases, where working moms shun the idea of giving her share in household management.
Basically, household jobs big or small are all done to achieve one simple objective: to build a home inside a house. This translates to making sure your family: eats the right food at the right time; grows up in a good and clean environment; wears clean and pleasant clothes; and experiences a normal life.
In fact, housekeeping can be simply summarized as follows:
Cleaning and Fixing. This refers to the over-all maintenance of the house, together with the repairs that go with it. Laundry and pressing of the clothes fall under this category. Same thing with making beds, sewing and mending clothes, as well as gardening.
Cooking. Meal preparations and budget allocations get a big part of the housekeeping time and effort. This task includes going to the nearby market or grocery to buy other food needs and requirements.
Care-Giving. This is a major task when children are part of the household. Changing diapers, buying school needs, going to parent-teacher associations, putting them to sleep and assisting them in their home works are examples of care-giving activities.
Household management is not really a big job to reckon with. But for a male, especially a male doing it for the first time, the task at hand may look Herculean. It would take a caring parent to do all these chores without complaints or misgivings; and given the time to adjust, anyone can perform these jobs excellently.
* Arnold O. Aldaba teaches Journalism and Literature as an assistant professor at the University of Santo Tomas, where he finished his AB Literature degree "cum laude". He has an MA in Communication Management from the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication. He also works as a corporate communications and public relations officer of the Land Bank of the Philippines.