The era of househusbands eases working

Patriarchy no longer has a vice-like grip in defining gender roles and many men are becoming househusbands simply because it's practical. NONZWAKAZI CEKETE and MOHAU MOKOENA talk to two such dads. YOU come back home from work, dinner is simmering on the stove, the house is spick-and-span and the kids' homework is done. All that's left for you to do is hit the shower and then put your feet up with a nice glass of wine at hand. Many working women share this fantasy, but only a few get to live it. For the lucky ones, their spouses have reversed the roles ” the women go out to work while the men stay at home.

Two such men are Thulani Cele and Vusumuzi Dlamini. We catch up with Cele at his home in Soweto, expecting him to be wearing an apron and struggling with the household chores, but that stereotype fizzles out very quickly.

“I love every second I spend at home looking after my house and my kid,” says Cele.

For him, being a hands-on father is much better than leaving his 18-month-old son in the hands of a nanny.

Cele, who is married to Zukiswa, a nurse, says he decided to be a stay-at-home husband after he came to terms with his wife's long and erratic work hours.

& quot;It was a big step, but a man has to do what a man has to do ” reach a compromise for the good of the household,” he says.

Like Cele, Dlamini reached an agreement with his wife which many men would find hard to swallow.

Work kept them very busy and they felt they were missing out on their kids so they decided one of them had to quit work.

And it was not going to be Mathabo, Dlamini's wife.

“As a parent, you want to take part in your children's activities,” says Mathabo while breast-feeding the latest addition to this family of six.

Dlamini, who has been a househusband for five years, was not too distressed about quitting his job to take on a role many men shun.

“I don't mind staying at home. Actually, I love it,” says Dlamini, who used to manage an oriental rug shop.

“Besides I have always been more hands-on around the house than Mathabo,” he chuckles.

Dlamini's day starts at five in the morning when he wakes their two boys up first, then the girls and helps them prepare for school.

He supervises their bath time and cooks breakfast.

“I'm a firm believer that all children should have soft porridge,” says Dlamini about one of his steadfast parenting rules.

At this point, he does not have to worry about preparing their lunchboxes because as a responsible man, that is done the night before. At seven, he drops them all off at school.

“When I come back home, I get on with whatever needs to be done around the house,” says Dlamini, who has been married to Mathabo for eight years.

As for Cele, his son is the six o'clock alarm at home, and one that also demands breakfast.

“He knows not to turn to his mother,” jokes Cele, who works part-time in the evenings.

After feeding his son, he bathes him and then leaves him to play while he does the cleaning up.

“I also cook,” he boasts.

A househusband might be frowned on in South Africa, but the Italians have embraced this new way of life.

The Italian Association of Househusbands has more than 4 000 members. The group has gone as far as requesting their government to recognise being a househusband as an occupation.

Founder Fiorenzo Bresciani was quoted by as saying: “Economics have changed meaning “men are making beds, doing the ironing and the vacuum cleaning these days. It's time to change the way people think about housework and make it respectable.”

Cele says it does not make him less of a man.

“Times have changed and men are changing with them. Being a househusband is a sign that men are finally taking responsibility and can reach a compromise with their partners. It's no longer a woman's job to be confined to the house all day.”

Dlamini agrees that men and women's roles have changed significantly.

“I don't know why it's such big deal because even in the old days some men raised their kids and did the household chores.”

“I can no longer drink alcohol like I did. I have to set an example for my little one,” says Cele.

And instead of going to the pub to play pool and drink, he now visits the park and says he prefers it.

“Those who think looking after their households and families is not manly are not man enough to take on such a demanding role,” he says.

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