A Different World

Last night I was sitting on the couch at my home stay, watching my host brother tame his math homework as I thought about my day. When my host dad got home it was about 7pm and my host mom was still out at her night class. As my host dad sat down to read the newspaper I couldn’t help but think about something that had been weighing on my mind a lot recently. It has to do with how much work my host mom does. She will have the busiest days at work, traveling to the courthouse, counseling distraught girls, and working on the endless paperwork that comes into the youth department.

On top of all this, she takes psychology classes every night and doesn’t get home until around 8 or 8:30 where she will then proceed to cook dinner after proclaiming how exhausted she is. She will stay up late working on her homework and work assignments and then she will wake up at 5 am every day to make sure my host brother catches his bus, then she will hand wash the clothes, mop the floor, and make breakfast. It’s all too much. She does way too much in a day.

But the thing that has been bothering me the most is how when she gets  home from class, usually exhausted, she has to make dinner while my host dad just sits on the couch reading the newspaper. I understand it’s a cultural thing, women are supposed to do the cooking and cleaning while the men just wait for the food. However, this really bothers me. Times are changing, a lot of women have careers too, however, they’re still expected to do all the house work. It just doesn’t add up. Most families here have househelps that will do the cooking and cleaning, however, when there’s no househelp, it leaves the woman of the house utterly exhausted.

I help my host mom make dinner every night, chopping the vegetables and I also do my own laundry to help lighten her workload. I just think it would make more sense if everyone pitched in and did work instead of it just being the women in the house. If everyone did their own laundry, helped with dinner, and washed their own dishes it would be extremely helpful for my host mom. Instead, it creates a sense of entitlement among the boys of the household because they grow up not having to do much and expecting women to do everything for them. How will there be any progressive change for women’s rights in this country if this cycle continues? It’s a cultural norm for women to do all the house work, however, if she’s clearly struggling why doesn’t the entire family help out?

These are the questions I asked my host dad last night. He vehemently stated that the kitchen is for women only. He then proceeded to tell me about village life and how is dad has two wives. We had a very frank and respectful conversation about everything that’s been bothering me. I didn’t exactly get the answers I was looking for, but my host dad and I were able to exchange stories about our different cultures and  how truly different our lives are. I was happy to be able to have such an open conversation about this with my host dad, I was able to learn a lot from him and vice versa.

Aubrey Gedeon