Gender Roles: One Thing My Grandmom Was Wrong About

When we were growing up, my sister and I would go down to coastal SC to visit our grandparents (dad’s side).  While staying there, they would always make an effort to welcome us into their world and show us a good time.

We’d hang out at the Moose Lodge where they worked, go out to eat a places we hadn’t been before, and Grandmom would have us help her with things like baking holiday cookies, knitting, gardening, etc.

It was nice spending time with them and getting into different things. Even though some activities weren’t really my thing, it’s always good to least try it out.

I was recently reminded of one moment in particular, in the kitchen with my grandmom. I was somewhere around 10 or 11 year olds, and I admitted to her that I just didn’t enjoy cooking very much. I don’t remember exactly why we were on that topic, but I think it was because she could tell that my sister was more enthusiastic about pitching in to cook dinner than I was.

However, I’ll never forget what she said to me next.

Well you’d better marry a rich man, because no other man will want to be with a woman who doesn’t cook for him.

As young as I was when I heard her say that, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. That’s kinda bullshit.”

I was probably too stunned to say anything witty in response, but I did go home after that visit and tell my mom what she had said.

My mom rolled her eyes and said, “Next time tell her that you’re going to be the rich one and a man will marry you.”

I always loved that woman’s sass.

I really don’t think my grandmom meant any harm by what she said, but it did give me an insight into how differently our generations think and behave. I’m assuming she meant that a rich man would be more willing to eat out at a restaurant or hire a butler in replace of his wife cooking for him. I just thought it was funny this logic dismisses the idea of a man cooking for himself.

I know that back in the day, men did all the working and women made the home, so in her mind she was meaning to give me some honest advice. I love her and I appreciate what she was trying to do.

However, I already knew that I didn’t want to be a stay at home wife who cooks all day for her husband.  Though there’s nothing wrong with that role if that’s what a woman wants to do, but it’s just not for me. I never was very interested in traditional gender roles or expectations.

Two decades later, I still feel that way.

Though, as it is with many things in life, it’s not always black and white.

As adults, we all have to cook eventually. We can’t expect our parents to keep feeding us forever and we can’t afford to eat take out every day. I see cooking as an adult responsibility, not something that women do for men, but something we all have have to do if we want to eat.

I’m not someone who thinks preparing a meal for her husband is some form of oppression against women.  Clearly, it’s not and anyone who says it is, I’d say they are being ridiculous.

I don’t know exactly why I never enjoyed cooking, but I think it’s a patience thing. I get frustrated and bored with it easily. Some people think it’s fun. My idea of fun is more like dancing with balls of fire around my body, and most people think that’s crazy, but hey, it is what it is.

Even though I don’t enjoy cooking most of the time, I still make myself do it, because I have to eat.

Like many people, I have a job and I’m not always home every night by dinner time. However, on my days off and when he’s at work all day, I’ll likely be the one to cook that evening and I do it simply because I want to.

He doesn’t expect me to cook for him, which is what makes me love and respect him even more. To me, that makes all the difference, knowing that it is appreciated and not expected.

When I don’t do the cooking, he will. Sometimes we might switch off cooking per day or even per meal. Yesterday I made breakfast and he made dinner.

And sometimes he even has a meal ready for me when I get home from work. He’s awesome like that. Not every couple is going to do things this way, and that’s fine. But this is what works for us.

There are plenty of men today that don’t expect a woman to cook for them. They understand that it’s an adult task and that women work too and have other things going on sometimes. These men don’t find themselves too busy or too masculine to do some of the cooking as well.

You see, I didn’t need to marry a rich man. I just needed to marry a good one.

For the rest of you who are reading, you don’t have to do things our way, but just know that you get to decide how you want it to be in your household. Find someone whose views and desires align with yours.

Don’t let anyone tell you how it has to be.

Your house, your rules.

— Ash Pariseau

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Ash Pariseau
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Comments 15

  • There are a few people in my family who have old timey views like that as well. I just try to hear them out and then go on about my business.

    The best thing you can do is make an example out of yourself and they will see that even though we are doing things different than they did in the old days, we are still doing just fine.

  • “A Tale of Two Women”

    I dated one woman for 4 years (plus another year for the body to stop twitching). In those years, counting holidays, I don’t think she cooked 10 meals. I can’t recall a single time we decided to do something like brown some hamburger, throw some spaghetti sauce into a pan and boil some pasta. I asked her why we didn’t do it more often, if for no other reason than I was running up $200+ monthly credit card bills. Her reply:

    “One doesn’t marry a cook, one hires one.”

    At the time, I was in the Navy. I had an inspection the following day. I asked her if she could tack the hem of my dress uniform while I was ironing. She came back, “No, I don’t want to set a dangerous precedent.” I told her in that case, she should probably leave since I’d be busy for the rest of the night.

    The only conversation I remember having with her about marriage ended with me saying the only difference between being married to her and not being married to her was I’d be doing exactly what I was doing only I’d be doing for two people. There was not going to be any kind of partnership with her.

    I eventually started dating another woman, a teacher. The first time she came to my house, I cooked for her. She said next time she’d cook. One day, she didn’t have school and she asked if she could come up and get started before I got home. I left the door unlocked. When I got home, she was in tears. I asked what happened.

    She said she was going to make quiche. On the way up, she stopped at a bakery to get a nice chocolate dessert. She then stopped at the store to get the rest of the ingredients. When she got to my place, she realized she bought the wrong kind of pie crust, then she knocked the bowl of eggs, bacon, etc. into the sink. She checked on the dessert and found it had turned into chocolate slag when she left it in the car. We went out for Chinese. She did better the next time. When she was off in the summer, she’d often come up and cook while I was at work, She didn’t have to, she wanted to.

    Guess which one I married?

    We have two kids. She still works and she still does most of the cooking. When the kids were small, I usually made breakfast and lunches on the weekends and during grilling season, I probably cook dinner 1/3 – 1/2 the time. One of the best lessons we taught our kids was that if something like dinner needed to be done, one of us would do it. Sometimes, it was my wife, sometimes it was me. But, it got done. The kids are old enough now that if they don’t want to eat what’s being made, they can go out and get what they want on their dime or they can make something and clean up after themselves.

    My wife and I were fortunate in that our expectations of each are pretty similar. Neither of us has a compelling need to do it all ourselves and neither of us expects the other person to do it all for us. Relationships are like two generators in parallel. At any given moment, the steady-state load sharing is never precisely equal. It’s always oscillating. One generator/partner is always doing a little more or less than the other, even if it’s only something like picking up groceries so the other can relax.

    In a stable relationship, those oscillations are small, occur slowly and, go unnoticed. In less stable or equitable relationships, the swings can be large and unpredictable.

    • Thank you for sharing those stories, Scharnhorst. Partnership is a must in relationships and marriage. Glad to hear that you found someone whose expectations were similar to yours.

  • Thank you so much for writing this.

    My mom is a bit older and sounds a lot like your grandma. Always on me about cooking because the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, there are others ways.

  • There are some men out there who prefer women to be the ones to do the coking simply because they were raised in more conservatives and traditional environments. Those people are dying out and it’s really just not effective in a household anymore for the woman to be home all the time keeping the home.

    Maybe if the husband is rich, but most of us men will gladly take on some of the cooking, cleaning, and other traditionally known feminine roles if it means that you can take on a portion of the finances.

  • Women like you ladies are what men really want. Women who are real, raw, and not some carbon copy of what their grannies told them to be. Rock on, Ash!

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