One of the hardest things to overcome when I married my husband was the cultural notions of gender roles. Having been born and raised in the United States by parents who were products of the equality movement of the 1970s, I always assumed that boys and girls everywhere were doing the same things. When I went to college we were all on the same fumbling path of taking care of ourselves; doing our own laundry, finding our meals, doing our own shopping, cleaning our dorms. In my delusional young adult state I assumed when I married it would be a partnership and that my husband would be happy to pitch in to keep our house clean, because of course we would both be working successful, professional jobs.
Fate would have it that I did not marry one of my American peers but someone who had been raised quite a bit differently from myself. It seems customary, at least in his culture, that boys and men do not participate in household chores–that work is left for sisters and mothers. I’m not attributing any of these traits to religion but to culture and upbringing. This was so far removed from my worldview.
To Be Independent
When we had two boys, I made it exceedingly clear that they would be learning to take care of themselves in all aspects of life. Here is where the second cultural conflict occurs. I fully expect that when my boys have finished high school, they will go to a college of their choosing. Even if it is in the same town, I will encourage them to live on their own in a dorm or apartment. This however is not what their dad has in mind. The cultural expectation is that they will live at home during this time. Do I want them to leave home because I don’t love them? No, just the opposite! I want them to become adults and learn to be responsible men.
I am not waiting until adult-hood to instill a “helping” tradition in them. From the time they were very young (2 or 3) I have encouraged them to help by picking up their clothing and dishes, pouring their own drinks (as they are able), getting their own snacks, and doing other small tasks around the house. As they have grown in age more responsibilities are added. For fun, I try and get them into the kitchen to help with cooking. This isn’t a chore – it’s a treat! We’re a team and I let them know if all the team members aren’t playing no one wins. If we all work together then everyone wins and can have a good time.
In a Related Hadith
It is not just that I want these things for my boys but they’re actually a part of the hadith! In Bukhari A’isha was asked what Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) did at home. She replied that he helped his wives with their work until it was time to go to bed. Someday my boys will be men, and I hope that by teaching them the value of independence in all aspects of their life they will become good partners for my future daughter-in-laws.
In future posts I hope to continue this series focusing on issues such as emotions and sensitivity, bullying and gender roles. What are questions or issues you face in raising Muslim boys? I’d love to explore your questions more!
- Raising Muslim Boys: Handling Gender Stereotypes
- Raising Muslim Boys: Sensitivity
- The Game of LIFE – Reviews by Kids for Kids
- The College Application Process for Homeschoolers
- Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-11-26