Is it Time to Break out of the Box? – G.S. Thandi

There was time not long ago, both here in Canada and in India, where men’s and women’s roles were clearly defined. Men worked – many years ago that work would have entailed working on their own farm, producing enough food to feed their families and maybe some leftovers to sell – while the women stayed home and looked after children and housework. For generations, this approach seemed to work well.

While times have changed, some families haven’t: they still expect men’s primary roles to be working outside of the house, while women work inside the house. This unfortunately creates problems that many of our families seem unable – or unwilling – to deal with. Consider the following case:

Sukhpal was raised by his mom, as his dad worked long hours outside the house. When he married and came to Canada, he noticed that amongst family and friends, both the husbands and wives worked. In order to save money for a home, he and his wife Baljit decided they needed to both work. However, while they both came home at the same time after a long day of work, Sukhpal expected Baljit to cook, clean and take care of the children (i.e. prepare their meals, help them with their homework) while he rested and had a drink or two. Sometimes the food wasn’t to his liking, something he would call his mother in India and complain to her about. His mother, having never worked outside the home, did not know – or didn’t care – that Baljit had worked just as hard as her son – and would tell Baljit she was not doing her wifely duties. Such expectations created a major rift in the marriage between Sukhpal and Baljit.

Are you stuck in the box?If you have the following beliefs about what being a man is, then you are stuck in a box of expectations around what men’s roles are – and this will likely harm your relationship with your wife and children (if it already hasn’t – like in Sukhpal’s case):

• My wife’s main duties are to cook, clean and look after the children
• She should be respectful to my family, even though I don’t have to be respectful towards hers
• She should go to all my family functions with me, even though I don’t have to go to her family functions
• Women should listen to what men tell them
• When I come home, there should be fresh roti waiting for me
• If my wife doesn’t listen to what I say, I have the right to swear at her, degrade her or hit her
• A man can drink as much as he wants to, and a woman has no right to tell him to stop

Out of thousands of men I have worked with, I know one thing: men that have these attitudes are not happy. They will pretend they are happy, and say they are happy – but they aren’t: their wives and children rarely want to communicate with them (they probably even fear them) and they have little satisfaction in their lives. If this sounds like you

– maybe it’s time you broke out of the box.