Is there space for househusbands? Meet Moses Otieno
While seen as taboo, a number of men are now embracing housework as their wives work and scale the career ladder
Harriet James @harriet86jim
For Moses Otieno, the decision to stay at and take care of the home was hinged on the fact that he couldn’t bear the thought of a house help taking care of his five-year-old child.
“I had watched so many videos on Facebook about house helps abusing children and that sent chills down my spine.
I also didn’t want my wife to quit her passion just to stay at home taking care of our son. That’s why I’m a happy house husband,” he says.
By definition, a househusband is a man who enjoys staying at home and carrying out all the household duties instead of going to work.
Before civilisation, it was expected the man hunts for food and the woman stays home, takes care of children and prepares food that her husband brought home.
In times of war, men would fight and defend the home while women and children stayed behind.
Then came the industrial revolution in Europe, which brought about employment and men went to work and women took care of the home.
Both the first and second world war resulted in men heading out to fight while women stayed behind taking care of the home and going to work to pay bills.
When they came back after the war, some men stayed at home and became househusbands between 1950s and 70s.
While this was going on in Europe, in Africa the patriarchal society was strong and men who did not provide for their families were scorned.
In fact in some communities, it was impossible for a father to hand over their daughter to a man who did not have a job.
In the past, it was taboo and a source of mockery for a man to enjoy staying at home without work, taking care of domestic chores—something considered a woman’s role. However, things seem to be changing.
“The younger generation is slowly embracing this disruption, as it is becoming a norm to see financially independent women take charge of the affairs of the home.
Some women too have shown no worry in staying with a man who is happy to stay at home,” explains sociologist Gladys Nyachieo.
While this has worked in Moses’ home, there are families where this has been the source of division and divorce.
For those unwillingly made into househusbands, the thought of having a woman take care of you can be frustrating that it results in domestic abuse.
However, even as this disruption continues, many Kenyans still hunger to have a man who takes care and provides for the home.
For others, the joy of being a lazy homebody who does nothing, trumps everything. When Juliet Mwaura married Brian, she was confident that his lack of a job wouldn’t be a hindrance to their love.
Despite her mother’s warnings on the dangers of getting married to an unemployed man, Juliet took the risk.
Twice the burden
The 32-year-old mother of one had a stable job as a banker and knew it would be enough to cater for the family’s needs as Brian searched for work.
Three years down the road, Brian was still at home and the relationship strained.
“He just sits at home, watches TV the whole day and is comfortable with me taking care of our daughter, clean, wash and, at the end of the day, still pay the bills. He does nothing to assist and its frustrating me,” she laments.
Efforts to help him find a job have been fruitless as Juliet recently discovered he has not yet attended any interviews she struggled to get him.
She is among the women who feel the burden of taking care of bills and house chores weighs them down. Unlike Brian, for Moses, having a financially stable and happy wife is fulfilling.
Although friends and family have mocked him for this, he has boldly stood by his wife and by his decision to take care of the home.
“It is only a man with low self-esteem who would feel weird being at home while his wife is working.
Once you set agreements and boundaries, then everything is okay. You both know your roles so there won’t be any friction unless you look for it,” he says.
He adds: “As a man, it is not a sin to take care of the house chores. If your wife is providing for the home, at least take care of it.
Being that men are great at maintenance and all, it is a great time to ensure that everything is running in the home. Chip in to pay some bills as well and ensure that your wife has an easy time in her career.”