A single mother's viral Facebook post about her son cooking highlights the limitations of following societal gender norms.
Nikkole Paulun, a woman who lives in Michigan and also previously starred on MTV's "16 and Pregnant," shared a Facebook post earlier this month showing her son using the stovetop, unloading the dishwasher, and doing laundry. Paulun wrote that she is raising her son to do housework because it is not "just for women" as old fashioned cultural ideals would suggest. She wrote that he might be single and living by himself someday, and knowing how to take care of himself will serve him well:
"I teach my son to cook & do household chores," she wrote. "Why? Because household work isn't just for women. Because one day he might be a single man, living on his own, who will actually know how to do laundry & not eat take out every night. Because one day he might want to impress a significant other with a meal cooked by his own hands. Because one day when he has kids & a spouse, he's going to need to do his fair share around the home."
She added that it's important for her son to know that he is not too "manly" to cook, an important life skill for everyone who wants to eat healthy and be self-sufficient:
"[I]t's okay to let your child be a child but still teach them lifelong lessons along the way. My son will never be too 'manly' to cook or do chores. He will be the kind of man who can come inside from changing a tire to check on his pot roast. Who can properly sort his laundry and mow the lawn too. Remember parents, a man who believes he shouldn't have to cook or do chores was once a boy who was never taught any better."
Paulun's post has been shared close to 57,000 times as of writing this article. She also told a commenter that she has plans to teach her daughter some life skills that are often viewed as male-oriented, such as cleaning the yard and changing a car tire:
Though some commenters said that Paulun seems to treat her kids like "slaves," a male commenter named Billy Brasher praised Paulun for teaching her boy how to cook and clean. He wrote that he went to college with a lot of men who didn't have the skills that Paulun's son has now, and that he had a mother like Paulun and was so grateful for what she taught him:
Women have historically been expected to take care of housework, while men hold professional jobs. Nearly 60 percent of U.S. women over the age of 16 currently participate in the labor force, but women have housework responsibilities in addition to workplace responsibilities now.
Though Facebook COO and "Lean In" author Sheryl Sandberg has been vocal about encouraging men to share the burden of chores with their female partners, research has shown women still tend to do more housework than men. Female breadwinners also tend to handle the bulk of housework, according to 2013 research conducted by Sharon Sassler, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University, and Dr. Amanda J. Miller, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Indianapolis.
A lot of women have spoken out about wanting more equality in who handles household chores, as well as more support from the men in their life. Several years ago, an anonymous pregnant woman working full-time wrote to The Guardian's Dear Mariella column for advice on dealing with husband who accused her of "nagging" him any time she asked him to help out with chores:
"I am five months pregnant and frightened at the prospect of this situation with the additional demands of a baby. I merely want him to do his share of the most basic daily jobs. Isn't this fundamental to a respectful partnership? It feels like this is doing damage to our relationship, as when I think about how little respect he has for me in this matter, I find it difficult to muster a huge amount for him."