The tables have turned. Many women are rising up the ladder and even have bigger jobs than their husbands. So why can’t the men become househusbands, asks Carol Natukunda
A new TV series is causing a storm across the globe. It is called Househusbands. It is based on four families with young children. The men stay at home trying to raise the children, while the mums are at work, earning a decent salary and keeping the mortgage payments flowing in.
The series depict the four dads as so incompetent that while absorbed in a conversation one day, they fail to notice that their children have hijacked a bus and driven off with it.
Isn’t there a place for Ugandan men becoming househusbands? Isn’t it possible for the real man to stay home to fix meals, change the diapers, wash the undies and tidy up the house?
In fact, that is the direction the world is taking. The Daily Mail newspaper recently reported that the number of househusbands in the UK has trippled over the past 15 years.
There are an estimated 1.4 million men across the UK, whose main role is to keep at home and take care of the children. Projections show that there is no chance of this slowing down.
Of course, such men have been branded all sorts of names for apparently being ‘less of men.’ But truth be told, the tables have turned. A hundred years ago, the role of men was clearly defined.
They were required to fight wars, build houses and explore the world around them. They even went to school, got jobs, while the women stayed home with their children and did all the chores.
More women are highly educated and have more powerful jobs and paychecks than their husbands. So why can’t not the men be stay-at-home dads?
For the ambitious career mother, a man who is willing to stay at home as she toils away is a godsend.
Tolbert was a hardcore bachelor, who swore never to get married. But somehow along the way, he found himself in a trap. He would be a father soon. He had no job.
He only had a recording shop where he would duplicate music on CDs for sale. Since his expecting fiancée, Karen, had a well-paying job, the couple decided to get married anyway. After the maternity leave, his fiancée had to return to work.
Today, the 35-year-old man can be found peeling matooke or busy planning the day’s meal. There are dirty nappies to wash, potty to clean and generally keep the house in order. With a baby, he gave up work entirely, although he is hoping to get a job as soon as the child turns two.
Karen says this has benefited her tremendously.
“I am settled knowing the child is with his father. There are days I feel I am shunning them too much, especially when I return very late, but I always appreciate that he is happy with his dad,” Karen says.
And just as having a stay-at-home wife carries respect in certain male circles, having a househusband, in a way, is the ultimate status symbol for the successful career woman.
When her husband was working as a tour and travel agent, Catherine Nagawa, a medical doctor with Family Health Clinic on Kampala Road, had resorted to packing junk food for her children.
“He was always away, we did not have a maid and I had no time to cook. Recently, he decided to quit his job and have a flexible personal business, which he manages at home,” recounts Nagawa.
“I am spoilt,” she says with a grin. “A man who cooks and washes for you is just sexy.”
Renowned British lawyer Dinah Rose, who has largely come to the limelight for defending the controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, says ideally, working women should have a hubby who stays in the kitchen.
Asked for advice on what women in her profession should do, in one interview, Rose said: “Marry a househusband.”
Rose is married to Peter Kessler, who gave up being a TV producer and is now involved with local schools and running their family.
“He just lifted a huge burden of anxiety from me and liberated me to focus on my career, and that is an enormous gift,” Rose added in the interview. She also recommends that spouses do not get hitched to people of the same profession. “It is a disaster,” she says. “They will always think that their work is more important than yours and they will persuade you to give it up or go part-time.”
But most men feel that giving up work to care for their children makes them inferior. When he lost his job a few years ago, Jeffrey Kyagulanyi, the proprietor of Trends Fast Food gave his all to be a good “mother.” But soon, he began to feel he was being taken for granted.
“I was happy to do all the cooking and cleaning, because I knew she was working for us, as I tried to figure out my next job. But she was detached and less interested in me sexually,” says Kyagulanyi.
“She picked simple fights with me for silly little things like not cleaning the children’s ears properly, yet when she was around she could not do it,” Kyagulanyi says.
There were times she threw it in his face that she was the bread winner.
“When annoyed, she would remind me how I am useless, how I am depending on her, yet as a man, I would never say that before I lost my job,” Kyagulanyi says.
The stress was too much until he realised that the woman had moved on with another man.
Shortly after that, Kyagulanyi got start-up capital from a friend. He started a fast food restaurant. Today, he has about five branches strewn all over town.
“She is now pleading to come back, but I have also moved on,” Kyagulanyi says. “If you are a househusband you are being a real husband, but she did not realise this.”
Recipe for disaster?
It seems that in many cases the rise of the modern career woman has a disastrous effect on many husbands who assume the traditionally ‘female’ role. So would that mean that couples who take this route are sowing their own seeds of destruction?
Dr. Hilda Tadria, the founder of Mentoring and Empowerment Programme for Young Women in Kansanga says while times have changed, emancipation of women does not mean that one sex becomes ‘too big headed’ over another.
It does not mean that automatically the men now stay at home while we work. It means equality,” Dr Tadria, a retired professor of sociology says.
She adds that, when partners appreciate each other, then it does not matter who does what in a relationship. “It should not, matter who changes diapers in this era, whether you are working or not,” she says.
Rosemary Bwire, a counselling psychologist at Uganda Christian University Mukono, says whether employed or not, couples are expected to help one another, financially and morally.
She, however, feels that some people are not realistic and begin feeling insecure when they are at home.
“We are in an era where women still expect the men to be the sole bread winners whether they are working or not.
So in that case, continue supporting him in house chores, in the event that he is the househusband. It is about doing everything together, no one should be ignored or stigmatised for keeping at home, to change diapers,” Bwire says.
Many people feel that while it takes two, of course, to make a baby, it is still a woman’s role to take care of the children because the bond is greater having carried the pregnancy and gone through the labour pain.
Bwire is also not convinced that there are many women who, deep down, really want their husbands to take over the home while they stride out to fend for the family.
“Traditionally, a man is the head of the house and must fend for it.
“This has nothing to do with a failure of feminism and everything to do with respect,” she says.