I love a traditional Thanksgiving dinner: the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the assortment of pumpkin desserts I can sample. I love to eat, so naturally, any holiday that assures vast quantities of food is rated pretty high on my list.
But there’s one “tradition” I’ve noticed in my family during Thanksgiving: the tradition of the men in the family sitting idly by, watching TV and talking in the living room, while the women slave over the food in the kitchen. For years, I’ve watched as my mom cleans the house, cooks the turkey, mashes the potatoes, makes the banana pudding, and does a myriad of other dinner-related tasks.
Meanwhile, my dad sits passively, barely offering to help.
Once the relatives arrive, the men bolt to the living room where there’s football and comfy couches, while my aunts and granny help my mom with the food. By the time everything is ready to eat, the women are sweaty, my mom is exhausted from a whole day of preparation, and the men haven’t come into the kitchen once to help.
Cooking and serving a huge meal is one thing; cleaning up after everyone is done eating is another project in itself. The women return to the kitchen to wash plates and silverware and load up leftovers. It seems like the women in my family spend more time laboring over the feast than they do enjoying it.
I don’t like this, and I want it to change.
To my dad, my uncles, and my grandfather is it too much to ask that you get off your asses and come wash a dish or two? Is it too much to help clear the counter of the various containers of food after everyone is done eating? Why, on a day of family, do you alienate those with uteruses to the kitchen while you watch grown men tackle each other on a field and yell about touchdowns?
I hate that “women’s work” has been so degraded that even during Thanksgiving dinner when there are a million details that need tending to, the men still just assume that the women will handle them. I get frustrated when I see my mom wiping sweat from her forehead because the kitchen is sweltering while the male relatives relax comfortably in the other room.
Women are not here to serve you. Do not automatically assume that since they are prepping your food in the kitchen, that they love doing it. Don’t think for a second that there isn’t some resentment there. After a long day of cooking, cleaning, serving, washing dishes, and putting silverware away, the least you can do is offer to clean up so the women can sit down, rest, and enjoy themselves.
I want to break this cycle. If I’m ever married, you can be damn sure my husband will be in the kitchen, slaving away right along with me, dehydrated from the heat of the oven and the simmering pots on the stove. The male relatives will be told – not asked – to help with the seemingly endless dirty dishes. The younger male cousins will see that housework and cooking are not chores specifically delegated to women; rather, they are life skills that men need to learn and participate in as well. If I host Thanksgiving dinner, men won’t get a free pass to sit on the couch.
If you’re a man who is reading this, and you come to the sudden realization that you’ve rarely pulled your weight at Thanksgiving, or any other holiday gathering, for that matter, make it a point this year to step up and take some of the burden off of the women in your family who are cooking and feeding you.