Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By Minh Thu
My six-year-old son volunteered to put the clothes into the washing machine the other day. He’s always happy to help me out because I told him the washing machine is a monster that he needs to feed with dirty clothes.
As a mother of two sons, I thought I would get tired of caring for them and doing the housework alone. Traditionally, Vietnamese people think that housework is a job for women, not men. For many generations since the feudal period, Vietnamese men haven't done housework. It’s been a job for wives and daughters.
Life has changed in recent years with people talking about gender equality. We often hear phrases like: “In a civilised society, men should share the housework with women.”
So I decided to ask my sons for help.
Firstly, it’s because of me. After a day at the office, I don’t want to spend the whole evening cooking, cleaning and washing. My husband knows this so he cooks and does the washing up to set an example for my sons.
Secondly, doing housework is good for them. My children should know how to take care of themselves. And when they grow up, they will be willing to help their wives. By the way, their brains develop while they're doing housework. Labour is an important part of mankind’s evolution and emergence, am I right?
My friend’s daughter worked hard at school, and won a scholarship to study abroad. However, she had to leave university to return home after just two weeks because she couldn't be by herself. It's such a shame that she had to learn to live independently before she could do her degree.
Author Nguyễn Thu Hà, a single mother of two daughters, started teaching them household chores at a young age.
“When my daughters reached seven, I began teaching them how to cook simple dishes. Now at the age of 10 and 13, they can help me cook a whole meal, clean the dishes and mop the floor.”
In recent years, many courses have opened in Hà Nội and HCM City to train soft skills for children. Hà believes cooking and housework are necessary soft skills that parents should teach at home.
“I've met many students who don't know the difference between a melon and a calabash. The teenagers say the only time they see them is when they're served in a bowl in front of them.”
Hà shares some tips to encourage the children to voluntarily do housework. She often talks to other people about how girls are good at cooking, but not at learning like many other parents.
“I'm proud to tell my friends about the dishes my daughters can cook, but not their grades at school,” says Hà.
“I accept their mistakes. I tell them it’s okay, you can learn from these experiences. If they break something, we clean up together.”
Hà thinks housework can teach children how to live independently and confidently. It’s also a way to express responsibility for the family.
“They know how hard I work, so they are willing to share the housework with me. That makes me happy,” she says.
Some parents pay for their children for doing housework. The children can save that money to buy toys or something they want. It really helps to encourage children.
However, MC Nguyễn Minh Trang, an influential mother on social media, doesn’t agree with this method.
“In my opinion, all members of the family have a responsibility to do housework. It should be shared by everybody, depending on their skills,” she says.
“When I cook, my children help me slice tomatoes, wash vegetables and hand me tea towels. Sharing the work makes us happy together.
“I offer rewards to encourage them, like a hug or a sticker, but it’s not money. I make it a competition for my three daughters. There's a small prize for whoever cleans the most dishes.”
Trang explains that the motivation to study or work should come from the passion and responsibility instilled in children.
“Having fun together is the best way to get children involved,” she adds.
Psychology Professor Bùi Hồng Quân says it's necessary to teach children housework because it’s the start of the soft skills they need in life.
“Parents should set the example for them first, then work together with them on suitable tasks. Then we should praise them for doing a good job, and not criticise them if they do something wrong,” Quân says. VNS