Myths around cultural gender roles
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5 Myths Around Cultural Gender Roles Between Spouses

It’s your big day and you’re finally getting married! Everyone is happy for you, your spouse looks happy to have you in his arms. But then, you’re doing most of the dishes at home, taking care of the kids all by yourself, or cooking and doing grocery shopping while your husband goes to work day in day out as usual. (All these are myths around cultural gender roles that have been deep-rooted for way too long now.)

And because you’re shouldering such a big responsibility, you start to tire yourself out, get all sorts of mood swings from the lack of self-care, self-love, and lack of sleep and proper food.

Next, your spouse complains that you’re always grouchy and that you’re not giving him the attention he needs.

It must be a pressuring phase for most women who just need a break! Are you in the wrong? Are you supposed to keep on a happy face at all times, without validating how you really feel deep down inside?

Dear men, if you’re reading this, this article is by no means to ridicule or degrade the status of husbands in marriage; rather, to re-educate men on their responsibilities as husbands — which is to serve and provide for their families and make their wives happy inside and out!

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “The best of you is the best to his wives, and I am the best of you to my wives, and when your companion dies, leave him alone.”

—Narrated ‘Aisha [Jami’ at-Tirmidhi 3895]

Today, we’re going to empower all our working mothers, housewives, and soon-to-be moms that it’s okay to feel pressured by societal and cultural norms. You’re not the odd one out!

It is, in fact, the misogynistic environment and culture that set the tone for all women to constantly “serve” their husbands without actually analysing what our beloved Prophet Muhammad, Peace and Blessings be upon him, did during his time.

So let’s bust some of these myths around cultural gender roles that have been promoting sexist and misogynistic norms so that you know how you can begin empowering yourself again.

1. House Chores

Myth: Wives are supposed to do all the chores.Truth: Husbands and wives need to co-operate in managing the household.

If you’re a working mom, it’s going to be tiring coming home from work, tidying up the house, only to have your kids make the mess again — every single day.

When you try to confront your husband or ask for help, they might raise their eyebrows at you and argue that they had a long day at work. (This excuse works well specifically with housewives since they think that housewives sit around at home all day, doing nothing!). 

As a couple, you need to rely on each other for help, and not treat each other like maids. It takes two to tango, and managing a home is especially difficult for just one person to do it.

Take our beloved Prophet (ﷺ), for example, when he helps his wife with house chores wholeheartedly:

I asked ‘Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ): “What did the Prophet (ﷺ) use to do in his house?” She replied, “He used to keep himself busy serving his family (كَانَ فِي مِهْنَةِ أَهْلِهِ) and when he heard the call for prayer, he would go for it.”

—Narrated by Al-Aswad bin Yazid [Sahih al-Bukhari 5363]

It is important to note that the word ‘mihnah’ (مِهْنَة) from the hadith aforementioned is directly translated as ‘busy serving’, but it also means ‘work’, ‘job’, ‘profession’ and more.

This means that helping your wife is not just volunteer work or charity, but it is a full-time job! It’s just sad to see and hear that having men help women around the house is considered degrading or an act of cowardly men for “following their wives’ orders” when it’s truly not the case; it’s Sunnah!  

How Both of You Can Fix It

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If your husband is open to talking about this, you can divide the tasks among yourselves in which both of you are comfortable doing. It’s no use asking your husband to cook if he doesn’t know how to. Ask him what he’s okay with, such as cleaning, throwing out the trash, changing diapers, and more.

Make a well-balanced list and experiment for a week or two to see if it works. If it doesn’t, you can always improvise the list together, as long as you’re both in the game, InshaAllah.

2. Raising the Kids

Myth: Wives are supposed to single-handedly take care of kids.Truth: Husbands and wives are responsible for their children’s needs.

Some men would shudder and say, “I can never handle children! I don’t have the patience. Let women do it.”

If you ever hear this coming from your spouse, ask them to think twice before having children because the responsibility is in the hands of both wives and husbands.

Both have to spend as much time with their children as possible, not only to fulfill their responsibilities as parents but also to create memories and form a stronger bond with them. 

You don’t want to wait until they grow up one day, steering away from you just because you didn’t spend much time with them when they were young and wanted your attention! Even the Prophet (ﷺ) used to be considerate when his wife was taking care of children, even in the midst of performing ‘ibadah:

My father said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘When I stand for prayer, I intend to prolong it, but on hearing the cries of a child, I cut it short, as I dislike troubling the child’s mother’.”

—Narrated `Abdullah bin ‘Abi Qatada [Sahih al-Bukhari 707]

How Both of You Can Fix It

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Just like the solution for the first point, you can divide the chores, specifically for child care, among yourselves.

Experiment with it for a week, and you can swap those duties, so both parents know how to take care of their children when left alone with them.

Also, if both of you are open to co-operation, you can make child care fun by fulfilling the same responsibilities together!

For instance, when changing diapers, one person can hold the child in place, while the other changes the diaper. It’s always a fun experience when both work together.

3. Polygamy

Myth: Wives are supposed to accept being in a polygamous marriage with an open heart.Truth: It’s normal for wives to feel jealous, betrayed, or sad.

It is important to know that committing into a polygamous marriage means shouldering huge responsibilities such as being fair with how you treat all your wives and children, as well as equally contributing to their happiness.

It’s nearly impossible to fulfill all these obligations, as it is not that easy to fulfill such duties with one single wife. 

Only religious, mature, good, and knowledgeable people can do such a thing. Most of the men, who do not possess these qualities and commit to a polygamous relationship, have a superiority complex.

In some countries, polygamy is viewed as a social status; the more wives you marry, the more “respectable” you become.

Despite the rulings of polygamy, which is obviously legal and halal in Islam, society and even some men have a hard time understanding how psychology works.

In their opinion, women are expected to accept being in a polygamous relationship with an open heart. Women are not allowed to express any kind of negative emotion like sadness, depression, jealousy despite them feeling betrayed and worthless, as if they’re just an option!

Remember, it is natural for women to feel jealous. Even one of the wives of the beloved Prophet (ﷺ), ‘Aisha, got jealous with his other wife, Khadija, may Allah bless them!

Never did I feel jealous of the wives of the Prophet (ﷺ) but in case of Khadija, although I did no, (have the privilege to) see her.

Whenever Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) slaughtered a sheep, he said: ‘Send it to the companions of Khadija.’

I annoyed him one day and said: ‘(It is) Khadija only who always prevails upon your mind.’

Thereupon Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: Her love had been nurtured in my heart by Allah Himself.

—Narrated by ‘Aisha [Sahih Muslim 2435b]

Imagine the most respected woman of all time getting jealous. This shows that jealousy is a natural behavior and response in any polygamous relationship, and it should not be looked down upon. 

How Both of You Can Fix It

Dear husbands, it’s high time for you to accept what your wife feels is in fact a natural response.

Instead of ridiculing your wife for feeling jealous, find ways to win her heart again, be patient, and have an open conversation about it if it helps.

And if you’re a wife and you’ve got into this kind of relationship, it must be hard for you, but stay strong, and may Allah be with you in these difficult times, InshaAllah.

Take this opportunity to be comfortable with yourself, find some space, do the things you love, and become an independent woman.

4. Sexual Intimacy

Myth: Wives must satisfy their husbands’ sexual desires.Truth: Both are responsible for satisfying each other’s sexual desires.

Sex is a sensitive subject, and not a lot of people are open to talking about it. Sexual intimacy is just as important as other responsibilities both partners have to fulfill towards each other.

It is in fact the highest form of ‘ibadah’ so it’s good to get your sexual life in check sometimes.

However, most people think that only men have the power or authority to ask their wives to engage in sexual intercourse, but they don’t know that women have that power, too. Husbands, if your wife is in the mood, tend to her needs as much as she tends to yours. 

How Both of You Can Fix It

If you, or your partner, is not feeling in the mood, communicate with them openly on how you feel and that you would prefer to get some rest.

Don’t leave your partner hanging leading them to sexual frustration, questioning your interest in them — which will further lead to bigger problems, Na’udhubillah.

5. Being a Working Mom

Myth: Housewives have it easier than working mums.Truth: Being a housewife is just as hard.

Whether you’re a housewife or a working mother, everyone has different struggles and capabilities to withstand the pressures of daily chores at home.

Being a housewife doesn’t mean they are exempted from taking care of themselves just because they aren’t going anywhere. They still devote themselves to taking care of their homes, making sure everything is spotless, clean, and well-organised.

On top of that, they are full-time nannies, constantly taking care of their children, having absolutely no privacy and time to care for themselves.

We should abolish any sort of assumption that being a housewife is an easy profession because it’s really not! Different people face different challenges, and we should never look down upon others at any cost. 

How Both of You Can Fix It

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If you’re a housewife and you’ve always encountered such judgemental people about your profession, just smile and keep silent. They may never know how you feel or what you went through.

Only Allah (The Most Merciful) knows, and you have to stay strong and keep moving forward despite the insults you’ve received.

Do it for Allah Almighty, and for your family. Society doesn’t matter, and their words shouldn’t get to you whatsoever!

That is why in order to lead a happy marriage and be comfortable with our spouse, we must equip ourselves with the necessary tools, knowledge, and motivation to start a family with the right steps.

It is hard being a Muslim woman when you’re brought up in a misogynistic culture that imposes some myths around cultural gender roles on women and requires them to do everything alone at home.

Every spouse should be well-equipped with knowledge about the importance of love and mercy, their responsibility at home, and how the Prophet, Peace and Blessings be upon him, used to treat his wives once upon a time.

You can learn more about the beauty of marriage from the Islamic paradigm by going through our online Islamic course to make you a better Muslim and spouse.

The Bottom Line

To wrap everything up, it is hard being a Muslim woman when you’re brought up in a misogynistic culture that imposes some myths around cultural gender roles on women and requires them to do everything alone at home.

Just because we are married and are responsible for our husbands’ happiness does not mean that we are not allowed to be happy ourselves.