I grew up in one and we kids were raised a protective bunch. The elders ensured that we were left undisturbed to focus on our studies. This meant that our contribution to household work was very minimal and limited to occasional trips to shops next door for grocery and vegetable errands. Every other thing was magically taken care of and we did not even blink an eye wearing that neatly pressed clean school uniform everyday. I feel slightly abashed that we did not realize the pains my mother used to go through to manage all the household chores. She never complained, we never realized. As family grew and technology became more affordable, we did get gadgets to help the women of the house, but most of the work within the 4 walls was their responsibility.
It is not that men were averse to the idea of working, but just that the arrangement was age-old and no one really thought enough to question it.
Thus it was no wonder, it was difficult for us to manage ourselves when we moved out for higher education. I figured out that out-sourcing everything was easy and washing clothes was delegated to the neighborhood washer-man.
When I got married, my wife, sweetly took over the reigns of my house in the town where I was staying away from family totally dependent on maids for chores. We bought every possible gadget to help her which included a fully automatic front loading washing machine. And I thought I had done my responsibility.But as I noticed my wife struggling between 2 boats - she was a full time employee in an big IT company and had to commute via bus - and she was managing the house at the same time, it was my natural instinct to help her in everything she was doing. I was not trained or skilled for all this, but I tried to do my bit.
My biggest challenge was to learn to manage laundry. In terms of household work, I am absolutely fine with cooking, can manage cleaning a bit, but the idea of washing clothes - even with a washing machine, for some strange reason, had no appeal to me.
Yet, I wanted to be a good husband and I learned the nuances of the washing machine. Boy was it not so difficult? You had to learn how to separate color and white clothes. You have to separate philanthropic clothes which were totally selfless and had no worldly desire but to impart whatever they had (their color of-course) to any other cloth which comes in their contact. Then you have to separate different types of clothes - cotton/woolen/silk/etc. You have to stuff the load in washing machine, making sure it is not under or overloaded. You have to choose the temperature, fill the right amount of soap & additives. You have to select the right wash-cycle.Then the machine does it magic and after few hours of agonizing sounds clothes are ready for the show!
I learned above the hard way. My first attempt at washing left my white shirts a shade of crimson which would have looked lovely on a evening sky. And my wife's crimson top was a dull muddy sad story. I can't even talk about other horror stories I spun with my washing escapades.
I have now graduated summa-cum-laude in the art of washing clothes with the support of my faithful comrades Ariel washing powder & my washing machine. Zen is probably difficult to attain in this endeavor, but the happiness of my wife and the smile on her face knowing the fact that I can share her load, willingly, and skillfully - latter being important, is just little short of the nirvana!
I am not a feminist, I believe in equality of gender and equality of opportunity and responsibility to all. Sharing a bit of work with my wife has made me a better human being. I am glad that I have a wonderful wife who feels the same way I do and is willing to walk the way with me. Sharing the load is fun and I am happy that I took the challenge. I am a better son, better husband and a better father to my daughter with this deep understanding of women's world!