How couples struggle with division of labour – The Star, Kenya

• Babysitting, laundry, cooking and cleaning are no longer the preserve of women
Boda boda rider Samuel Kola, 33, splits his time between the road and his duties at home. As a recently married father of one, he’s taken up much more than traditional gender roles dictate.
Kola’s day typically starts at 6.30am, when he leaves his rented house to get onto the road in the business of carrying passengers.
At 10am, he returns home to help his wife with babysitting, doing laundry, cooking and cleaning the house. In the afternoon, he gets back to work to capitalise on the evening rush hour.
“We don’t have a house help and we cannot afford one. That’s why I have to come home and help my wife,” Kola explains.
Freddy Mwakesi, a 25-year-old mechanic, is in a similar situation, though he recently took his wife to their rural home soon before she delivered their first baby.
“I was assisting her with housework throughout the pregnancy,” Freddy says. “I would come home and check on her several times during the day.” As the baby’s due date came closer, the couple realised the additional workload could be a tricky balance for Freddy. They both agreed that mother and baby spend a few weeks with his in-laws.
Lots of young couples in Kenya are having to negotiate how to tackle household chores together. Unlike previous generations, today’s youth cannot afford to pay for house helps. The young couples are dependent on informal sector jobs, whose income is often low and erratic.
If you ever wondered why a significant number of children in school uniform end up playing around markets and shopping centres in the evening, it’s because they have to wait for their parents to close up so they all go home together. 
Though some couples are sharing household chores, the matter remains a major cause of marital dispute. Entrenched gender roles are to blame as household duties are mostly seen as women’s work. A survey of 2,600 married couples published in Psychology Today magazine reveals that the three most common sources of conflict are the division of labour, finances and raising children.
This calls for couples to communicate and allocate household tasks not only for the sake of marital harmony but so that each of them can squeeze out the most from their respective places of work. For example, a man working a regular 8-5 job may expect to find tea on the table when he arrives home in the evening. If his spouse is running a small business, this may not be possible; otherwise, she would have to close early and miss out on the evening’s customers.
Furthermore, couples should discuss how to manage businesses that have to stay open during weekends and public holidays. Dialogue can help prevent conflict over mismatched expectations. However, a married person should not expect to spend every waking moment doing business. That’s why entrepreneurs should identify trusted employees who can run things from time to time with minimal supervision.
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