Every once in a while, life gives you insights in the most unexpected of places. Even a simple trip to buy groceries can turn into an unforgettable experience. Something, which leaves you pleasantly surprised, and more importantly, leaves you with a sense of hope and promise for the next generation of adults the world will see.
Before I share what I was a pleasant witness to, let me tell you my retirement plan. Alarmed at the habits of the present generation of youngsters, and their lack of basic survival skills like cooking, cleaning, home accounting, managing a household – I often joke with my husband that post retirement, we could be a cook-housekeeper team to one of the children of this generation (maybe some in our own families!) and take a salary to manage their home and hearth for them while they flip through life on a smart phone, blissfully lost in an invisible social network.
Twenty years down the line, I expect the demand for housekeepers and cooks to shoot up as the next generation continues to blissfully tap away at a screen, expecting solutions for every life’s problem available through an app or a Google search. I’m not sure what will happen to soft skills like common sense, practical thinking and coming up with compromises or alternate solutions to manage a family situation – we just might see obituaries floating in for these as the decades go by. “Today we announce the death of compromise. He will be missed by conflict and difference of opinion. But hey, here’s an app to make it all better!”
One thing that might not change though, is the expectation that a woman should know how to keep house, whether a man does or doesn’t. As long as there are parents of this generation who teach one set of values to their daughter, and another set of values to their son – this gap will never be bridged.
What I now see is a spark of rebellion among the young girls, who are proud to say they have no idea how to cook, or clean – why bother when you can hire a cook or a cleaner? It’s actually not about the cook or the cleaner – it’s more a statement of protest – if you think I should know to cook and clean just because I am a woman, well you can think again!
What is obvious and both genders often fail to see is that this is not about gender at all. It is a basic life skill, man or woman, we should be able to dish a basic meal out for ourselves for the purpose of sheer survival. Basic house cleaning, knowing to maintain optimum stocks, stretching the home budget… these are invaluable skills irrespective of gender.
In the midst of all these trends that I have seen and observed as a bystander in the drama of life, today I got to witness something truly life-altering. I saw parents of a teenage boy, teaching him to buy fresh produce. I saw them take him to almost every vegetable and fruit on display and explain the nuances of each produce, what to look for, how to pick the best out of the lot. They didn’t stop there. They drew his attention to the prices, and how to figure out the most economical buy of the veritable cornucopia of produce at his disposal.
Then they sent him off alone to get the vegetables and fruits weighed and priced. I saw them both awaiting his return, the mother trying to hide her concern, the father looking on with a stern expression – as their son went with the confidence and pride of a warrior who is entering his first battle. He carefully got every vegetable and fruit weighed, examined the final price on each one, and walked back to his parents, brimming with that sense of achievement that comes when you feel you have reached a major milestone in life.
In those few minutes, I felt even the world had reached a major milestone. As long as there are parents such as those I had the honour to see in action today, parents who will bring up their sons and daughters with the same life skills, without any gender bias, there is still some hope for the world. Who knows? With men developing an interest in buying the best produce for their family, women just might not feel the need to rebel anymore by ordering takeout. They might just be inclined to team up and cook a sumptuous meal instead.