Time is a valuable commodity squandered by those with an excess of it, which often seems to be a result of the roles we play in our family lives. I am originally from Sebrepor, a town in Tema, Ghana; and came to the US for College in 2004. I am now a permanent resident living in New Jersey with my husband and two sons. My experiences have shown me the way in which the differences in culture relating to gender roles have an effect on the time spent on enjoying family life. The differences in gender roles can most easily be expressed by examining the activities involved in daily life.
Being a proud mother of two boys I can say that my husband and I dedicate a significant portion of our time to taking care of our children. My husband and I split pretty evenly activities like diaper changes, bath time, watching the kids, and playing with kids; however I do all of the breast feeding. Life in Ghana is totally different from here in the US: in Ghana the woman is solely responsible for the children’s every need, while the husband is expected to simply provide the financial and possibly moral support.
The idea of a quick meal was a foreign concept to me when I arrived in the US, I had never experienced a frozen meal, fast food (drive through), or even a supermarket until 2004. While there are fantastic roadside food sellers in Ghana, most food preparation takes place at home, and is time consuming at every step. Simply to buy ingredients you must go to the market place where you buy separate items from separate sellers, who you will likely have to haggle with over the price. This experience takes hours and is repeated a few times a week. Imagine each time you go to the supermarket that it takes you 10 minutes to pick and buy each item to put in your shopping cart. The shopping for food items, charcoal to cook with, and nearly everything else the household needs is once again the sole responsibility of the woman. However, here in the US not only does the shopping take far less time, but my husband does the majority of the food shopping.
Another thing I also appreciate about being in the US that that my husband and I pretty evenly split the cooking and kitchen cleaning responsibilities, which would likely never be the case in Ghana. Cooking in Ghana is often an outdoor activity, which is done on a coal pot, a small device that holds charcoal and allows a large pot to be placed on top of it for cooking. Imagine perpetually cooking at a well-equipped campsite with all of its amenities: while appliances like blenders and mixers are available in Ghana they are not commonplace and most families will hand grind their ingredients in earthenware bowls called “aportoryewa and tapori”. The processes of cooking are drawn out without the aids of modern appliances and I often feel spoiled with the amenities that I now live with.
In my household I do the majority of the laundry, but when I compare the work involved to what it is in Ghana I don’t mind at all. In Ghana, families don’t own washing machines, so all laundry is hand washed in large bowls. The process of washing a load worth of laundry takes about the same amount of time, but here I only have to add the soap and fabric softener and press 2 buttons. In addition to washing, forget the idea of a dryer: all of the clothing is dried outside on a line with the hopes that it doesn’t rain. While my husband often helps with the folding of the laundry here in the US, that would be asking a lot of a husband in Ghana.
While I am proud of my heritage and love the country I come from, I appreciate a culture that has shared gender roles and evenly splits household work. We are not living in a 1960’s world where the wife is responsible for every aspect of household work, and I can’t imagine living a life where it’s my responsibility to do all of the work and be subservient to my husband. However, if I were a man, I would consider moving back to relax under the coconut tree while I’m waited on every day.