If Mopping Floors Isn’t Manly, Why Do They Call Sailors Swabbies?

“I never ask my son to do housework! That’s a woman’s role, so the girls do that. He only does outside chores,” a friend once said. Uh oh! Melanie thought, I’m sunk. We didn’t have any girls back then, just a not-so-neat dad and a houseful of very active and thoroughly messy boys.
Actually, though, we’ve found plenty of Biblical warrant for men doing “women’s work” as the old saying calls it. What we might call housework, men did in Scripture. Men cooked for themselves, family, and colleagues (Genesis 18:7, 27:4; 2 Kings 4:38, 2 Chronicles 35:14-15). They were bakers (Genesis 40:1, Hosea 7:4). They were weavers, tailors, and even made decorative textiles (Exodus 35:30-35, 39:1). They were laundrymen, or at least, washed their own clothes (2 Kings 18:17, Mark 9:3, Leviticus 11:25). They might even be caring for a baby or young child (Numbers 11:12, Isaiah 29:43-43).

So, how do you get them work around the house?

Make it manly. Mom, you look cute and domestic in a gingham apron with lace trim; your son will not. How about a Tabasco apron, instead?  Buy the heavier gloves without flowers on the cuff. Get cleaners which smell powerful — pine oil and bleach beat lilac when the guys are working. Instead of asking, “Honey, please make the kitchen pretty for me,” you’ll get a lot more response if you say, “Son, rescue  me from that kitchen! I need you to conquer that nasty mess!”

Give them a goal. Boys, like their fathers, tend to focus on one thing and overlook the rest. Be specific – your goal may be “Three full loads, washed, dried, and folded” instead of “Wash some clothes.” Make it a challenge: “I can finish the dishes in fifteen minutes.”

Inspect, don’t just expect. If they know you probably won’t check on them, they probably won’t finish the job. We’re all sinners – follow up!

And be sure to explain that housework is mission essential. On a ship or in an army, there are tasks which just have to be done–troops have to be fed, sailors have to have uniforms, the decks need swabbing to keep them safe for action–to make the fighting possible. (Did you know canned food was invented to supply Napoleon? After all, he’s the one who said “An army marches on its stomach” — that is, it will only be as effective as its logistical support.)

Your family has a mission, too, and every job is important. David rewarded the soldiers who guarded the baggage, not just the swordsmen and archers (1 Samuel 30:24). Make sure you really appreciate the housework – no matter who does it!

So, do your guys do housework? What kind of chores do they do?

Hal & Melanie Young

For more on getting boys to do chores, see our book, Raising Real Men. The chapter called “K.P. isn’t Women’s Work” has lots of ideas! You can buy it below or click here for more information.

This article was first published in the September 19, 2013 edition of The Homeschool Minute. Thank you to aeropw for the perfect picture!

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