Dads who have taken over the kitchen

Dads who have taken over the kitchen
Mr Ritchie Low cooking lunch, with his wife Maybelline and two-year-old daughter Francesca.

It is no longer that uncommon for dad to serve as the main cook in the family. Some fathers cook through the week simply because they love it. Others do it because they want to share the household chores with their spouses. Then there are the stay-home dads, who do it as part of their work at home.

Mrs Sarojini Padmanathan, a council member from Families For Life, says the growing number of cooking shows on television with male celebrity chefs showing off their culinary skill may have a role to play in changing the perception that cooking is meant only for women.

"In fact, anyone who has a keen interest can now learn how to cook," she says. Families For Life is a non-profit organisation that promotes resilient families.

Indeed, the ability to cook is not a gendered gift, says National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan. "If you think about it, many famous chefs are men. That we delegate domestic cooking to females is but an artificial division of domestic labour that was perceived as being functional when wives stayed home and husbands were sole breadwinners," she says.

But now that the dual-income family is the norm, it is important to move away from traditional gender expectations, she says, and it is great when dads take over the kitchen because they become a good role model for the kids.

The mother of two, aged 22 and 18, adds: "My sons love it when my husband does mac-n-cheese, and grills steaks and burgers. They see it as a norm that men can cook and they too, have started to experiment."

Grocery shopping during his lunch break

There is a neat division of labour in aviation engineer Ritchie Low's family.

He says he likes cooking and cleaning. His wife, teacher Maybelline Tan, says: "I focus on spending time with our two kids." Their daughter Francesca is two and son Aldrich is five months old.

Madam Tan, 32, finds that the arrangement "helps a lot in terms of everyone's sanity". Mr Low, 33, says she sometimes chips in with the household chores.

The family shuttles between two homes. Fridays to Sundays are spent in their own home, a four-room HDB flat in Punggol, and they are at Madam Tan's parents' home the rest of the week.

Her parents, who own a shop selling toiletries and medicinal goods, take care of Aldrich, who is still totally breastfed, and Francesca is in childcare.

Mr Low cooks three to five days a week, at both homes. He says: "My mum taught me how to cook eggs, noodles, chicken and fish during my secondary school days. It's a joy to cook for my family. It's also a chance to bond with my kids.

"I plan my time at the start of the day. The chores include cleaning the table, vacuuming and mopping the floor, washing the toilets, doing the laundry. I find it enjoyable because I'm keeping my house clean and it's good hygiene. My mum trained me to do household chores when I was young."

He squeezes in a spot of grocery shopping twice a week during his lunch break, storing the fish and meat he buys in a fridge at work. While he likes to cook sesame chicken and shepherd's pie, and try out new recipes, he often cooks separate meals for his daughter, who likes "soft and soup-based food" such as chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) and noodle soup, he says. He encourages Francesca to widen her palate by adding small pieces of fishball and crabsticks to her tofu soup, for instance, and letting her try a few sips of the hot and sour soup he makes.

Madam Tan says giving her daughter home- cooked food gives her a "better start" healthwise. Francesca ate only homecooked food until she was 18 months old - her parents used to lug around a thermal flask of porridge with pureed vegetables. She eschews junk food and chocolate milk is an occasional treat.

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