After just a few minutes on the phone with actors Tia Mowry and Cory Hardrict, you can start to forget they’re TV stars and not one of those psychologist couples who writes child-rearing books together. These two have a well-thought out plan for how to raise their kids, 9-year-old son Cree and 3-year-old daughter Cairo, and stay happily married (for 13 years!). Lucky for us, they were eager to share with SheKnows how they teach their children about Black History Month and “squash gender roles” in their home and out in the world.
We’re also lucky Mowry and Hardrict had time for us, as both of them have been back on their separate TV sets, dealing with daily COVID nose swabs and all the other new realities of 2021 life following last year’s shutdown. Though they were in two different places, they both joined the line to help promote Come Clean to Close the Chore Gap, a campaign from Dawn and Swiffer that’s encouraging households to recognize the unequal division of in housework between men, even when both also have outside jobs to do. (For everyone who commits to “close the gap” in their home, both brands will donate cleaning supplies to a family in need.)
It turns out, this gap is not a problem Mowry and Hardrict say they ever had — and they’re making sure their kids won’t either.
SheKnows: I’m pretty sure I didn’t think much about TV stars doing household chores before today. But I have certainly thought a lot about this chore gap. Tell me how you two divide the work in your home.
Tia Mowry: We’ve always believed in equality. We’ve always believed in being a team. And I credit it with our success within our marriage. We’ve been married for 13 years and together for 21 years. And one of the main reasons is because Cory and I, we’re not so focused on gender stereotypes and gender roles. Cory has always been supportive with me, and I’ve always been supportive of him. If I’m cooking, Cory will wash the dishes. And what’s so great about this campaign and this initiative is we’re encouraging people to close that chore gap, because it’s not like that in all households. Usually a lot of the responsibilities land on one person and that one person is usually a woman.
Cory Hardrict: Yes, we gotta help out the women!
TM: Statistics have shown that when everybody helps within the family, meaning helping with cooking, cleaning, and all of the chores, women are more likely to succeed professionally. And I believe that’s one of the main reasons I am successful in my career is because I have a supportive husband. If I’m not able to do something, he’s not like, “Oh, well, this is for the lady. I’m not going to do this. I’ll wait till she gets home.”
SK: Did you have a conversation about this early on, or did it just happen naturally?
CH: It happened naturally. When I met Tia, I was a clean person, but I was like on the surface clean. I’d hide everything inside the cabinet and shut it. When you open it, it will fall out on you. Tia showed me that you’ve got to open those drawers and put all your clothes up, fold them, separate your dirty clothes and clean clothes, clean everything, mop. Tia has definitely shown me how to be a cleaner person. And that has bled over to our children.
TM: We believe in equality, and we want to model that behavior for our children so that when they go out into the world, they’ll have that perspective, and they can make a difference and change the world. When everybody comes together and helps with responsibility, that’s basically what you’re doing. You’re squashing those gender role stereotypes, and you’re helping your children understand responsibility and community. …
Cree did something so beautiful this morning. I was cooking breakfast this morning and then, you know, I started to wash the dishes because Cory was at work. And then Cree goes, “Mommy, I could help you. Do you want me to wash the dishes for you?”
SK: That’s great! Does Cree have chores he has to do?
CH: His responsibilities are taking out the trash every night and every morning. He also washes dishes after he eats breakfast; he has to rinse them out before throwing them in the dishwasher. And he’s working his way to cleaning his room and helping out in other areas around the house.
TM: This is how I grew up. My parents were in the army, and it’s about unity and teamwork, and I learned from a young age. Now we’re using that same model for our families.
SK: What are the consequences if he doesn’t do them? And have you let things slide during COVID?
CH: Maybe less time on the iPad. But we’ve already been trapped in the house, so it’s not like you can say, “You’re on punishment.” We’re all on punishment.
TM: Things aren’t perfect and we have our moments, but when it comes to the chores, Cory and I believe in positive reinforcement and consequences. Some people just tend to focus on consequences. But I think it’s really important to focus on those positive reinforcements — that if they do something great, let them know. Tell them, “Good job. Awesome. Thank you so much.” We need affirmation, and I don’t think we get enough of it.
We have this really cool chart in the playroom. It has red, yellow and green. When they do something great, they’ll move their little cardboard person cut out. And it has Cree on it and it has Cairo. So if they do well, then that person will move up to yellow. And then if they do if they do something that they weren’t supposed to do, then it’ll go back down to red. And once it gets to green and then they get a reward.
SK: I love that. So, it’s Black History Month, which is always so complicated, because obviously it shouldn’t be just a month. But I’m wondering if you use this as a time to teach anything special to your kids.
TM: We are very open when it comes to the world around us. I just feel like, our children are going to learn about it anyway, and I would rather for them to learn about it in a controlled environment. We are huge readers in this house, and some of the books that I absolutely love reading to Cairo is a book [series] called Little People, Big Dreams. What I love about these books is that they put the spotlight on an activist or a leader within the African American community. So we’re reading to her about Rosa Parks, and we’re reading about Maya Angelou.
Our son absolutely loves watching documentaries. So, we will watch Martin Luther King documentaries and documentaries about Black history. And then Cory is really good at educating him in the world of athletics.
CH: It should definitely be more than just a month. It should be a way of life. … I try to teach my kids that it’s not about the color of your skin; it’s just about the character of your heart and treating people with kindness, treating people with love. But I let them understand what it is to be a Black man in this world, or my daughter, when she gets older, what it is to be a Black woman. You are naturally faced with more obstacles and challenges, and so you do have to work harder in life. … You’re not as fortunate to be able to make a lot of mistakes, being an African American.
Even though our kids are raised differently than how me and Tia were raised, we try to teach them the values of hard work. Nothing is given to you; there is no such thing as privilege in our house, even though privilege exists in this world. … I’m just old-school in my principles, and we just try to teach our kids that.
TM: Cree has actually been very involved with the election. He was very involved with the speeches. I was pretty blown away. I thought, “Oh, my gosh, is he going to grow up to be a politician?” Because he was just so passionate about what everyone was talking about. I was at work one day, and I came home and the election was on, and my son was still up watching. Cory was like, “He hasn’t moved. He’s been sitting in front of the television just soaking in everything.” And I think that, because we shared with him about what was going on with the Black Lives Matter marches and police brutality, Capitol Hill, he really understands what’s going on. You know, you’re never too young to change the world. So, we’re not afraid about showing him and letting him know what’s really going on.
CH: We have the first Black female vice president, and that that is very inspiring to see. … It gives all of mankind, everybody, something to look up to.
TM: Our daughter has someone that she can look up to in that field. And we really didn’t have too much of that before. It’s a step in the right direction.