CAN I BE A WIFE, MOM, AND A FEMINIST?

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I was a feminist at birth. As a child, I pointed out, what I perceived to be, gender inequality in my home. My parents had a patriarchal marriage; my dad led, and we (my mom included) followed.

My dad, the breadwinner, came home, ate dinner, and relaxed after long days at work. My mom stayed home, and cooked, cleaned, and cared for the children from the time she woke up until she went to bed; she had no respite. She felt it was her responsibility as a wife and mom to ensure that everything within the four walls of our home was taken care of, and I watched as she tirelessly did it without complaint. Many nights she did not sit down to eat until everyone’s plate was fixed, and even then she continued to serve us in between bites of her meal.

I resented the lack of household assistance my mom received from my dad. I thought he should help more around the house and often asked her why she didn’t insist that he do so. Her response was always the same-my dad was good to her, she loved him, and it was a joy doing things for him. I inwardly grimaced.

I vowed that I would not be like my mom. I would not stay home, and I would demand that my husband do his fair share in the house. He would fix my plate!

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And then life happened: I started a career, married, and had children. In spite of my career and lofty aspirations, I found myself doing the laundry, washing dishes, preparing dinner, dressing and bathing the kids, afterschool pickup, arranging for childcare, and shuttling kids to extracurricular activities. I work from the time I wake up until I lie down and spend my weekends preparing to do it all over again on Monday. I have become my mom. I yearn for the same respite that eluded her.

I don’t do these tasks because my husband insists on it. I do them because if I don’t, I worry they won’t get done. He and I are wired differently; He does not see dirt, baskets of laundry, or dirty dishes. I can’t imagine leaving laundry unfolded for weeks-he can and will. When I complain he temporarily assists but gradually his eyesight begins to fail again.

Our marriage is give and take. I clean the house-he mows the lawn; I dress the kids-he fixes broken fixtures; I sweep –he takes out the garbage. He does the tasks he enjoys and I…do tasks that have to be done so the house doesn’t look like a pigsty (I hate housework). It amazes me how stereotypical our roles are. There are days I want to scream, “I didn’t sign up for this!” Then I calm down and resume washing dishes.

I am still a feminist and believe in equal rights and opportunities for women. I also like peace and don’t want to continuously argue about who should do what so I found a happy medium- a cleaning service. The cleaning service is not with us every day so we still have to negotiate responsibilities, but it has led to a decrease in the frequency and intensity of our disagreements.

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I want Max and Myles to master all household chores. I don’t want them to have preconceived notions about who has to do what. I want them to have partnerships with their spouses and equally share in outside and inside household tasks. In an ideal world everything would run smoothly, they and their significant others would take turns doing dishes, childcare, and laundry. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and relationships are made of two people, from different backgrounds with different expectations, so perhaps the best I can hope for is that they hire amazing help.

What compromises have you made in your relationships that have come as a surprise?

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13 thoughts on “CAN I BE A WIFE, MOM, AND A FEMINIST?

  1. My parents were like yours, except my mother worked outside the house too. Now, she doesn’t. My dad didn’t, and still doesn’t, even remove his own plate from the table when he’s done. I despise all of it! When I was in a relationship, my nonnegotiable rule was, if I cook you wash dishes. And that worked for us. But, I cared for the girls 100%. I guess that’s an ingrained responsibility/habit. But I find myself doing the same for any unattended (ignored) child I encounter (the only thing I refuse to do is change diapers), even at work with students that have uninvolved parents.

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    1. Shalina, yes, we have similar backgrounds. My mom always made my dad’s plate and I would cringe. For many years I refused to fix any of my boyfriends’ plates because I hated the idea of serving them. It is hard finding a happy balance. Kwabs is great but I still hate that in many respects I am repeating old patterns. I agree some of what we do is just innate e.g. Caring for our children. I am a mommy and my maternal instincts are very real.

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  2. I agree 100% to the point I resented the fact that it was expected that ALL women must Cook well in order to get a husband (per my paternal grandmother) & I said well, I won’t get married because I chose to study hard, get a great career & pay my own bills without having to what to anyone but God. Lol. What did I know, once I had my twins, my perspective, my life, etc., changed. In my current relationship, I don’t mind cooking for him along with my children once I get home from work, I usually don’t eat because I’m still serving them. I have taught my son’s to wash dishes, do laundry, iron clothes & clean their rooms along with cleaning up after themselves. I refuse to take out the garbage, mow the lawn or shovel snow but anything else around the house I’m willing to do & perform without complaints because I can’t stand dirt, ugh & living in a house where I’m the only female I constantly clean to make sure our house smells nice.

    Another great topic & well written article, I enjoy them so much!

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    1. Sandy, you and I are in similar situations. We are surrounded by men. I hate to stereotype but my boys definition of cleanliness is definitely different from mine. I don’t mind doing these chores sometimes but I hate feeling like I have to do them. We as women have come so far in many ways and yet in other ways things haven’t changed. I can’t place the blame totally on Kwabs, I am partly to blame as well.

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  3. Camile L hope you are compiling all these wonderful gems that you are sharing to perhaps publish or something. U would love to have a hard copy of everyone.

    They are all so so good.

    Sent from my Verizon 4G LTE Smartphone

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  4. Geez. I feel like you’ve written my story. Minus the kids, even though after reading this, I know what life will look like once I have them 🙂

    My husband says that I’m a feminist and it wasn’t until reading this that I might agree!

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  5. Both my parents worked but my mom continued to work (cleaning, cooking etc) after coming home. Also, we kids had chores so that helped as well. I don’t recall my dad ever doing anything other than mowing the lawn sometimes or attempting to fix or add on to a house that couldn’t even keep rain water from coming in

    I’m actually dealing with this with my husband and I’m about to go on strike. In a way, part of it is my fault because I’m a SAHW and feel as though I need to do it all when I know I don’t and shouldn’t. I may not bring in any money but what I do is just as important. When we had custody of his children (6 out of 8), I almost ended up having a nervous breakdown. That’s a whole other story because when there are multiple parenting styles, well yeah.

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    1. We had chores too but I know my mom would have appreciated the assistance from my dad. I really think he thought the household things were her job. I think many moms and wives can relate to your desire to go on strike. You should not have to do it all and I really hope you and your spouse can reach a compromise. We are a work in progress in my home, as evidenced by the sink full of dishes I came home to late last night!

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  6. My mom also stayed at home and took care of my brothers and sisters…all 13 of us while my father went to work and brought home the bacon. On the weekends my father encouraged my mother to put her heels up as he directed us to clean the house from top to bottom and it frustrated me because I felt that mother should have required him to do more around the house as well. 🙂 however when I became a wife I learned the true meaning of marital teamwork and that each spouse brings different strengths and qualities to the marriage to contribute to the household.

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