robinellen (robinellen) wrote,

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Middling about gender roles...

It's snowing today (fluffy flakes, despite the chilly temps), and the kids were hoping for a snow day -- but really? Not three days before Christmas break. And despite the snow and cold, my neighbor B and I went for our regular walk (with her dog) around the loop below our park. These walks are not only a blessing for the exercise but for the conversation.

Today, we talked a bit about gender roles and marriage. *sigh* Any SAHM can probably guess the gist of our conversation -- but even working moms and wives probably have dealt with similar issues. Regardless of how far our society has come, there's still something of an impasse with the role of wife and mother.

B is a full-time SAHM. Her house always looks immaculate when I'm over there (which isn't that often, granted, but it still has made me feel inadequate at times) -- but she says that she struggles to keep up with house-keeping responsibilities. And this time of year, everything is exaggerated in terms of stress and needs.

I'm also a full-time SAHM -- but I work (for actual money) from home, as well. And part of why I do that involves one of the issues B and I were discussing: that strange inequality of time spent 'working' and money earned. It seems to be hard for many men and husbands to understand the value of the work their wives do. Because some of these women (like B and me) either make no money or very little in comparison to their husbands, some men feel that they are in charge of the purse strings -- that they have the right to determine how the household money will be spent. And that makes the women feel small and unequal.

But even in households with two working spouses there can be inequality and struggle over this issue. All too often, the woman is assumed to care for the house -- the cleaning, the laundry, the cooking, etc. If there are kids involved, it's even worse -- then the kids' care is added to everything else. Our other neighbors are two working parents, and the husband (who is a sweet guy) still assumes that his wife will take care of the house. They work the same amount of hours outside the home, yet he comes home and relaxes while she tends to the kids, dinner, tidying up, etc. And one of my best friends actually makes quite a bit more money than her husband, yet he still assumes she will take on all the household (and childcare) duties.

B and I were speculating that part of this comes from the women, themselves. We do tend to take on some of those roles automatically -- because that's what we grew up with (in most cases). My mom was very much the one in charge of ALL household needs, along with childcare. She worked part-time through most of my childhood (because we were broke and they needed every cent they could get), but everything else was still her responsibility. B said she saw the same thing in her home.

So I have to wonder, will this change for my kiddos? Will E have the freedom to be equal with her husband, both of them finding ways to split the responsibilities, without society's historical expectations weighing on her? I know D has commented a few times that he's glad he'll never be a mom: "You do so much," he's said. "Too much." :) It's nice to be appreciated, I will admit. And I'm glad that he's aware of the work required to keep a house running. At the same time, I want DH to also be appreciated, because he does work hard. I sometimes feel like I work harder -- but there are also times when the responsibilities which lie on our shoulders is not equal (and he often has more -- like it or not, the bulk of the financial security of our family falls to him).

It's not easy...perhaps it's one of those underlying human struggles which will always exist. What do you think?
Tags: middling
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