I grew up in a household where my mom did everything. She cooked, cleaned, organized, managed the finances, kept the house stocked with the day to day things that we needed, and many more small and big things that would be too much to list here. Although my mom also worked, my dad was the breadwinner and when he came home, he was served.
I don’t recall ever seeing my dad wash a single dish, pick up after himself, sweep a floor, or even get up from the dinner table to grab the salt if he saw that it was missing at dinner time.
I always saw my mom moving around, doing something. She was also the one that always reprimanded my brother and I and disciplined us. She wasn’t very affectionate either. My mom was not the one to hold you close or give you a hug. However, she provided for us in so many other countless ways. Ways that I never fully noticed or appreciated until later in my life.
My dad was the one that was always up for having fun, ready to play or make my brother and I laugh.
As my brother and I grew, we soon learned that if my mom didn’t give us permission to do something we could always count on my dad. If we asked him, he never thought to ask what our mom had said (or ask her) he would just always offer us the okay. He was also very affectionate with me, always ready to give me a hug, reassure me, or give me a kiss on the cheek.
I don’t know why it is that despite growing up and seeing my mom do so much, I didn’t follow more of this traditional approach as well and belief that this is the way that things just are. Maybe it was because I saw this daily and it stayed so engraved in my mind, but the fact is although I don’t know when or how I began to realize, somewhere along my life I began to question this traditional approach. I started to think to myself that when I got married some day, things would need to be different than what I saw in my own home, it needed to be something more shared and balanced.
As I became more immersed in my sociological studies I began to think even more of how I hoped to be able to incorporate and enjoy a more balanced and shared responsibility in my own household someday. This hit even closer to home for me when my husband and I became parents because the dynamics in our household changed so much and also because at the same time I was taking a fascinating class on The Family for my undergrad studies.
I also began to ask my mom more questions, about how she felt with her routine and way of life when we were growing up and what she thought of the way responsibilities were distributed.
I began to reflect more and more on how frustrated and stressed my mom often seemed to me when I was growing up. But at that young age, I didn’t even know those words, much less understand why my mom was the way she was most of the time. Back then, I just saw her as mean and strict. And even now, when I talk to other people – both women that are stay at home moms or moms that work either part time or full time, what I often hear (from either side) are feelings of frustration, exhaustion, stress, and feeling unappreciated. Some of what I often feel too.
This is not to say that I am a woman that wants zero responsibilities and a full time nanny & maid. What I am questioning is why can’t there be more balance, more shared responsibility?
If a man is working hard to provide for his family and his wife/partner is also working equally hard, whether she is a stay at home mom or a mom working full time/part time, shouldn’t she be allowed to enjoy some time off to herself or partake in activities she enjoys with the full support and encouragement of her husband? This would mean both husband and wife (or partners) making mutual sacrifices and giving 100% to the other, even if that means at the moment you’re doing something solely for the benefit of the other person – because you know it will make them smile, which in turn would make you smile to see them happy, and because you trust that they are also doing the same for you.
At the end of the day, whether you’ve been at work or caring for the house and children all day (or a combo of both or one or the other), we are all tired. We all want time for a break, to enjoy a few minutes or hour to do something we like, and not just have the entire day be filled with mundane chores. And if these responsibilities can’t be avoided and aren’t going to go away, why not share those tasks more equally/balanced and work together as a team, for the sake of each person getting some equal time to try and re-energize.
Why must it usually just be assumed that one person (usually the female) is assigned this role and list of never ending tasks to challenge mostly on her own, and must just do it. Just because your mom, wife, sister, friend can do a million things during her day and juggle the kids and also sometimes work, that doesn’t mean at the end of the day these women are not exhausted and maybe feeling slightly not so sunshine-y.
When I ask my mom “how did you feel” about all the tasks that fell on her, she tells me that she didn’t complain because it was her job…but she wasn’t always happy and often felt so tired because it was never ending. But it was expected of her, without regard to how it made her feel and what other desires she might have.
So this makes me wonder, what present and future generation of women and men are we raising and are we ourselves? Do we keep women chained to this steady tradition that encourages unequal sharing of responsibilities? Do we continue to do this and follow this pattern, at the cost of a woman just having to accept it because it’s her job, while a man enjoys his uninterrupted life and activities. Because if we do, is it a wonder then when a man asks himself, why is my wife/partner often so grumpy and tired?
I don’t think I fall 100% into one specific category, traditional or liberated, but what I am trying to do is figure out a healthier balance, and that’s what I am in search of.