My mom is your typical, gossiping, always has something to say kind of gal. Recently, over dinner, she was talking about the various girlfriends of cousins and friends and whatnot. She never has much to say about boyfriends, but about girlfriends she always does. She notices how helpful around the house they are, whether they cook or not, how well they put themselves together, etc. The more of those they can do, the better.
I noticed, though not for the first time, that she always expects me to set the table, do the dishes, and serve everyone, but never my brother. At the most, she might ask my brother to pour the wine. As I was doing the dishes after dinner, my brother noticed I was frustrated. He said, it’s because I’m the only one who can be a “good wife.” I laughed. I said, “It’s the 21st Century! You can be a good husband!” And his response…”Yeah, but not a good wife.” He was joking, but also telling the blatant truth.
I’ve always felt extremely blessed about my upbringing. My parents are immigrants, and I come from a very global family--we are literally scattered across the globe. In raising my brother and me, they kept many of their traditional values, and also encouraged us to explore all opportunities that life offers us in order to make the most of our lives. I wasn’t raised to become someone’s wife, I was raised to become my own woman—self-sufficient and self-dependent. So, it ends up being somewhat of an oxymoron doesn’t it? My mother raised me to never need to depend on a man, but she also always expected me to be able to someday be someone's “good wife.” She still has these old world, sexist views that serve as her gauge to judge a woman. Can I cook? Can I clean? Can I put myself together well? Can I take care of my man? Can I take care of my family? And how well?
I don’t have an issue with cooking and cleaning, and taking care of my man and my family, and Lord knows I love dressing up. In fact, I enjoy nurturing my family, and providing a comfortable home, and I find it very rewarding when I can look around and see happy faces on those I love most. My issue with my mother’s notions, is that I am expected to carry out these “duties,” because I am a woman.
When I was in grade school, about 7 or 8 years of age, I remember asking her, “if Andrew (my younger brother) was older, would she ask him to do the dishes, too, or is it because I’m a girl?” I don’t remember her exact response now, but my point is that based on this question, it is clear I was aware of the gender inequality even then.
I don’t think this makes her a bad mother or woman though. This is how she was raised. This is how she has lived her life. She goes to work in the morning, and then she comes home to work in the evening. This is the way it is for many women. This is why it has been calculated that women do 3/4 of the work in the world.
But if we want to fight gender inequality, we must start in our homes. As nurturers, it is natural for women to want to care for our families in every way we can; but it is not our job to do so. That is not what makes us “good wives” or good women.
I don’t have children yet, but when I do, I hope to teach them, boys and girls alike, that what’s most important is to be excellent to each other, that we should all always try to be good people, and that we’re a team.
In fairness to my mom though, my dad has always worked long hours and was essentially the “bread winner” in the family. And my mom always just wanted to be a good teammate, so she brought in what she could at her day job, then tried to make home as comfortable as possible for the rest of us. It was her way of balancing out the work level between my father and her. And it was probably also her OCD.
Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! Be excellent to each other ;)
BIG LOVE & HUGS