I have been having a lot of conversations lately with friends and clients about what screwed up messages society sends to women. Yet, we all admit that we alter our genuine selves in at least one area because of these societal expectations. These discussions prompted me to take a deeper look into my own level of conformity; after all, I like to say I am a non-conformist. But, it looks like that’s not true after all. In Part 1, I examined fashion and weight. In Part 2, I took a look at makeup and appearance. In the third installment, I tackled motherhood. This is Part 4, where I take a look at work life.
Work: I know that many of you won’t like this, but it is my opinion that Feminism screwed us a bit. Sure, we get to work outside of the home now if we choose, and even can establish important, lengthy careers. But somehow, society missed the memo that since we work 40+ hours outside the home, domestic duties need to be shared with our other family members with whom we live.
In the 1950’s, traditional women’s roles were standard: the man works and the woman stays home and takes care of the kids and the house. Yeah, that sucks to some women, including me. I was not built to stay at home. I tried it and ended up suicidal (no joke). But when I returned to work, somehow all of the house cleaning and child tending continued to fall on my shoulders, even though I was working as many (and sometimes more) hours than my husband.
Don’t get me wrong; I do see my responsibility in all of this. I let it happen. When it got to be too much to bear, I spoke up and my husband pitched in a little more around the house and took over some of the routine childcare efforts, such as bath time and bedtime stories. But there was still much more on my plate than his, even though I’m sure he’d contest that statement.
When we first got married, I was working 2 jobs while he was trying to find work as a new graduate with an engineering degree. When he got his first job, I emulated my mother, waking up early with him and cooking him breakfast before seeing him off and then going back to bed. After a couple of months of this, I was tired. My husband assured me he could get himself some cereal so that I could just sleep until I needed to get up. That was a huge relief to me! That’s also the moment it dawned on me that there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to be a wife (aside from the obvious abuse and cheating issues).
In the same vein, there’s no right or wrong way for a woman to work. She’s either going to work at home (SAHM for Stay At Home Mom), which is truly a huge job; or work outside the home, which is also strenuous. Either way, the work she chooses ideally fulfills her, even though it may not be the type of work that would fulfill another woman. I make a habit of telling the stay at home moms I work with that I admire their ability to work at home. I can’t do it. But just because I can’t doesn’t mean that I am any better or worse than she is as a person, wife and mother.
Societal ideas of the working and SAHMs have shifted quite a bit since the 90’s. I have also met many stay at home dads, which are becoming more common. However, the competition between working and SAHMs has progressively gotten worse over the past 2 decades. Many working women think that SAHMs lie around watching soap operas, while many SAHMs think working women are completely career obsessed and don’t spend enough time with their families. Come on, ladies! I like to think that what a woman chooses to do with her work life is the thing that best works for her and her family. We all know that, “If mom ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy.” So, let’s give each other a break – and maybe a pat on the back for doing the things that work for each of our individual family situations. It’s sad that the main feeling associated with motherhood these days is guilt, when the only thing we have to feel guilty about is the judgment that we dole out to and receive from other women!
Life is tough enough without judgment from members of our own gender. Nobody’s situation is better or worse – inferior or superior – to anyone else’s. Let’s start supporting each other’s decisions and obliterate the guilt!
Next up: I examine our roles as wives!