Sunday, February 20, 2011

Marriage for my generation

First, let me say, I love being married. Please don't think that the post that follows means I don't. I love my husband and love my life. If you want to know more about Marriage Mondays and why I am writing about my marriage, please read this post.

I'm not saying everyone of my generation has had a marriage experience like mine. Having said that, most of my friends and family that are my age, have. I used to think it might be that we live in the mid-west, generally conservative and traditional. As I have been searching blogs it looks like it's not limited to the mid-west.

I was raised in a household that was very traditional. My mom took care of things in the house and my dad took care of things outside. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and took care of the kids. He did all the handy man stuff and cut the grass. There were times when my mom worked and times when she didn't. That didn't matter. The division of labor didn't change. It didn't matter that the grass didn't need to be cut October through March. It didn't matter that my mom was constantly cooking or cleaning or taking care of children. As far as I could tell, that was ok by them. They both grew up in families where gender roles were very traditional.

I was also raised in a house where my parents' roles were traditional but I grew up post feminism. I was born the year Title IX was passed. Girls have always been able to do everything boys could do. I played soccer at age five on a team of all boys and I never thought anything about it. I wasn't good at math and science but was never told I couldn't or shouldn't take those classes. I always thought girls were smarter than boys. Until I started taking education classes in college, I never even knew other people thought boys were smarter than girls (I led a sheltered life.)

I think all of that is why I struggle with my role in my marriage. I struggle with my tendency to just do it all myself (because it's easier) and my expectation that my husband will do his share, spontaneously. Both of us grew up traditionally but we both believe men and women are equal. My husband would never have thought of telling me I couldn't work after we got married. On the contrary, he is more than ready for me to go back to work. Yet, he does not do an equal share of the work around here. I don't think he does it intentionally. I don't believe he thinks he shouldn't do something because it's my job. It just doesn't occur to him to do much of the stuff that needs to be done. Sometimes I'm ok with it. Lots of time, I get very aggravated.

I blame myself some because, until my daughter was born, I expected very little from my husband other than cutting the grass. He was a slob before we got together, really his apartment was disgusting. I figured that if I wasn't around he wouldn't be doing many of the house things so why should I expect him to just because we were married. I've come to realize that he should've done those things because that's what adults do. I get annoyed because when he is home with the kids while I run errands he can sit and play with them whereas if I were home I would have been doing some kind of housework. He has no idea what needs to be done. If there are dirty dishes he will do them. After that, he doesn't have a clue. He has no idea about cleaning bathrooms, dusting, etc. I've made lists, assigned jobs. It doesn't change. If we talk about it he will readily admit he should do more. I think he believes that I should be happy that he is doing anything. He does more than his dad did. Whatever he does should be enough. If I gripe about it, I'm the nagging wife.

I think this all bothers me more now because of what I think we are teaching our children. I do not want my daughter thinking it is her job to do all the housework. I do not want my son to think it is someone else's responsibility to take care of the house. We all know kids learn by what they see. It doesn't matter what we say, actions speak louder than words. I have a friend, who is also a neighbor, and the art teacher at my daughter's school. She recently told me that at school her daughter (in first grade) cleaned up the mess on her desk and then proceeded to clean up the mess on the desk of the boy she likes. My friend wondered if that is what she is teaching her daughter. Yes! That is what we are teaching our daughters. It's not that I don't want to take care of my husband. It's not that I want to be taken care of (although it would be nice.) It's that it is 2011 and I think it's BS that these things are still so out of whack in so many of our homes. It's that I'm afraid by not addressing the issue, nothing is going to change and our daughters are going to be in the same position we are.

I know not all marriages are like this. I know there are some where things are divided more equally. I know some women are willing to do it all on their own and are happy to do it. I'm not one of them. Although, I think my life would be easier if I was.


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