Cookie Cutter Roles

You may have heard of a Facebook poster, Always Learning, a Christian woman, who advocates traditional marriage and gender roles. Her husband works outside the home, and presumably she is a homemaker – meaning she works in the home. In other words, apparently, she does the housework, she does the chores. Not an easy feat, especially if they have kids. Now I’m not here to advocate or argue for stay at home moms or working moms (I’ve been both actually at one time or another)…because both scenarios are exhausting, difficult, and often thankless jobs.  I was just fascinated with the backlash this woman received and I wanted to address it in my own little opinionated way.  Lucky you guys.  Hang on though, because my views on this topic are likely not what you’d expect.

Always Learning recently made a post that went viral. You may not have seen the original post but you’ve probably seen the articles vilifying her for making it, such as this one by Jessie Dean Altman, which started out by mocking the way Always Learning makes her posts (they are actually beautifully hand-printed entries on a notebook page, photographed and posted to her Facebook account) and then excoriating her for her “traditional” views.

Here’s the original post by Always Learning.

Do you “expect” your husband to help w/ household chores? If you do, you won’t have a happy marriage b/c expectations destroy relationships. If he helps, great, and if not, do your housework cheerfully as unto the Lord. Remember, you didn’t marry your husband to help w/ the household chores. You married him to be your protector and provider. You should also have married him b/c you deeply loved him, wanted to be a great help meet to him, and to make his life better, not worse and put more burdens upon his shoulders that he already has to carry in providing for his family.

Make his life as easy and happy as you can!

This post – and people’s reaction to it – got me thinking about gender roles and today’s feminism.

What is “women’s work” and why is “women’s work” always said in a rather disparaging tone?

And I longed to ask this woman for more information. What is her definition of household chores? Does she do the “men’s work” as well? When I was a kid that’s how the household chores were divided – “men’s work” and “women’s work,” though the chore categories weren’t specifically labeled as such out-loud. It’s just how things were done. My dad would mow the lawn, wash and polish the cars, and fix any electrical or mechanical thing that would go wrong. My mom would wash and dry dishes, do the laundry, and vacuum all the rooms (among other things).  Most of my friends’ houses were divided up the same way.

When the feminist movement started in the late ’70s, it was to press for equality. Women should get paid the same as men for doing the same kind of work, and women could do anything a man could do (duh), from flying a commercial airliner to being the CEO of a major corporation. If they wanted to go out to work, they should be allowed to do so, and not be expected to quit just because they got pregnant or the husband didn’t want them in the workforce. And the traditional women’s work – making clothes (some women still do this today), quilting, cleaning house – should be recognized for exactly what it represents, a significant contribution to the family and to society (not just busy work).

Which of course meant that there was no reason why men should be ashamed to help with the “women’s work” portion of the household chores. In fact, they were (and still are) encouraged by all manner of articles, books, self-appointed critics marriage counselors, and most of all their “better halves,” that housework was something that should be shared.  It’s all about equality, right?

Now, some women – and Always Learning appears to be one of them – seem to have a different view. She believes that men shouldn’t have to do household chores at all. Or at least, they shouldn’t be expected to, in her words.  Okay, good for her.  Who cares?  It’s her life, her house, her marriage, her choice, right?  Apparently not, according to those writing about her.

A lot of women, and men, nowadays do expect women to work outside the home, that it’s a “given” – and some women’s groups are even advocating that they be drafted for combat duty in our military (which again, I’m not arguing for or against, just making a point that the feminist movement has evolved).

What has happened with this evolution of the movement?  Women who are “just” stay-at-home moms, who are content to be housewife and mother, are often looked down upon. Especially those women who also follow a religious path. They should want more than that, is the general consensus. So the entire focus of feminism, to me, seems to be changing. And maybe not for the better.

The whole point of feminism and the feminist movement, as I understand it, is for women to be able to live the life they choose, have total equality in government, social standing, and the work force (should they decide to enter it). Not to mention the reforms made early on (and still being fought for today) concerning domestic violence, sexual violence, sexual harassment, and reproductive rights.

This woman in the Facebook blog is not advocating that women become second-hand citizens or lose their rights as “women” or as “people,” she’s simply giving advice based on her faith, her ideals, and her household.  While I don’t agree with it and never would (which is likely why I’m not still married!), this woman should be allowed her own life without being mocked or vilified for it.  Such is “feminism” in today’s world sadly.  Women mocking women because one is simply living the life she wants.

Social equality should mean being able to live the life you want as you want it, rather than being forced into something.  Shouldn’t that mean ALL lifestyles?  If this woman wants a marriage with traditional gender roles, so be it. She shouldn’t be mocked for it.  The feminist movement and all those behind it should have her back on this – IF they’re feminists.

Yes, she’s giving advice based on her views of traditional roles – but no one is twisting anyone else’s arm to make them live the way she does. She’s not claiming you’ll go to hell if you don’t follow her ideals and she’s not forcing her lifestyle on anyone.  Just like with any of the thousand pieces of marriage advice or parenting advice you may come across in a week, if you don’t like the advice she’s giving and don’t agree with it, move on.  Simple, right?  I thought so.

Feminism is supposed to give us equality. That means we get to choose what we do with our lives. So long as the woman is making the choice (and not being forced), good for her in whatever she may choose. I may not understand the mentality and I definitely wouldn’t advocate the lifestyle for my daughter or myself. In fact, I don’t agree with much of anything Always Learning has to say (big surprise there, I know). BUT whether it’s my cup of tea or not is irrelevant.  The feminist movement has paved the way for me, as a woman, to choose my own path, as it has done for so many of today’s women. Why isn’t Always Learning allowed the same luxury?

Extra Income

Too bad it’s all in i.o.u.’s. Although they should come in handy if and when my kids become best-selling authors, popular video game creators, respected historians, or win the lotto. Believe me, I’ll be cashing those suckers in then! By the time they have their own families, I’ll be a gazillionaire, with accompanying royalties expected well into my golden years.

 

I saw this online (uncredited) and found out it was a blog right here on WordPress...check it out by clicking the pic!

I saw this online (uncredited) and found out it was a blog right here on WordPress…check it out by clicking the pic!

Kid in a Candy Store

Went to a very cool candy store the other day with my daughter…in addition to the upscale staples like Godiva and Lindor, this place had all sorts of “retro” candy. While it sent me into a vortex of memories and constant outbursts of “I remember those!” I was also left explaining to Sarah that yes, kids did in fact eat those sugary, often wax covered, messes that passed for candy in our day.  And with a smile to boot.  Oh, and if we didn’t have a smile for whatever reason, we always had wax lips to give others the impression we were smiling. Or vampires. Or old men. Or had some serious lip plumper surgery. Changing our identity through candy products was easy-peasy back in the day.

I was surprised to see candy cigarettes.  I thought those would’ve gone out the window when the powers that be stopped showing people smoking in movies and ads.  But nope.  They were there too.  Sarah actually remembers playing with and eating those.  Not sure what that says about me as a parent.

This fit of nostalgia was well-timed. I needed a little boost in my day and besides being surrounded by candy, which in itself is always uplifting, the trip down memory lane succeeded in making me smile.  When he was younger and through the teenage years, my brother played Little League baseball.  He was a pretty talented pitcher (don’t let him know I said that) and my Dad often coached. Not to be left behind in a boring house, my mother always attended the games which meant my attendance at these weekly games was forced as well.  A family affair.

Most of my time was spent with a friend who also had a brother on the team and if we weren’t at her house swimming in a green, stagnant pool or roaming the surrounding area for free puppies to bring home, we were at the concession stand.  I loved the concession stand. Hot dogs, cardboard pizza, snowballs. And candy.  Gigantic pixie sticks which I have no doubt had my mother shaking her head upon my return to our seats as she imagined the meltdown sure to come once the sugar rush wore off.  Wax lips?  Of course.  Wax soda bottles filled with some unknown liquid that tasted nothing like soda and I wouldn’t touch with a broom stick nowadays? Yep. Those too.

My favorite, which also happens to be Sarah’s favorite, were candy necklaces.  Although my friends and I had bracelets too.  I didn’t see those at the store Sarah and I recently visited. Ahhh, the memories. I tell you, there’s nothing like wearing bits of candy against your 10-year old naked neck or wrapped tightly around a filthy wrist in 90-degree weather as you run chaotically around a park that’s made up of busy, red-earth filled baseball fields and where even the parking lot was made of loose clay, thus having clouds of red dust and dirt continually blooming up into your face, on your hands from being an “active kid,” and every other exposed body part (and from the looks of my socks after a game, even some body parts that weren’t exposed) that mixed nicely with the inevitable sweat to create a thin (or not so thin) sheen of grime along your skin, then eating said candy.  Oh yeah.  Good times.

those were the gum chewing days

those were the gum chewing days

 

not even sure what the hell that liquid inside even is

not even sure what the hell that liquid inside even is

 

excuse me while I change my identity by gnawing on bits of colored wax

excuse me while I change my identity by gnawing on bits of colored wax

 

dots of ...sugar flavored sugar, always a good idea

dots of …sugar flavored sugar, always a good idea for small children

 

teaching bad habits early...that was apparently the idea

teaching bad habits early…that was apparently the idea

 

oh yes, always a yummy treat

oh yes, always a yummy treat

To Dad, with Love

A shout out to my Dad on Father’s Day.  He may have been on continual “grumpy” mode when my brother and I were growing up (he had good cause and really, a part of that may have been a sadistic rumor started by mother – “just wait till your father gets home!”) and it may have taken him 30 years to realize he likes shorts and sandals/tennis shoes (see, they ARE pretty cool right Dad!? it wasn’t a conspiracy after all.), and he may have had a “that one’s a jerk” meter that went into overdrive every time I brought a guy home, but he has always been there for me when it counts and I have no doubt he always will be. Oh sure, he’s given us some health scares over the years that we could’ve done without (keep that in mind Dad!) but overall, he’s a pretty damn good guy.

Not everyone is meant to be a Dad, trust me, I know. But would you like to hear how I know my Dad was truly meant to be a Dad, and a good one at that?  Of course you do. I’ll pretend I heard a resounding YES! at any rate.

When I couldn’t have been more than 8…my sense of time may very well be off, but I couldn’t have been much older than that.  Anyway, one day while my Dad was busily fixing our pool filter (yep, we had an above ground pool that ROCKED! till I saw Jaws, that is), I was riding my bike around the yard and decided for whatever reason to try and squeeze through the little narrow path that ran along one side of the pool.  Now this was a trick on a good day because there was the pool on one side and my mother’s humongous (I’m serious, it was like a mutation it was so huge) lilac bush on the other.  But with my Dad steadily performing his mechanic work, the path was cut off that much more. Now I have to go back a bit to say that while my Dad always, and I mean always, wore jeans and boots, he often went without his shirt while working outside. Unless there was company. Or the chance of his getting wet (don’t even THINK about splashing my Dad with the hose or from inside the pool which he never entered…trust me on this one).  And on this particular day, he was shirtless.

So here I go by on my nifty bike with the huge handlebars and truly solid, over-sized pedals (we’re talking old school here) and I would’ve made it…I swear I would have…but that damn bush got in the way at the last minute and as the branches swatted at me, it tipped me over just ever so slightly so that my left pedal caught my father smack in the middle of his lower back. Hard. His bare, naked back. No shirt for a cushion. No cloth to catch the sharp edge of the heavy metal (and not the good kind) pedal and buffer the blow.  Nothing.

Now what I remember VERY clearly from this event is immediately seeing the open dent I made in my Dad’s back and realizing I better get the heck away from there before he’s able to get up.  But I didn’t quite make it – he was able to raise himself up before I could flee the yard or get into the house. And to my surprise, while it obviously hurt like hell, not a word came out of his mouth and rather than come after his wayward attacker, he staggered around with his hand clapped to his back and probably muttering under his breath – as you do when a bratty kid who didn’t feel like going the other way round rams full bore into your back with a bike pedal.

What he didn’t do was yell, have a meltdown or even punish me. Oh he was angry, no doubt about that. I mean, he’s human after all. But at a time when he could have easily taken the anger and physical pain he was suffering out on the small child who had just engaged in a very stupid, stupid maneuver and injured him – and indeed, many people would have taken that route – he instead simply “walked it off.”

It’s amazing what the mind dredges up when you start thinking of your childhood and your parents. Well. This is what mine conjured up this evening as I was thinking of what to write for this entry. All I can say is, to endure the pain, to endure the worry, the absolute mind-boggling stress that your kids can throw at you on a daily basis with not just the ability but also the mindset to just “walk it off” rather than cause your offspring emotional pain…well, that’s being a stand up parent. A devoted Dad. And I’m proud to say he’s mine.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

even though no-one would've blamed you

even though no-one would’ve blamed you

Endurance

So. My parents celebrate their 56th year anniversary today.  I’ll repeat.  That’s 5 – 6.  Fifty Six.  In an age of disposable marriages as easy to come by as disposable spoons, my parents have racked up fifty-six years. Perhaps that’s because in “their day” commitment meant something other than the asylum (although really, if you ever went to their house, especially when my brother and I were young, you’d think they were already in one) and true to their word, my parents have lived up to the definition.

Personally, I think this staying power is in large part due to infinite patience…my mother hasn’t killed my father yet and strangely, seemingly has no plans on doing so. Although in all likelihood, no-one would be surprised if she ever were to snap.

Instead, once a week, she takes an hour to count out all of the medicine he needs for the week and puts them in a sectional pill holder (and this, in addition to monitoring his diet) in a never-ending attempt to keep him around even longer. For his part, my father still opens doors, holds my mother’s hand across the parking lot to keep her footing steady, and buys her little unexpected culinary treats when he ventures to the store alone. I sincerely admire the fortitude and dedication they each extend to the relationship and the love that has endured despite the struggles they’ve shared throughout the years.

They are my rock. My sun. No matter what is going on in my world, they are the one thing I can count on as being solid, even if they are having a “nit-picking” day.

Happy Anniversary to you both!

old couple