We need to live in a world where men do half, women let them do half, and being a parent is not a full-time job for a woman, and a part time job for a man.
I have often shunned the women’s movement for feeling like all it did was simply give me more work to do–not only was I now expected to work full-time, but I was still considered in charge of most of the household responsibilities.
The idea that women were ever considered anything less than equal in society–well, I simply couldn’t believe it. I started first grade in the early 1990’s, my mom had a full-time job and so did all my friends’ moms. I don’t know what went on in other kids’ households, but in mine, I knew my mom had just as much of an equal voice as my dad. In my career, I have never experienced any sort of discrimination because of my sex.
So as I turned on my DVR, and finally watched (in chunks, because it’s three hours long!) “Makers: Women Who Make America” on PBS, I devoured it. This documentary was like a refreshing glass of ice cold water on a hot summer day. It not only opened my eyes, but made me appreciate everything that women before me have fought for so that I could enjoy the privileges I have today.
A few of the golden nuggets I learned from this documentary included that flight attendants were fired once they reached the age of 32. And the first female tennis competition wasn’t until the early 1970s, and prize money for men in the Grand Slam was $1 million, while women’s first prize was $15,000.
Of course, the effects of the women’s movement wasn’t all positive. A flood of divorces occurred as women felt stifled in their marriage and men couldn’t adapt to their wives’ liberation.
The documentary also touches on the daughters’ of many of the leaders from the womens’ movement. While their mothers were the ones out fighting for equal rights, the daughters were often feeling stressed out to the max by working full-time and still being primary responsible for raising a family. Because you see, while women have helped the men with bringing home the bacon, in many households the men have not returned the favor by helping out more at home.
I saw this in my own household growing up. After my mom would come home from work, there wasn’t a night that I didn’t see her doing something, whether mopping the kitchen floor, putting in a load of laundry, balancing the checkbook, or going grocery shopping, while my dad mostly got to watch TV.
I knew that this was not what I wanted in my own marriage. Which is why when we first got married, I had a really hard time adjusting to married life because I sensed an increase in my household responsibilities due to having a husband, but felt like I wasn’t reaping any of the benefits of having a husband because I was also the breadwinner. Not that there aren’t other benefits, such as companionship, but as an apples to apples comparison, I felt like I was getting the shorter end of the stick.
It never ceases to irritate me how society still expects me to manage the household and if I do something for Eric–like laundry, cook a meal, balance the checkbook, or pick up his dry cleaning–it’s expected, but if Eric ever does something for me, he gets accolades and praise because he went above and beyond his only duty of bringing home a paycheck. [sarcasm implied].
This doesn’t mean that I shun any opportunity to serve my husband, but if I do it, I do it out of love, and not because I have to. In fact, I do a lot of the cooking in our house, but it’s not because Eric won’t, it’s because I thoroughly enjoy it. Laundry on the other hand–we each do our own, and whenever someone finds out about this particular detail, they’re shocked.
With Eric working and going to school full-time, a large chunk of the household responsibilities fell on my shoulders–which is why I had no problem with deciding to hire a cleaning service. However, I do think toward the future, and now that I’m going to school full-time as well, will the household responsibilities be more equally divided? I doubt it.
I can’t even imagine how big the discrepancy will be when we have children. And while I’ve written about my desire to have a big family, I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to handle it while working full-time and having a husband that works 24-hour shifts. That means there will be three or four days out of the week, that I’ll be forced to be a single mom.
It’s not that Eric isn’t willing to help–in fact, I feel extremely lucky that I have just as much of an equal voice in this marriage as my husband. Its that the day to day minutiae of running a household doesn’t seem to bother him as much as it does me.
This battle of equality within our marriage is a battle that I have to tread extremely carefully, because a) I don’t want to become a disgruntled wife and b) I firmly believe that in a marriage, you can be right or you can be happy–and which is more important to you?
Equality in our relationship is huge to me, but I am smart enough to recognize that it is not everything.
It is stunning how much the realities of home life still feel like something from the 1950’s. Even with a wonderful husband, even with a great partner, even if you’re married to a man who is himself a feminist; somehow you end up doing all the laundry and 90% of the grocery shopping.
I watched this documentary in awe and I think it’s a documentary that every woman needs to watch. Yes, we have come SO far–but we have so far yet to go, from equality within our own marriages to better maternity leave to work schedules that don’t punish women for being mothers.
Did you watch this documentary? Is there equality in your marriage?
image source: some ecards