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A Cringe-Worthy Statement!



Karen DeMaio

It was one of those Monday mornings when you wake up and you want to go back to bed.  I had woken up late that morning and everything spiraled downwards.  My 10 month old just wanted to be held as I ran around the house trying to make his bottle and change his diaper (which is like wrestling a rhino).  My 8-year-old daughter couldn't find her shoes for school and was moving literally as slow as molasses to comb her hair and brush her teeth. The tipping point for me was watching as my husband slowly got out of  bed, proceeded to take his time as he carefully manicured his hair with gel (God only knows what other beauty products were used that morning) and asking “Does this look good on me?”  I couldn’t hold it in anymore and shouted “Why can’t I get up and take care of just myself for one morning?”  My husband still slowly getting dressed shouts from the other room “BECAUSE YOU ARE THE MOTHER.”

I cringed at this statement but stayed silent as I proceeded to get everyone out the door, and then slowly planned my attack.  I sent a text message to my husband (full of not so nice words) that simply stated I was not going to lift a finger for the rest of the day. I was starting my own strike, a sign of solidarity to myself that I wasn’t going to sit quietly by.  I took the above picture as proof that I was serious; I was holding our house ransom!

Was I a 1950’s housewife?  Did he expect me to epitomize the virtues to be found in Housekeeping Monthly’s 1955 article titled The Good Wife’s Guide”? The guide lists several “tips” a wife should follow such as having dinner ready just as he comes through the door, planning his favorite meal, clearing the clutter, preparing the children…. and wait for it……… fluff his pillow and remove his shoes! 

But I couldn’t necessarily blame him for his comment because these gender roles have been part of our culture for centuries.  Since cavemen times, men hunted and women took care of the children and tended to the household (well the dirt cave). It’s ingrained in us even if we don’t want to admit it.  We buy little girls play kitchens and baby dolls and little boys get the masculine toys like trucks and cars. 

So what better to prove these cultural norms still exist than through an informal poll?  I proceeded to the Facebook group page I am part of – Orange County, NY Mom’s Group- where I was sure I could easily round up a few mothers who would confirm what I was thinking.

To my surprise, the numbers revealed something I wasn’t expecting.  A small glimmer of hope that attitudes about gender roles are changing.  Out of 200 respondents, 48 of them indicated that daily chores/parental duties are 50/50, basically shared responsibilities. One respondent commented that sometimes it is not always 50/50, she states “It’s about give and take.  Sometimes they need more help; sometimes you need more help.”

Maybe I am subconsciously assigning a gender role to myself and not giving my husband the credit he is due.  I can recall many times when I have declined his help. 

His offer to do laundry turned into, “No, you don’t know how to sort the clothes.”

On offer to wash dishes, “No, I’ll do them; I need to decompress.” (Doing dishes is therapeutic to me)

Lastly, offer to put groceries away, “No, I need to see what I bought.” 

However, as I write this he is busily ironing our daughter’s school uniform and just set out her shoes (we don’t want a repeat of last Monday).

What I failed to tell you about that photo above was that the mess only lasted an hour (I couldn’t bear to keep it like that).  Later that night when he came home from work he went to the stove and started the dinner.  Maybe it is all about give and take or better yet my scare tactic worked and I “wear the pants in the family!”  So much for gender roles!


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