On Gender, Equality and Parenting
19 January 2013
SOOOOOOO the Ginger has been reminded lately quite a bit of expected gender rolls and of equality. And as a result of many a recent conversation with friends and family alike~ the thoughts are begging an audience.
Now I must confess~ that I have **never** mowed a lawn………and only twice in my life have I operated a snow blower. HOWEVER~ I **could ** do both~ if I chose to do so. For the purpose of clarity~ please allow me a little latitude in going back a bit.
My parents owned a home~~ but they divorced when I was 4 ½ years old. Since then, as long as I can recall (with the exception of the 18 months I lived with my father and step monster) ~ I have lived in an apartment. And as a 19-year-old single mother I had no illusions about being a homeowner. Frankly~~ I **liked** apartment living. Water tank blows~ call the landlord. Roof leaks~ call the landlord. Heat not working~ call the landlord. SOOOOOO……you get the idea.
Fast forward to when I was 23 and began dating the man who would be the love of my life and the father of my future children. Now my dear husband came from a very different upbringing than I. He had lived in a house (a HOME) his whole life. Even more impressive to me~ his family had lived in the same house since he was in second grade. His parents were married 27 years and that marriage only ended with his mother’s death. He had come from a place where taking care of and maintaining a home was second nature.
Not surprisingly his father was opposed to our living together before marriage. From the outset he was also vehemently opposed to ‘renting’ anything~ apartment, house, etc. He said it was a waste of money~~ ‘might as well flush it down the toilet’ he said.
Frankly I was quite surprised when DH not only moved IN with me; but he also rented a house with me. Fast forward lots of years and heartache, multiple rental houses and town homes later~~~~ I was finally in the third trimester of a pregnancy~ with a boy. DH got all emotional (a HUGE, HUGE deal for him) about legacies and what we would ‘leave’ to our son when we were gone~~~ and we began discussing the possibility of home ownership. I expressed my hesitations~ the 30 year commitment of home ownership~ the ‘if something goes wrong it is totally ON YOU’ aspect of homeownership~~ the flat OUT responsibility of owning a home.
Of course his logic won out…..
So off we went looking for a house that we could make a home. It **felt** like we looked at thousands of houses before we found THE ONE. IN reality is was probably only 50~ 90 houses. When we entered the house that would become our home~ we knew….I mean we REALLY knew…….this was our house.
When our Dear Son was exactly 3 months old~ we moved into the house that remains our home.
SO~~~~ back to gender roles and equality.
I am most fortunate that DH and I balance each other out in an almost miraculous way. Both in an emotional way and also in a skill set way. It is rare in this world to find someone who both **shares** your fundamental ideas of parenting and ALSO more than pulls his weight in taking care of our children and our home. DH is a very handy man~ he is an engineer~ he can repair or rebuild literally ANYthing given the time and money to do so. He has more fundamental skills for repair, maintenance and upkeep of a home than I will ever hope (or want) to have. But when it comes to making the house a home most of that falls to me. Painting, decorating, furniture choosing~ ME. Making sure that we get where we need to be on time~ ME. Removing splinters, dealing with blood and ANYthing related to medical needs~ ME.
SOOOOOOOO~ how do we balance our strengths and teach our children to be responsible and well-rounded people?
When we married my girls were 11 and 9. They learned how to mow lawns, change a flat tire, do laundry, clean a house, cook a meal and drive a standard shift vehicle. Some of these ideas were DH’s~ some were mine. And although at **the time** I am certain that my girls hated mowing the lawn AND doing laundry~ I think they both appreciate having these fundamental skills now that they are grown and have homes of their own.
Hopefully we have given **them** the strength and courage to realize that they do NOT NEED another person to ‘complete’ them. They need not rely on another person to complete the fundamentals of daily living. If they are stranded somewhere~ and the **only** available car is a standard shift~ they will be able to get themselves home safely. I am not sure either of them has ever changed a tire~ but they could if they had to. They cook, they clean and they mow lawns.
So here we are 15 ½ years into marriage and 3 new babies (two living) since then………..and I find myself doing ALL of the laundry~ but I have never mowed the lawn. I find myself dusting and cleaning bathrooms ~ but I have **rarely** used the snow blower or shoveled snow by hand. Although I **do** clean the toilets and change the sheets on every bed once a week~ I did not install the new dishwasher and save us the $150 installation fee.
When I worked full time outside the home~ we pretty much split the cooking duties 50/50~ and always with the rule of he who cooks does not clean up after.
Our 7 year old and 4 year old bus their table after dinner, help unload the dishwasher, pick up their rooms, make their beds.
A couple of months ago I was changing the sheets in the boys room and he was huffing and puffing about not wanting to help me……and when I asked him how he thought his sheets would be changed when he was a grown up~ without blinking an eye he said “but daddy never changes sheets”~ DAMN~ point taken.
Now I am sure my husband knows how to change sheets and do laundry~ in fact after his mother died and he still lived at home with his father my DH did ALL of the housework~ and yet here we are. We have fallen into very traditional gender roles~ despite the fact that we BOTH lived on our own and took care of ourselves before we married~ once we settled into a routine each of us more than willingly gave up the things that we are not so great at and/or just don’t like doing.
When I had a flat tire last month~ I got out of the car and just sort of stood there~~ DH came out~ got right into action and had the spare tire on in record time. When our son needed emergency medical help~ DH just sort of stood there paralyzed~ staring at him~ I went into auto crises mom mode and started barking out orders: YOU~ call 911 NOW. YOU~ help me get him out of the crib.
I guess the point of all of this is that we have a balance~ one that **most** of the time works well. Despite my best ‘I am woman~ hear me ROAR. A woman can do anything a man can do’ beliefs~ I am quite comfortable NOT mowing the lawn, or working on cars, or replacing shingles on the roof. And I am fairly certain DH does not mind NOT doing laundry, cleaning toilets, going to the ER with sick kids~ or cleaning up vomit or blood.
Our children WILL learn how to take care of themselves. They will know how to cook, clean, do laundry, change a tire, mow a lawn.
But they will also BOTH know that it’s ok to call AAA or a good friend when you have a flat tire. We don’t NEED to be able to DO everything for ourselves~ we NEED to be able to problem solve and find a way to get the job done if it happens to be something we are not good at or prefer not to do.
I am off to fold more clothes.
Love and Light ~ Ginger