My mother said that we enabled them, the men and the children, to be so selfish and helpless. And maybe it is true, in a way. But the truth is that the world shifted gears before we had time to engage in that momentum. We were still being taught by our mothers how to be a good woman, to stay home, take care of all the domestic duties – not limited to, but including the child rearing, shopping, laundry, housecleaning and cooking. And then we were tossed into the turning of time and a new dimension, all the while holding onto the only life that we knew. We grabbed our aprons on the way out the door and stuffed them in our pockets, a security blanket of sorts, and headed into the working world of men.
We women, we found that we did like it out there. There was more opportunity for socializing, being creative, utilizing our innate skill for organization and industriousness, and it was a lot more fulfilling than wiping up other people’s messes and being taken for granted; left home to look pretty while serving up a dinner, then listening to their days while gracefully consoling the child tugging at our hems.
The only problem was that when we walked out the door, all those domestic duties still awaited us when we got home.
The women that I work with remind me of this plight that women have gotten into. Most of them hold down full time jobs and are still expected to tend to the domestic duties at home with little to know help from their husbands.
I guess that if one were to look back in history to the turning point that set women free of their domestic bondage, one would find that it was World War II that opened the door. With the shortage of men, women were needed to do the men’s jobs.
The women stepped out of their boxes and became the Rosie Riveters and did all the things that they had never had to do before when the men were there to do it. They were empowered beyond their beliefs. Not only were they out doing things that they never believed they could or should do, but they were doing things that the men never believed the women could do.
And in that same aspect, they found a new prison; that catch 22 of getting to step out into the world, but always still being responsible for all of the things that they had done before.
They were dire circumstances that allowed the women to step into the man’s world. Believe me, the men were not there holding the door, ready to empower their wives. No, they were desperately needed, so the world bent the rules. And women, well, they are inherently ready to help, to aid, to comfort and like chameleons, they change their color to fit the environment or the situation.
The problem with the end result is that once the war was over and the men came home, not only the men, but also the women saw that they could go out into the world and work and make money, too. So they did.
And now, the majority of females works or has worked outside the home. And in the same breath, the majority of them are still carrying the burdens that used to be their only responsibility before they entered the working world.
In most situations, no war or desperate situation has come along, leaving the men to fend for themselves, to force them to jump in there and take over the responsibilities that the women used to do. So the women continue on.
“We are women, hear me roar!” “We can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man.” And many other song lyrics or ad slogans were born. Women’s Rights were established. And women began to compete for the same jobs that men held.
I guess my question is, what were we trying to prove. Most of us have held onto all of the domestic duties, afraid to share for fear it won’t get done the way we like it done, or for fear of the rejection we might experience if we were to ask for help.
Tonight a male friend of the family whom I will call Jay stopped in. We sat at the bar in the kitchen and chatted. During our conversation, my husband, Mike, a local contractor in our small town, asked me to edit a contract that I had helped him with previously. I asked why he couldn’t do it and his response was, “I saw how hard it was for you to get these things where you wanted them.” And he pointed to the bullets and indentations that I had made.
I chuckled and said, “So, if it was hard for me to do, you were going to leave it for me once again?”
He and our friend laughed guiltily, and Jay added, “Yeah, my wife had a meeting to go to tonight to try to win a college grant for our daughter. Before she left, she asked me if she told me how to put some clothes in the washer, did I think I could do it. I
told her – no!”
I sat with my jaw on the counter. How could he do that to her? Not only had he made her attend the meeting alone, but he was also willing to leave the work for her when she returned home. It was then that I remembered that one could only be a victim if one takes on that role. So my next question to myself was, how could she let him get away with that? She goes to work every day, too.
After Jay left, I decided to head to my computer to work on some writing. Writing is the one thing that gives me life and leaves me feeling fulfilled. But with a full time job and all the domestic duties of a home and one child left to leave the nest, time isn’t very plentiful. There beside my computer lay the contract that my husband needed edited with its pink highlights depicting the changes needed. I reached for it, as an invisible hand from inside myself slapped my wrist and the voice in my head said, “Don’t you dare!”
I sat down at my computer with the resolution that I could not and would not live resentful of my lack of time for me.
In the same way that I felt my friend’s wife should force her husband to learn to help with laundry, I decided that my husband should learn to maneuver his way around a word processing program (which would free up a little time for me.)
I have to admit, there was this part of me that wanted to do it for him. It felt good to have him look to me; he’d be grateful for my doing it for him. I’d feel powerful and important. But all of that – that was the voice that keeps women tied to that need for man’s recognition and in turn, robs them of their time and freedom and leaves them slaving away for something that shouldn’t be bought with jumping through hoops and running one’s self into the ground.
When my husband came into my studio, picked up his contract and held it out to me with his baby blue eyes looking at me with that “Please?” I mentally threw back my shoulders, took a deep breath, and said in a matter-of-fact tone, “I think you should work on it, and if you have problems, just let me know and I’ll help you.”
He hesitated for just a moment, then said, “Okay.” He’s been in “male empowerment” training for some time now, so knew better than to ask again.
Sometimes it would be easier to just do it myself or not ask for help, but in empowering him to learn new tasks, I enjoy freeing myself of all that resentment that women naturally harbor toward men for all the imprisoning they do of themselves.
I’ve realized that as long as I am willing to do everything for my husband and/or my children, there’s no reason for them to do it themselves. So tomorrow, while I am at work, my husband will be sitting here at my computer, cursing and swearing, just like I am sure
Rosie the Riveter did (under her ladylike breath), as she learned her new task. He will be empowered just as women were empowered by their struggles to learn and do new things. And I, well, that is one less chore that will be awaiting me when I get home.
P.S. In our friend’s defense, he later told me that he went home that night, folded laundry, swept the kitchen and washed the dishes.