Families are defined in many different ways these days. Blended families, nuclear families, traditional families, same sex couple families, friend families and so on. In fact, pretty much anyone that lives with kids or pets or within the habitat of caring roles can be defined as a family.
But there was a time when a ‘family’ was defined as the stay at home mom, the working dad, and the ‘should be seen but never heard’ kids. A time when a woman had one responsibility. To take care of her family and make sure that her husband felt like a king. To look good, cook well, clean to perfection, and take on the burdens of raising those perfectly coiffed, well behaved children.
Blame it on women’s lib or that women got sick of making sure that the husband was first and she was last, but times have definitely changed. Moms are raising kids on their own, holding down higher powered careers than their husbands, and demanding the respect they deserve. Women are more and more a driving force in the corporate world and standing head to head with men.
But does that change when we decide to stay home with our kids? When we are no longer paid in real spendable dollars, but hugs and kisses. Do we lose our credibility as educated, modern women in order to take care of our families?
When I started staying home, I stilled viewed my husband and I as equals. I had a definite added value that I may not get a paycheck for, but is just as valuable as anything that could be bought with that money! After all, before I stayed home with our kids, I had an education and a ‘life’ that included travel, friends and options on what I could do with my life.
I chose to stay home and be the sole caretaker during the day for my family. My husband chose to shoulder the extra responsibility of being able to financially support that lifestyle as well. An equal decision, matched by mutual respect and a desire to have this kind of a family.
But as the months have turned to years and one daughter has become three, I wonder if it is unrealistic for a me to think I am equal to my working husband. If, indeed, the 1950’s still exist on some level and, no matter how evolved women become “out there”, I will always be “just a mom”?
And I wonder, have the expectations of men towards their stay at home wives evolved as much as we think they have?
Or is it pre-programmed in them that even if we did have a self sustaining life before children and had that career that they bragged about when we first met, do we automatically revert to that 50’s housewife in their minds when we decide to give up the career to stay home with the kids?
This is ‘the dream’ for both my husband and I. To have a more ‘traditional’ family where I can stay home and he supports the family. And, as I said, when we started this journey, there seemed to be a more level playing field. But as time has gone on, my role certainly seems to be falling more in the “make everything perfect at home so that he can come home and not have stress added to his day” with whiny kids, a messy house or personal issues I might be having.
He never comes out and said that is what he wants, but I can tell, at least in his mind, that the harder he works and the more demanding his clients are, the more he wants to come home, put his feet up and not be bothered with menial home life tasks.
Now don’t get me wrong, this man is as far from lazy as you can get. He has an acre of land he mainly takes care of, has a house he is renovating room by room, and is still working 50+ hours a week. Plus he gets down and plays with his kids nightly.
But there are some comments sneaking in about how putting the kids to bed is not ‘his’ job and when the house is not clean, there is definitely an air of frustration in his mood. And if dinner is not ready I know he feels like I have wasted time during the day… most likely blogging.
And I hear the remarks when he thinks I am not paying attention about how he is tired of me complaining about my day and how hard it is to take care of the kids. After all, he is the one who got up and went to work that day! How hard could I possibly have it at home?
Now, I don’t think he really thinks I am lazy or that I have the easiest job in the world, I really don’t. But I do wonder if his thinking is just the 1950’s working husband coming out in him? After all, wouldn’t we all want a sparkling clean house, a warm home cooked meal, and our kids quiet and in bed so that we could spend the evening relaxing and actually hearing the shows we want to watch?
I know that when I get my sister wife, those will be my requirements.
But I still want to feel as important as I was then I had a career and the big paycheck. I still want the accolades and the understanding when I have had a bad day. I still want to feel like I matter too. And that I did not lose my importance and credibility because I lost the dollar signs.
I find myself doing it too, though. Discounting my bad days and my moods in order to let him deal with his. And I do run around trying to make the house nice when I know he is on his way home. I fail… but I try. And if dinner is not ready when he walks in, I feel bad about it and apologize. Even when he says it is no big deal, I still feel awful and wish I had planned better so he could have a better homecoming.
So have we really evolved? Has the 1950’s housewife really given in to the evolution of the roles of women and how men relate to them? Or in the relationship of the stay at home mom vs the working dad, will there always be that inbred element that the one that earns the paycheck is the most ‘valuable’ adult in the family?
And if that is so, and we all know it deep down, under the politically correct, pre-programmed answers, then why do we continue to talk as though things have changed?
I suppose, in the end, it really does not matter. We all do what we do to make things work within our households. But it is an interesting question: whether June Cleaver has really evolved into an equal match for the almighty buck.
And whether there will ever be a clear winner in the fight for equal rights between the stay at home mom and the working dad?