“You do not have to provide for your family. And if you did, you would not say it that lightly. You would be ashamed if your husband could not provide enough for you.”
That was my father’s response to my lighthearted assertion that I could not take time off from work because I had to “provide for my family.” My father was making a silly suggestion that I simply act as if I did not have a job and randomly take time off whenever I was inclined. I was not inclined to explain that ::gasp:: my job is a real job and I would like to keep it. It is not the career of my dreams, but it works rather well for now. So I alluded to a verse that my parents had me memorize as a child: “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).
My father was not buying it. No, men are responsible for “providing.” Women are… well, he did not say what women are responsible for. So I jokingly mis-cited the “Proverbs 31 Woman” as having merchant ships and asked him whether he was going to say that my stay-at-home-maker-extrodinaire sister did not provide for her family.
The conversation went away from the topic, but it was a reminder of how differently I was raised. My parents (and their entire community) sincerely believe that men are financially responsible for the family, while women are domestically responsible for the family. And, don’t ask about how one is supposed to clearly separate those, okay?
Actually, do ask. Because that is the best way to understand how I ended up seeing things differently. You simply cannot separate “responsiblity” into neat little chunks. If one insists that wives are to “support” their husbands only through working at home then one nececesarally denegrates work done at home by making it its own category. It does not matter how much we praise the work that women do at home, when we say that domestic work is the ideal way for women to support their family, we end up devaluing both domestic work and women themselves.
My husband’s income is currently higher than mine. But we would both like it if I earned more. My husband does not enjoy the structure of the traditional workplace. I thrive on it. My husband has amazing creative projects to pursue. I.. well… um… uh… I guess that I would read more if given the time.
I want to work both because I like it, and because I want my children to have a father who is actually able to parent. Men who work the sorts of jobs that require “supportive” wives, do not parent. They earn money for their children, they may even show up for ballgames on the weekends, but they do not parent. I want something better for my children. I want them to actually know the fabulous man I married, not some father figure who is distant and lacks life in the ways that matter to children.
I hate the fact that idealization of motherhood and separate spheres for men and women has deprived so many children of real fathers.
Do you think that I am wrong? Is it good for women to pursue their creative projects (including motherhood as a project, as it often is) while men puruse successful carreers which support their families? Or do you agree that something is wrong when we assume that women should be flexible to do as they like while men must follow a certain path or else be labeled lazy?
- June Environment Observation
- Considering My Environment: Drying Hair