As the child of a working mother, I never even thought that being a stay at home housewife was an option. Certainly everyone has to work and bring in an income, and everyone has to clean the house and cook dinner now and again. We were a family of five who needed all hands on deck at all times. Dividing up the responsibilities based on outdated gender norms didn’t just seem masochistic, but also impractical. My dad is a good guy who worked hard and did his fair share around the house. I thought that that was normal and how partners managed life together.
It wasn’t until I started dating in my early twenties, and getting into progressively more serious relationships, that I realized this was not necessarily the understanding for many young men. Whether their moms worked outside the home or not, many of them still needed someone to provide balanced meals for them, remind them about a bill that needed to be paid, or do their laundry every now and again. When you love someone, this seems like no big deal. “Just throw your clothes in the washer with mine” seems like a cute thing in the beginning. That is, until you are doing more for them than you are doing for yourself – and when you are subjugating your own career goals for the sake of your partner’s clean underwear.
People in long term relationships have all been guilty of this from time to time. Some may call it sacrifice, or support. Others might say that their partner “needs them”, that “housework just isn’t their thing.” No matter how you explain it or try to make it sound more acceptable to your single friends, there is no doubt that inequality in a relationship causes resentment – and even happy couples harbor a little resentment every now and again. (Admit it, ladies, you do. Stop saying you’re 100% happy all the time because that is a dumb, unhelpful lie.)
But when does the resentment turn into a lifetime of, well, hating your life? In a Valentine’s Day article on Huffington Post Women, writers Robert B. Barr and Jill W. Bley, Ph.D. gave supposedly helpful information about what married women “really want” from their husbands for Valentine’s Day. This list includes things like, “Do the laundry, and do it well.” and “Don’t bother your wife for sex if she doesn’t want it.”
Doesn’t your wife want and more importantly, deserve, that every day? I mean, who are these guys reading HuffPoWomen for Valentine’s tips, anyway? And why did anyone marry them in the first place if they can’t do laundry and hound their partners for sex all the damn time? If Barr and Bley are correct, and all a married woman really wants for Valentine’s Day is to be left alone, then there is probably a bigger issue at hand. Like the fact that these women are married to jerks.
In her 2010 book, The Unfinished Revolution, Kathleen Gerson notes that most women would actually rather get a divorce than be a housewife. While I think this is kind of an offensive notion to women who are truly great and happy stay-at-home moms, it also makes perfect sense to me. As someone who works from home, and ultimately gets sacked with a lot of the day-to-day household responsibilities (mostly because the house is my office, so if it’s dirty, I have to look at it all day), I still raise my hand when I feel like I am doing more than my partner. On the weekends the household, the pets, and much of the burden of maintaining some kind of semblance of adulthood in our lives falls to him so that I can have fun. Because that is what I want. I don’t want to be left alone, I want to cut loose! So that is the deal we’ve made, and with minor jabs and nagging here and there (from both sides), it seems to work for us. And if it didn’t, I’d get out – because I have big, crazy, impractical dreams and I don’t want any one else’s dirty laundry to get in my way.
But he is a different kind of guy than most, and as I mentioned earlier, I have dated plenty of men who simply do not have a clue when it comes to what constitutes as helping out around the house. I even briefly dated a guy who had the same dishes in his sink for three months (out of principle I refused to wash them), and had his dad take care of them when he came to down for a visit. That was a red flag for me to get out, or get sucked in for life. Because most men have not changed. According to Gerson, 70% of men in her study hope to convince their wives to deprioritize their careers and focus on homemaking and raising children. Gross! Convince them how?
I hate this idea that the dude you decide to shack up with secretly has this plan to manipulate you into forgetting about all of your goals and make you his personal assistant. I hate it because I’ve seen it happen, and it sucks, and men who think like that give a bad name to men everywhere. They make single women believe that they need to get all of their partying/dreams/instagramming out of the way now, because they will be too busy clipping their husband’s toenails to do it later. They make relationships look like less fun alternatives to being single (which, yup, they sometimes are), and more like dream crushers and isolated fart bubbles where you have no friends and argue about car insurance with someone who is constantly nagging you for sex. They make women who choose to be in monogamous relationships seem unhappy, when really, they are just working on maintaining the happiness every day – which you have to do in life in order to survive.
The grass is always greener, for single folks and partnered folks alike, but one thing is certain: maintaining your personal happiness is a lot of work, and its much easier to do when it is not wrapped up in someone else’s notion of how you should be spending your days. Whether you have a boo this Valentine’s Day or not, the best part about the whole damn day is that it is yours to do whatever you want with. This is 2013, baby!
I know that men get lazy, and that women can be difficult (dudes, we do everything now, give it a rest), but it seems like we just aren’t meeting eye to eye about the most basic stuff.
So I am going to give you a solid piece of no-fail wisdom. Something Barr and Bley seem to be lacking.
What does your girlfriend/wife really want for Valentine’s Day? Beyonce tickets. They go on sale Monday. If you are single, they also make a great gift for your bestie. Everyone is happy now. You’re welcome.
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