OK, before you label me a misandrist (which means man-hater, by the way. I just learned this word and wanted to use it) and femi-nazi, I want to explain that this post is not a criticism of my husband or men in general. It is more a comment on societal expectations...
When I first got married, my mother made a lot of comments that indicated her opinions of a wife's duties (I meant housewifely duties. Get your mind out of the gutter, people!). Despite working full-time while Bil finished his degree, my mother expected me to do all the cooking, cleaning, laundry all while requesting no help from my husband, who happened to eat, wear clothes and make at least as much of a mess in the apartment as I did. When I talked to her on the phone one Saturday, she asked me why I was reading instead of doing laundry. After informing her that Bil was doing the laundry that week, the phone went silent. One Saturday when she and I went to a craft fair, Bil made dinner for us all and my mother about had a stroke, she was so impressed.
He made a pasta dish with chicken that was delicious, he didn't sculpt a masterpiece. Now, don't get me wrong, I do really appreciate it when my husband cooks or does any other household chore--he is a very agreeable man who willingly helps whenever I ask--what got me was my mother's reaction. She could not get over the fact that he cooked a meal for me. Never mind that I cook for him nightly. Have I ever gotten praise from her for that? Oh, no. Of course not, because it is my job. But just because he happens to be a man, all of a sudden my husband cooking dinner is worthy of a neighborhood parade. And my mother is not the only woman to swoon when she discovers my husband occasionally cooks for me. Yet, none of these women have ever passed comment on my many, many, many meals for him.
I know my mom comes from a different generation and all us kids would have had a stroke along with her had my father ever willingly plunged his hands in dishwater. Things were different then, but what interests me is that she is not the only woman out there (or man, for that matter) who deep down has much lower standards for men than for women. I mean, when was the last time someone expressed surprise that a mother spent all day Saturday at the park with her kids? Yet, get a father out there playing with his kids and people will ooh and ahh over what a great dad he is.
I have friends who routinely comment on how great it is that I have a husband who every so often will load and/or unload the dishwasher, who will sometimes even take out the garbage without being reminded. When was the last time Bil's friends told him how lucky he is that his wife does his laundry? Cooks his meals? Even makes his doctor's appointments? For that matter, I would probably think my mother or a friend were crazy if she gave me praise for a floor well-swept or for keeping the house clean.
It makes me think of my wonderfully funny sister. When I was in labor with Danny, she was my birthing coach, along with Bil. At one point, Bil started rubbing my shoulders in an attempt to lessen the pain (yeah, I know kind of like trying to stop Hurricane Katrina with a couple of sandbags, but he tried). When the nurse entered the room, she exclaimed, almost giddily, "Oh, how sweet. Your husband is so wonderful!!"
My sister glared at her and said, "That's the least he can do. She is the one in all the pain, after all! The one doing all the real work!" I loved that she said this, because now when I remember it and all the agony that was still awaiting me, I wonder why no one made that big of a deal over the labor and childbirth. I mean, really, don't you think each and every woman who has ever birthed a baby should receive a parade or diamonds, or heck, even some really decadent chocolate treat? Seriously. Where is the equity here? All a man has to do to impress a lady is rub his wife's back (and yes, I know it was a totally altruistic backrub, since Bil knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this particular massage was not going to earn him any favors, if you know what I mean), but a woman could push 8 pounds of writhing baby from her exhausted and pain-racked body and no one bats an eyelash.
What is up with that?