Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Little Woman

We mark life based not upon the date but your standing in life.

Are you single or married? Home owner or renter? Parent or childless? Each time you pass from one to the other society says that you must don a certain hat, fill a certain shoe, and basically conform to their own stereotype to fill that mold.

There was so much focus on not wearing the veil that turns you into THE BRIDE upon getting engaged and planning the wedding. It seems like every wedding blog has to at least have an article once a year about how to not be the dreaded zilla. Women can never be right. Too opinionated you're bridezilla, not opinionated enough you don't take marriage seriously.

It was hard enough striking the right balance for the year or so we were engaged. Managing to talk about the wedding just enough so that I didn't bore people but they also didn't feel left out. Only in all that time I never really stopped and thought about just how I pictured becoming THE WIFE would go.

Overall our life didn't change much once the wedding was over. We already lived together, we were both working at the time of the wedding, and had our routines down pretty well. But something was going to work on my brain, slowly nibbling away and it wasn't til 6 months in I even began to realize it.
Just because I am a wife now I must suddenly hold myself to higher standards. When you're single doing the laundry or having a week of home cooked meals is almost something worth celebrating.

Once that ring goes on society expects you to keep the house miraculously clean, create 5 star dishes in under 30 minutes everyday, hold down a high paying job and love every second of it. Because after all you're a woman and that's just what you're expected to do.

Too bad no human being can be this perfect all the time (even robots have down time). And mentally I know and realize this, but intrinsically society just keeps hammering away that you must be this, this, and this. And if you aren't then you are worthless. You're a horrible person to even fail for one second.

These thoughts have been slowly invading my mind. Used to be if I failed at dinner, something burned or wasn't cooperating properly, no big deal. I'd just improvise, or fall back on hot dogs.

Now I get mad. Mad at myself for screwing up something so simple that anyone can do, mad at the fact that I have to be perfect all the time, and really "about ready to kick it across the room" mad at whatever just turned into a black crust.

I'm also sick and tired of being everyones cruise director. Why is it that women must instantly become the CEO and Director of their household? Every day it is my job to not only plan what dinner we'd have but to also prepare everything the night or two before and know what we're out of when going grocery shopping.

Then there's entertainment. I must think of not only how to keep myself entertained but also my husband and plan out our weekends. Is it any wonder that it generally devolves to me running off to the kitchen table canvas in hand for a few hours and leaving him to his video games?

So not only must I create and totally plan delectable meals that must be perfect at all times, I must also dictate everything in our lives and plan when we should have fun, what type of fun we should have, and just how much fun was had.

Oh and make sure to do all that while also holding down a full time job, because only lazy women stay at home nowadays. Remember you can have it all, as long as you plan on having a heart attack by the age of 43 from all the stress of trying your damnedest to be perfect and keep 30 plates spinning in the air.

Most people probably want to put the blame on the husband, after all he's the second half of the duo. But I cannot fault mine (okay aside from me having to plan everything, this is what happens when parents never let their children make their own decisions. They suddenly can't do it as adults, what a shocker!). He helps cook by making sides and he has a few certain things he cleans.

No this pressure to be perfect to fit in comes mostly from one big source of estrogen and cold shoulders: other women. We are constantly trying to out do each other. Our house must be cleaner than hers, our children fluent in three languages, our taco salad miles beyond hers.

It's gotten so much worse thanks to the 24/7 peep show into other peoples lives. I can't count the number of times I've seen envy posts, people saying they wish they had enough time/money/talent to do something they saw someone else do. In just a few steps that little thing only a few people do (like say making your own ketchup) turns into a requirement of daily life and soon people are scoffing at you if you don't spend hours every month making and bottling your own ketchup. After all they're just thinking of your family and how much your squandering their lives by being selfish enough to not devote your worthless time making ketchup.

I don't know if I'll ever really be able to fully reconcile this insane push to just be perfect in everything I do, because everything I can do is worthless anyway. But I do know that just ignoring the problem because it affects everyone, or is anti feminist or anything else like that is just going to make it worse.

It seems like no one ever wants to ask the hard questions. Just why are women expected to be perfect while men can just float through life? Why is it that everything to maintain a household falls under women's duties even to this day? How come you never see a commercial for a cleaning product directed towards a man? Why are men praised for trying their hand at cooking/playing with the kids once a month but a woman is just expected to do it even if they both work the same hours?

We really haven't come that far from the 50's after all.


Leslie said...

You sure have a way with putting things out there for people to think about, but I totally agree. I don't try to be perfect, but its always me that has to do all the planning and cooking and nothing bothers me more than Brian asking while we're at the store whether we have this or that at home. Like I take a complete inventory before I leave home!

And, although we'd lived together for quite a while before marriage, a lot of it did come on after the the vows were said.

DeadmansLog said...

Number one, take a deep breath -- this new requirement of 'perfection' is perception more than fact, though I think you realize that.

I'm already a morbid Martha Stewart, so I don't think my wedding is going to change me that much. I'm going to be just as much of a kitchen nerd next November as I am now... that's just who I am. I could care less if people expect me to dust more often than I used to.

But I have noticed that marriage turns otherwise sane women into happy (?) little homemakers that they never were before the vows.

Just last weekend I went to see some friends who I haven't visited at home since before their wedding. Wow what a difference! Gone are the days of mismatched furniture and clothes hanging to dry in the living room, with the cat food sitting wherever it is most convenient. Now everything is like a perfect little model home.

But you know what? That's the expectation she's allowing to be set for her. If she wants to play wife, fine. There are plenty of June Cleaver examples out there to follow. But if you want to just keep living your life like you always have, not worrying about if you made dinner from scratch... well, the world will come around and stop making demands of you in pretty short order.

:) Maybe I just don't care much to let society have control over me, but that's how I feel about it all.

Linda said...

Wow, I could have written this! I get so mad when a dish I make turns out wrong. And why? Because I'm not perfect little homemaker. Tai doesn't really care unless it's inedible.
I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of getting it right. When I can take a picture of a meal I made and it was yummy, I feel like I accomplished something. Probably cause I'm not accomplishing a whole lot anywhere else!

Ashley said...

the thing that strikes me as funny about this post is I can't relate at all!! I mean, I completely agree that I see this sort of attitude all over and many people do feel this way, but me? no! the only thing i feel guilty abuot is when i don't feel like we've been doing things fairly... if he's cleaning more or something.

i dunno.. i guess i just subscribe to the attitude that a marriage is a partnership - a team. I'll never be convinced that i should feel guilty when i only cook 3 times a week. or the laundry is not only filling the hamper, but surrounding it on the floor.

i guess i've never wanted to be a domestic goddess... yes that is probably why no one can convince me that I should feel guilty. well, and maybe because my dad was so lazy at home that I don't think I ever saw him fill his on glass. Ever. Ahha, I'm not going to be THAT wife.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of these expectations are because of the insecurities we have as women. I've felt the pressure lately - which is why I don't subscribe to home/clothes/design/etc. inspiration blogs. Sure, I'd love my house to be perfect, but if it means that I can sleep for an hour more instead of having a sparkling clean house anyone can guess which one I would pick.

I think that one should do whatever is good for themselves and their spouse and it shouldn't matter what other people think. If you do what is good for you, all other women will wonder why you're so content and less stressed despite having a non perfect house. ;)

Chesney said...

Ha, looks like I'm not the perfect wife after all! (Thank Goodness)! :)

Tara said...

Interesting post. I completely see where you are coming from. And I do think that since the wedding I have felt a pressure to "do more" for our home even though we already lived together... mostly in terms of trying to have it be more "stylish" or something. I hate to clean and like to cook so we split that kinds of stuff. And we both can't stand how advertising depicts those traditional roles... like every wife/mother gets so excited over cleaning products or how a husband drools over a pizza delivery or zones out during sports... they drive us crazy!

Give yourself some breathing room. Easier said than done- I know. We are trying taking turns for planning the weekend activities so it doesn't become a one person responsibility. And we take turns covering dinner as well. Don't take it all on youself!

I think "roles" do shift a bit after the wedding. And it take a bit of conscious planning to keep from falling into stereotypes of those roles.

professional daydreamer said...

i feel a little worried when people start throwing around examples of happy homemaker transformations because they just aren't going to happen for a lot of people, maybe not even for most people. still, some people want to believe they'll change and sign up for something they can't tolerate long-term. case in point: my fiance's first wife. she expected marriage to be transformative and change her into her mom. it wasn't. it didn't. she then felt like a failure for not naturally wanting to do the usual womanly things *and* wouldn't let him step in to help with stuff he was actually better at and enjoyed, like cooking. if couples could just universally ignore established gender roles and do whatever causes the least conflict or resentment and still gets stuff done, we'd probably be better off overall.