Marriage made me a hypocrite. Motherhood has made me such an even bigger one, I’ve turned into a hippo-crite (get it?! Because hippos are huuuge?). I’ve always been of the I-am-woman-hear-me-roar variety. I used to be quite proud of myself when I could shovel six feet of snow off the roof of my car in the winter, or handle the creepy guy who always said something to me on the walk home from work (naiveté also works wonders sometimes, but still). I liked that I was quite capable of hefting my own Christmas tree up six flights of stairs to my apartment, thankyouverymuch, or putting together all that IKEA furniture in record time. I was independent, and on my own, and working very had to conquer my chunk of the world.
And then I got married, and forgot how to take out the trash.
As I type this, David is working outside in the heat (90 degrees, according to the computer on which I’m working while sitting, on the couch, in the air conditioning). He’s been busting his you-know-what (if you don’t know, you’re not old enough to be reading blogs, kid) redoing our front porch. In our ongoing Extreme Makeover, Yard Edition, we’ve said “Peace out” to the cracked 70s-era tile that was falling off our porch and are busy replacing it with oh-so-pretty bricks and pavers, courtesy of about 50 trips to Lowe’s.
Actually, let me be more specific. David is the one doing all of the work–all of the gluing, all of the sanding, absolutely all of the hefting of large, heavy stones–while I, today, have cleaned the kitchen, taken the girls swimming, made lunch, gone grocery shopping. In a nutshell, I’ve done all the girl work, while David does the boy work.
What happened to me? I’m perfectly capable of completing the same tasks as David right now. Granted, it would take me three times as long because those pavers look heavy, but I could do it. If I were on my own I’d do it. So why is it that because David’s around, it’s assumed he does all the heavy lifting, literal and otherwise? Yes, I know the girls’ schedules better than he does, but it’s really not that complicated. And he could totally run to the grocery store, even though the trip would take him twice as long and he’d end up calling me every two minutes because Wegman’s hides the peanut butter so deep in the store you need a special password and a bribe just to find the correct aisle. But we’ve settled into the expected jobs, and I’m not a fan.
I remember talking with my friend Amy one day after she’d been married for about a year, and I’ll never forget her telling me, “I was on my own for thirteen years before I married Tom. So how is it that all of a sudden I can’t replace a light bulb myself?” It’s so easy to shift into the gender roles, and I’m frustrated. As hard as it is to actually do, I think it’s important to break away from these expectations.
SK looked at me the other day–it was a weekday, so she and I and Quinn were eating lunch while David was working for the man (or is he the man? At what point do you become what you’ve fought against?) and wearing his ties and eating out while we resigned ourselves to PB&J and Pirate’s Booty–and she asked me why girls don’t work. Gngh. The next day, Saoirse told David she wants to be a boy when she grows up, so he’s started coaching her on all the jobs and sports and skills she can do just as much (or if not better, because we are roaring women and all) as any boy. Of course, David’s pretty confident that SK could be the first female kicker for the Fighting Irish, so he’s not bluffing with this stuff. When we drive as a family together, we’re both adamant about taking turns in the driver’s seat because we don’t want to be that family where the dude always drives (well, that, and we both really like to drive). I’ve turned into a master trash take-outer after all. The other week, I was cleaning the bathroom, and Saoirse walked up to me and said, “No, Mom, you can’t clean the toilet. That’s Daddy’s job.” We’re trying.
But I still feel like I’m fighting a losing battle with this gender role stuff. It’s just so easy to assume that David’s going to clean out the gutters while I vacuum the playroom. He started cutting the grass every week once we had SK and I became Mama Milk Jugs, and I was happy that I could even remember to turn the lawn mower on the other day. But especially with me not working, we want the girls to know their world doesn’t have to be limited. We want them to know that Mom made the choice to ditch out of her career, and that raising them is just as important a job as any (and one that David wouldn’t mind doing, but haha, I made less money!). SK enters school this year. The world of princesses and dressing up and glitter nail polish awaits–and I am so not ready for it–which is why I think I’m a little concerned. That, and I’m really starting to feel guilty that David’s out there sweating so much.
But the porch looks great. My husband’s got a heckuva lot more patience than I, and it’s showing. So maybe I should just see us as choosing projects and “jobs” that work with our personalities and interests, and maybe not think of our family life as one huge reflection of the sexism of modern society. I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m hauling two kids through the grocery store in search of the peanut butter.