Okay, so before you pull out your high-tech pitch forks, hear me out. Yes, women should have the same rights as men, which includes being able to vote, own property, open bank accounts, and live their lives independently from any man (father, brother, or husband) if that’s what those women want. And the women’s suffrage movement and early feminist movements have done good things for women.
The problem today is that too many women have been told that in order to be a strong, independent, and fulfilled women they must fight any norms that make a woman seem subservient to a man. As a result, the post-modern American wife (in a heterosexual relationship) must insist in a marriage in which everything is 50/50 and is unwilling to take care of her husband.
Marriage for most in America is a choice. Arranged marriages are rare, and it’s easier than ever to get divorced, so if an American woman is married, it’s because she would rather be married than not (although, obviously, there are pros, cons, and nuances to every marriage).
So, as a married woman, this is what I think this generation of wives need to know about marriage:
1. Marriage shouldn’t be based on a 50/50 partnership, it’s a 100/100 relationship.
Gone are the days of men bringing the sole breadwinners and women being homemakers in heels. Today both spouses or sometimes just the woman works, and the bread better be gluten-free and organic. And that’s okay. Each married couple should figure out what work/home arrangement works best for them and know that their situation may change over time.
What concerns me is when some married women insist that the household responsibilities must be evenly divided between the two partners because men and women are equal. From what I’ve seen, this can strain relationships because the woman usually becomes nitpicking and even domineering when her husband doesn’t do his fair share of the housework. It also encourages an attitude in which one spouse is unwilling to go above what the other spouse is willing to do in the marriage.
So instead of both husband and wife thinking about how they can contribute to their household and be generous to one another, they start keeping score. And if the score isn’t even, the woman is entitled to make it an issue. Now obviously if your husband or wife needs help or support, you should give it to them not because you’re trying to even the score but because you love them and want them to succeed.
That being said, what you’re willing to do for your spouse should not be contingent on what they are willing or able to do for you. Outside of an abusive or clearly exploitative relationship, husbands and wives should strive to make their spouses happy as much as they are able while recognizing that different people have different gifts, talents, and abilities. If both people in a marriage contribute to the household in the ways in which they are able with an attitude of generosity towards their spouse, they will have a happier home than if someone were seeing their spouse’s dereliction of chore duty as an affront to gender equality.
2. Taking care of a man is not demeaning for a woman.
Do you remember that Campbell’s soup ad in which a man was sick so he asked his wife to make him soup like his mom used to, and she told him that he better call his mom for that? While some may have found that ad funny, I think it’s a reflection of a pathetic, post-modern interpretation of what it is to be a woman. And this attitude isn’t isolated to Campbell’s ad campaign; it’s also evident in wives being unwilling to make their husbands sandwiches or get them a drink from the kitchen.
Ladies, preparing something in the kitchen for a man does not demean you as a woman. In fact, being able to take care of your loved ones is one of the most beautiful aspects of femininity. This doesn’t mean that every woman has to be a gourmet chef or that men can’t also take on the culinary responsibilities in a household. It does mean, however, that some women’s unwillingness to provide for the basic needs of their husbands because they think it’s oppressive is the actual assault on womanhood.
Obviously, a woman’s purpose is not to wait on her husband constantly, and men should be polite and gracious when their wives do take care of them. But just because our grandparents went too far in one direction last century doesn’t mean that the correct response is go too far in the other direction this century.
Cooking for my husband is not a way for him to dominate me. On the contrary, I run that part of our household, and it’s a way for me to love my husband. I like making him healthy, home-made meals he enjoys, and that doesn’t take away from my personal or professional accomplishments. In fact, I think the women most worthy of our admiration are the ones who are able to be independent and successful outside the home while being nurturing and taking care of their loved ones at home.
That’s going to look different for different women because we vary in how feminine (and masculine) we are, which is fine. None of us should deny our husbands, wives, and families the better parts of these natures because we think serving others is demeaning. I believe that in marriage husbands and wives should be willing to serve each other; actually, they should spoil each other! It doesn’t have to take the form of the wife making sandwiches, but whatever it is, she should do it with a cheerful, generous spirit.
We have a responsibility to the women who come after us to get this right. The women before us fought to get us an amazing amount of freedom we seem to take for granted today. Let us not forget how far we’ve come while we continue to work on problems, most of which are less significant in comparison. And we don’t need to belittle our husbands or deny our feminine natures in the process.
So, let’s focus more on developing the beautiful and strong aspects of our womanhood, even if that means burning some dinners in the process, and focus less on burning our bras in defiance of a system that has already recognized our rights. As a married woman, I would say it’s far more important to take responsibility for my marriage and my household than to bring gender politics into my home. What’s more, women’s rights used to be about giving women freedom, not forcing them into an attitude of activism that denies the best parts of their feminine nature.
And here’s a secret for young women with husbands. The more respected and taken care of your husband feels (obviously in a healthy way), the more he will feel like a man, and the more he will want to tend to your needs and desires. How’s that not a win-win situation?
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