Sunday, October 31, 2010

Gender equality

In college, I studied sociology. And, inevitably, in studying sociology, you study gender roles and household dynamics.  There are various ways a household can be structured (as far as chores etc) and one of those is egalitarian (equal).  Unfortunately, right now, I do not remember the others.  

Needless to say that egalitarian is the one that stuck. I liked that one, one where husband and wife (or partner and partner) shared equally the chore responsibilities of the house.  The inside jobs aren't "women's work" and the outside jobs aren't "men's work" or even vice versa.  They are shared.  The laundry, the dishes, the yard, the trash, the cleaning, all shared.  I liked that theory but was not quite sure how it would actually work in terms of execution.  

Well, I've been married 5 months now, and so far, we seem to run our house in an egalitarian way.  I realize that in coming years, things may pan out differently, but for now, we both cook, we both clean, we both procrastinate against the laundry but do it anyway when there are no underwear or pants left in the drawer.  The church pays for gardeners to do the lawn, but we share picking up dog poop, or weeding, or working in the garden. And I just have to say I really like it. I like the balance. I like knowing that we can share the responsibility and make it nice for the other person without always feeling the pressure of one job being specifically mine or his. 

All of that is really just the foundation or back story so I can say this: despite the balance within our household, cultural norms are really hard to shake.  The other day R did a bunch of cleaning in the kitchen and some laundry too I think, and while I was super appreciative, I couldn't shake the guilty feeling.  

One of the first thoughts that came to mind was, "If I were better at keeping the house clean, he wouldn't have to do that."  Now, keep in mind, we do well at balancing and that's my ideal (while recognizing that for others it's different), and yet the cultural notion that the housework is the woman's job would not leave me alone.  I shared my guilt, and the notion that I knew I didn't need to feel guilty because the dishes and laundry are just as much his responsibility as they are mine.  And he of course reassured me that it wasn't all my responsibility but that we both dirty dishes and clothes and so we both have an obligation to keep them clean.  

I don't think I have a final point per say, other than to say it's complicated and we're learning together. And I'm grateful for a husband who is willing (not by coercion but by choice) to share those responsibilities so it doesn't feel like a constant battle on my side, but instead a regular balancing act on both our parts.

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