Doing things differently since 1984

Have women got it wrong?

This morning was another one of “those mornings”.  My husband hadn’t slept very well.  The kids (both toddler/preschool aged) were both up before I left for work.  As they were both up, they were both happy enough…. as long as Mommy was holding them, or at least around.  But Mommy had to leave.

One of “those mornings” meant I ran out the door, leaving behind my kids screaming and bawling for their Mommy.  Because, although they both love Daddy…. Daddy is not Mommy.

It is this sort of event that has led me to thinking a lot lately about the role of women in our society – how it is, how it was, and how it should be.  Of course, here in the 21st century, it is basically accepted that women are “special, but equal”, being obviously not the “same” as men, but nonetheless equally capable of working, voting, marrying, divorcing, and in all other ways being an independently thinking and acting adult, free to do whatever [legal things] she chooses.

If you rewind through the vast majority of the rest of human history, even leading up to today in other parts of the world, women were and are looked at quite differently.  A comparison could be made to how we view our 16-year-olds today: independent adults in some ways, but still under the umbrella of their parents.  Sure, we let our 16-year-olds have their fair share of responsibility, even hold certain jobs, and any parent or teacher will tell you they are fully capable of independent thoughts and actions… but they’re not quite full-fledged adults.  And, after all, their primary responsibility should be to their studies, so we don’t want to heap too much else on them.

If you substitute “studies” with “child-rearing/housekeeping”, “parents” with “husbands”, and forget the fact that 16-year-olds grow out of their semi-adult status, you have somewhat of an idea of the way women have typically been viewed throughout most of history, in a decent society.  Of course, there were always extenuating circumstances to consider and exceptions to be made, so this is quite generalized.

Every ounce of my upbringing and part in our postmodern Western society tells me that we’ve made improvements when it comes to how we view and treat our women.  And, in fact, I don’t think I would have fared very well as a historical woman, for the following reasons:

1)      I am fiercely independent, and like to go about my own way in everything.

2)      I am not a girly-girl, have absolutely no fashion sense, and only keep up my appearance as much as society forces me to

3)      My manners can often be atrocious

For all these reasons and more, I was quite happy to ride the post-feminist wave throughout my life….. until I had kids.  Now suddenly I’ve got all of these natural impulses coming up that I am having to ignore or even outright go against in my everyday life.  Nothing seems fulfilling or truly joyous except to be with my kids.  I can handle their loudness, their crying, and their demands with a level of patience that no one else has – yet too often someone else has to.

Heck, I even find myself voluntarily plopping myself in the kitchen all the time, when the kids are OK.  I want to make my husband a sandwich.  I want to get those dishes done.  I want to do whatever it takes to make my house a happy home.  If you were around when I was 16, constantly shirking my chores, with no interest in kids, you would know what a turnaround this is.

It’s these natural impulses that make me wonder… are we getting it wrong?  Have us women done ourselves a disfavor in our thirst for independence and respect?  Have we done our children a disfavor?  Is there perhaps a good reason that nearly every society that has existed has put women in a similar home-centered place – a reason that is a bit more complex than, “because the evil men wanted it that way”?

I’m not saying that the answer to those questions is a resounding, “YES!”  I try to avoid as much as possible pretending that I know such answers.

I’ve created a little table to sum up my thoughts:

27 comments on “Have women got it wrong?

  1. rich
    April 10, 2012

    a lot of work went into this. work that only a woman can do.

    • abtwixt
      April 10, 2012

      Haha – a man could do this post, but it would probably end up coming off as offensive 😉

  2. hunterhawke
    April 10, 2012

    This was a refreshing read. I don’t say that as a sexist male. I’m many horrible things – rest assured – but sexist isn’t one of them. 🙂

    My strong feeling is that people should do what naturally makes them feel fulfilled and happy (within the law and reason, of course). If climbing the corporate ladder, chasing a killer career and making a name for yourself in the business world is what fulfills you, then go for it.

    However, if staying home and caring for a family makes you feel accomplished in life, then by all means, women should feel free to do that as well. There’s incredible value in it.

    I’m sorry, but I get a little miffed when I hear/read certain feminists that berate stay-at-home moms for “setting the women’s rights movement back 50 years” or for “bowing to the slavery of a male-dominated world.”

    There was a time when women needed to fight to the system and there are still circumstances where career women need to fight for their equal share of money and respect, don’t get me wrong. But if taking care of your family is what makes you at peace, then it is the right thing to do.

    As for the family dynamic, I’m not sure if its necessary for the woman or the man to stay at home more to care for the children, but I think as long as there is someone who can anchor the family, then it is a benefit. I do believe that our “two working” model isn’t what’s best for the kids or the family as a whole. I’m just not sure how to change that though, as financially it’s not viable for many to make a go of it on a single income basis.

    Ya got me thinking. That’s always a good – but dangerous – thing. 🙂

    • abtwixt
      April 11, 2012

      Thanks for the great comment, hunterhawke, and I’m glad I got you thinking 🙂 I have been finding more and more that freedom can sometimes be a guise for a trap, and I think this is one case. Because a woman “can” do everything, she now is “expected” to do everything. Being nothing more than a wife and mother is hardly a financial option anymore, except to a few. Again, there are pros and cons to this situation, but it nonethless can leave the role of the modern woman in a state of dichotomy. Thanks for your support 🙂

  3. aFrankAngle
    April 11, 2012

    A couple of thoughts cross my mind.

    The era of of Leave it to Beaver has past. What has replaced it is an era of choices – and choices have positives and negatives … but one can’t have all.

    • abtwixt
      April 11, 2012

      I agree completely! A great way to sum it up 🙂 It becomes ironic when one is brought up to think that more choice = better, always, with no negatives to consider.

  4. Randel
    April 11, 2012

    A very interesting post, and one that really cuts to the chase of a major dilemma our society places on women. Having both columns running inside the head must be terrible.

    I do have a question about a term you used: postmodern. What definition do you use? I think of post modern in the sense there is no absolute right or wrong and everything is relative and subjective. Is that it, or something else? The reason I ask is that I think the everything-is-relative-and-subjective viewpoint leads to lots of depression and alienation in society.

    Given your history background, how are you using the idea?

    • abtwixt
      April 11, 2012

      A great question, Randel! In this case I used the term postmodern to mostly mean the actual period of time in which the “postmodern” ideals that you just correctly referred to arose (last half of 20th century), as from a historical perspective “modern” doesn’t actually bring us to present-day. Also, in a lesser way, I wanted to bring up the sentiments of progressivism and turning all the rules on their heads that are associated with postmodern philosophy.

      • Randel
        April 17, 2012

        I thought you might be using it that way. Thank you for the confirmation.

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  6. unfinishedbizness
    April 11, 2012

    I love this post. I also share your sentiments… Last year I worked part time to avoid paying before/after care.. We struggled so badly financially that I couldn’t justify doing it again this year. My daughter misses having me put her on and take her off the bus, and I miss having a clean house and making good dinners every day!

    Thank you for a thought provoking read!

    • abtwixt
      April 12, 2012

      That sounds like a dream come true, and I definitely understand how the financial struggles make it basically unachievable… I guess us chicks will just have to bow to society’s expectations and clone ourselves so that we can be in two places at once 😉 Thanks for your encouragement and understanding!

  7. cynicaldriver
    April 17, 2012

    I love reading things like this, because I often wonder about how society has gotten where it is today. You are pointing to an issue that I see as much larger than just a man/woman thing, it’s a complete shift in societal priorities. Just as with the shift to “educated” and “skilled” trades, we have turned our attention to gaining wealth, rather than happiness and family health.

    What’s worse is that childcare costs have now gotten to the point where it takes a significant portion of that second income. I admire people like you for having the strength to manage it all, because I’m not sure if I could.

    • abtwixt
      April 17, 2012

      Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate that I’m not the only one who thinks about this sort of thing. I agree with you 100%! I think a lot of people know this on some level or another, but it’s a bit of a trap… most households can’t or don’t think they can really get by with LESS money, so they just stay on the hamster wheel.

  8. Barbie
    April 18, 2012

    As much as I did with my kids, when they were little, now 20 & 21, I wish I could have done more, especially when they were first born until they went to school. If I could have stayed at home those first 5 years, I think I would have been happier. I look at their baby pictures now and think “where was I?” I had to work, not much of a choice there if I wanted a roof over our head and food on the table. But at least I was able to do stuff with them – scouts, band, camping, birthday parties, these moments I cherish.
    How many times do you wish your kids would hurry and grow up?? Well don’t because they are little for only a little while. They will be “grown up” the rest of their lives, so enjoy them while they are small, when YOU are their entire world.

    • abtwixt
      April 18, 2012


      I can definitely relate, and I know all too well how little time I have left with them in this precious early stage of their lives. It seems that sometimes regret is unavoidable. :-/ Thank you for your comment!

  9. Ron James
    April 26, 2012

    Like your post. Obviously we agree

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  11. petalsandsepals
    October 18, 2012


    • abtwixt
      October 18, 2012

      Thanks for the comment and the thoughts! Your suggestion actually lines up with the solution that surveys have suggested is actually the most desirable for women — part time work. Whether or not this is the “happy medium” that everyone seeks remains to be decided, but it certainly backs up your thoughts 🙂

  12. mostlysanemamas
    October 18, 2012

    I love this post! I was at home full time for the first four years of my daughter’s life, but by the time my son was 1.5 I was starting to miss working and the freedom associated. Even working two days a week, with my children cared for ONLY by family members or close friends (or in school part of the day now), I still feel guilty leaving them. You’re absolutely correct, there is no resounding answer. Part time work is a happier medium, but there still is no perfect answer for everyone.

    • abtwixt
      October 18, 2012

      Thank you for your comment and insight! I have a couple of years until my kids are in school (more than that if we decide to have another), and I have often considered going back to work when that happens. Then again, I would hate to send my kids to an after-school program instead of being home when the bus drops everyone off. In this present day where women can “have it all”, I think sometimes we want more than we can fit on our plate!

  13. thesavvyaviatrix
    October 19, 2012

    This post contains so much of what I’m thinking about right now. I’m a female airline pilot married to another airline pilot. I never wanted to have kids, so it didn’t matter that we are both gone all the time. But now we’ve changed our minds. A family seems so much more fulfilling than spending three nights a week in a hotel.

    • abtwixt
      October 20, 2012

      Thanks for you comment and your thoughts! I applaud you for thinking this all through ahead of time… I find it shocking how few people seem to — including myself, to an extent. The choice is not easy, and I’d not dare tell you which choice is “right”, or that there is a “right” choice, as I think it differs for everyone. Good luck, and I hope you find happiness in whatever you do 🙂

  14. PhotoMom
    October 23, 2012

    Great post! I think one thing that has happened is that due to the changes in society/family values/family roles, relationships, the economy etc many women have no choice anymore, and absolutely have to work outside the home. Though my mom was a stay at home mom, she drilled it into my sisters and me to “get an education/skill and be able to take care of yourself” which I will do the same for my daughter.
    I loved having a mom who was able to stay home and I want to be able to do the things she was able to do (be with us all day during the summer, take us to school etc) but I absolutely have to work. Thankfully for women who must bring in income, we can work from home so that helps some us us be able to fulfill the role of staying at home, yet still bring in income.

    • abtwixt
      October 26, 2012

      Thank you for the comment — Very well said! This is exactly where I have the question, when “women’s choice” to be able to work becomes “women not having a choice” to not work. This is one of those problems to which there is no realistic solution that I can see, and in reality maybe it’s more “different” than “bad”. It’s hard to say. For me, I too had a stay-at-home mom that greatly enriched me and my brother’s lives with that choice, and I am very grateful to have a shot at doing the same.

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