Doing things differently since 1984
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: