“Mommy, why do you have to work so hard?”
“What do to mean?”
Today had started off relatively slow and relaxed. At least I thought it had. All I had done since the kids had gotten up was strip their beds and washed their sheets, make breakfast, clean up from breakfast, put the sheets in the dryer, fill up the water table and kiddie pool for them, change two poopie diapers, fix lunch, clean up after lunch, read a couple of books for Moses and then put him down for a nap.
As I was taking a shower while Josie was also “resting”, I had actually thought that it has been a nice, quiet morning before a busy afternoon of swim lessons and physical therapy and knowing that I was on my own with the kids for the evening while Tyson was at a meeting.
So when Josie asked me that question as we were laying in my bed chatting a little while later, I was genuinely confused where it was coming from and asked her what she meant.
She said to me, “Why do you always have to work so hard at home and at your job? …You need someone to help you.”
“Someone like who?”
I smiled at her and told her that I worked hard because I wanted to do a good job at home and at my work. Because I had things that I was responsible for doing, and because if I didn’t do them, then they wouldn’t get done. I also told her that I did have people that helped me, but there were some things that were just my job to do.
I don’t identify as a feminist, but I think that’s because I never saw myself as unequal to my male counterparts. There was never anything that I aspired to be that my gender would hinder my chances. However, I’m also not blind to the fact that there are political, economic, and social inequalities based on gender that do exist.
Marriage has opened my eyes to that more than anything.
The “traditional” roles of marriage are largely outdated. The idea that the man is responsible for working and the woman is in charge of all the things at home applies to fewer and fewer families today. (And God knows that the idea that “children should be seen but not heard” is dead and gone.)
Thankfully, my marriage has more or less been one in which my husband and I have our fair share of duties. At the same time, we both acknowledge that I do more on a day-to-day basis around the house, and, as I once told him, I’m okay with that because I take pride in making sure that my family has a clean house, food in the fridge and on the table, etc.
I’m also very much aware that I assumed those responsibilities because that’s what my mom did for her family, and it’s what her mom did for hers. I’m sure Tyson didn’t question it because it’s what his mom did for her family and what her mom did for hers.
The difference between our moms and me is that other than 8 weeks of maternity leave, I didn’t leave the workforce while my children were young. Yes, I am off work for a couple of months in the summer, for the other 10 months of the year, I have a pretty mentally and emotionally demanding full-time career, too. Much like many other wives and mothers of today’s society.
It’s a choice, sure. I suppose I don’t have to work. I could’ve stayed home while Josie and Moses were little. We wouldn’t be able to afford the lifestyle we enjoy now, but we could make it work. But I want to work. I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m super thankful I don’t have to. (Seriously, you SAH moms are saints on earth.)
However, for many families, there’s no choice of whether or not one of the parents will work. The chances that my daughter will also be a working mom are fairly high, I’d say.
In a way, I’m happy to be setting an example for her to work hard. Not because I’m a woman, but because I believe in the value of working hard and doing things to the best of my ability.
However, there’s a part of me that is fearful that I’m setting her up to feel like she has to do it all. That she has to work hard at work and at home without any help. That she has to do what she saw her mom do. Or what she thought her mom did.
The thing is, I do have help at work and especially at home. However, a lot of the things her dad does at home are things she doesn’t see. She doesn’t see him scheduling payments and writing checks. She doesn’t understand how much time goes into maintaining the yard. When he’s doing the dishes, she’s usually off playing. She doesn’t understand that he does his own laundry. She doesn’t understand that his job simply keeps him away from home more than mine so he is limited in how much he can do at home.
I definitely want to set the example that as a female, she CAN do it all. But that doesn’t mean that she has to do it all by herself. I am encouraged when I read or hear about couples that share equally in managing their household. I pray that she finds a partner that will be just that – a partner. A person that she can depend on and knows work hard with her.
I hope she finds her Santa.