“Well behaved women, seldom make history”Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
The Traditional Canvas…..
I grew up in a family with traditional values. As an immigrant, and being in a melting pot neighborhood, those traditional family roles were all that I experienced. There was tons of diversity in ethnicity and cultures, but not in traditional roles in the family.
My family wasn’t completely traditional, in the way others were, because of my mum being a single mum. My dad left before I was born. Even so, she grew up in a traditional family, so that came through in the expectations that were set.
Mum did have rather expansive views about what my brother and I could achieve and that we had equal opportunity to pursue whatever we wanted in a career. However, she did expect my brother to take out the trash and for me to clean the house. 😉
In school, as I wrote in a prior blog, a guidance councilor wouldn’t help me get to business school, because of the attitude that women went to beauty school or secretarial college, if they didn’t get married right away.
One of my best friends was Italian, her family had immigrated. Her marriage was arranged and when we graduated HS, she got married to the boy her family had committed her to when she was a baby. I could not wrap my head around that, but she knew what was expected of her and never complained.
Christianity was strong in our community, and the kids would go to the church services of the family you were slumber partying at. So it was either Mass on Saturday Night, Church on Sunday and/or Saturday for Seven Day Advents.
All this to say, there was a deep traditional Christian norm to my life. It was what I knew and thought was how my life would play out when I married one day. My family, after all was the exception to the rule.
The Male & Female Family Roles
A husband was supposed to be:
- Head of household
- Main earner
- Major decision maker
- The family rock, by being tough and dependable
A Wife was suppose to be:
- Stayed at home to raise the children
- Involved in the civic and church activities
- Did all the house work and cooking
- Was the family caregiver
Yet, here was my mum that worked two jobs, took care of us and was all of the above.
My Views Were More Evolved….
For me, I didn’t want just that female “classical role”, I wanted to have it all, to include a vibrant successful career. I also wanted a partner when I married, if I married.
My first marriage I am going to skip over, and really just talk about my current marriage, which is quiet simply the best of all worlds, but it took me a while to realize it. For context, we have been together for 20 years.
My husband is extremely smart, patient, kind but also a very alpha dude. He is the kinda guy you want around in a zombie apocalypse. He has, though, a very strong and dominant personality when he is fixed on something, which can also clash with my dominant strong personality.
In the beginning, when we both dug in, we were like the English facing the Germans in the trenches on the western front in WW1. Gain some inches but never any significant ground.
Thankfully this didn’t happen a lot.
It’s About Compromise, Evolution and Communication….
He was also brought up in a traditional family, so he had some ideas on what were the chores for men and chores for women. Luckily I love to cook, so I thankfully took lead on that….
What I finally realized, was that some of our clashing was due to both of us being traditionalists, however we had modern careers and were not communicating in a way that drove evolution of our traditional mindsets, given the modern careers we held.
Therefore, with our demanding careers, we had to take the time to talk, connect and ensure that we stayed in sync and form a true equal partnership.
We needed to ensure we continued to evolve our shared goals and also balance our careers as we are both work-a-holics. We also had to ensure we took time to just be with each other, and be disconnected from everything else.
I also had to let go of some pressure I had put on myself.
- I would make dinner every night, regardless of how challenging my day was. This is what a wife did to take care of her husband. One day when I was particularly tired, my husband said “don’t worry about dinner tonight, I don’t expect you to make it for me. “ I then asked, “like every night?” and he said “I am perfectly fine with hot dogs”. So we agreed that as long as there was food in the house, he was good.
What a load that took off of my plate. If I had only asked sooner.🤦♀️
A Modern Relationship…
In the modern relationship, many women are struggling with carrying the “head of household” title. With their education increasing, opportunities opening up, and earnings rising, they have many more choices now than ever before. Men are also finding their roles shifting, to be stay at home dads, which is counter to what societal norms state men should be doing.
Men, traditionally, have carried the earning burden, the provider for the family, and as that shifts, it is causing a lot of stress and unhealthy feelings for men and women.
All that matters is that you and your spouse are aligned in your goals and values. If your spouse is uncomfortable with their role, then talk about it, find ways to ease the stress. Whether that is just picking up some extra slack, talking about it or going to therapy. The thing that is important is that it works for your family.
If you have a notion of a traditional construct of how men and women should be in a marriage (or a relationship), just know that times are changing and you can change too.
Here are a few tips:
- When the passion and looks start to fade, what you have left is the respect, partnership and deep love and devotion to your spouse. This is the person who has walked through fire with you, and wants to be with you when you’re old and creaky.
- Laugh a lot with your spouse and don’t look for all the things you wrankle on. Think about how you get to a win/win solution for both of you.
- Clarify your roles. This will seen a bit nutty, but since we are business minded, it works with him being the CEO and me as the CFO. In any company, this partnership has to be extremely strong and forward looking. With this, tough decisions for us are made easier.
- Don’t let society shape the norms of your family. If you want to be 100% traditional cool beans, if you don’t cool beans. Its your family and only you can live that life.
- We don’t have children, but if we did, we would be on the same page and also have the kids be part of our whole life, not the other way around. Not judging, parenting is personal and unique for what works for each family.
Life is stressful enough, without adding the huge burden of being uncomfortable in the life you are leading with your family.
It’s your life, your decision and only you can make it work for you.
If you are the head of the household, and uncomfortable about it, talk about it with your spouse and if necessary a therapist. Also, build a support group to help you. There are many more women in this situation now, than ever before.
Don’t expect a role flip, know it will be a role evolution. For example, if your husband is a stay at home dad, don’t expect that he is going to do all that you think you would do. Be a team and also let him be a guy.
Evolve your mindset, grow to be comfortable in any situation, and embrace your unique life, while you Shine Brightly.