So, let’s pretend. Let’s pretend there’s a guy I know, who works about 50-60 hours each week at a job for which he is well-paid and which he loves and is good at. As a perk of that working lifestyle, his wife is able to stay home and be full-time parent to their young child, and that’s a big bonus, because the wife has some chronic health problems that she’s dealing with, and runs a small business, and trying to balance full-time work and health and family would be deeply hard for her, and for him, and their child. After a few months in which those health problems were made worse by an untimely injury to the wife’s dominant hand and then a family-wide bout of viral illness, they decide to hire some help to get their house cleaned and under control.
I would read that scenario and think it all sounded just fine. Like, perfectly acceptable life choices. The things you do to get your world in order, when you have the resources to do that.
Of course, that paragraph is about me. I’m the guy I know. I work a lot, at a job I love that pays me well enough that Justin can stay home with Gwyn and work on his health problems, and creating Agincourt Arms. His health has been made worse recently by the fact that he injured the tendon in his right thumb and can’t use that hand at all while it heals, and then we all got slammed with consecutive ear infections/vertigo/asthma attacks, and we’re pretty much at the end of our collective ropes right now.
And yet I spent part of my day feeling like I was a failure because we’re hiring some help to clean the house this weekend. Because as a woman I’m supposed to keep a nice house. Because that’s what moms and wives do. And after all these years of consciously considering those things, and challenging that paradigm, and living differently than that… I still unconsciously think I’m supposed to be The Wife And Mother Of Myth And Legend. Like choosing to have someone else help with the bathroom and the floors while I deal with laundry and play with my daughter is somehow wrong of me.
I really hate gender roles and the ways we assimilate them without even realizing it. Because I’m a great wife, and a good mother. (Good wife, great mother. Either way.) I can’t tell you the last time I scrubbed a toilet or changed the sheets on the bed, but nothing about that changes either fact. We are not our gender, and I’m entitled to do wife and mother the way that works for me. I would not judge others for making the choices I’m making — I would applaud them — and so I should also not judge myself.
Now I just need to convince myself of that.