Monday, April 29, 2013

Politically correct?

I had the most bizzare conversation with my mother yesterday. I was sounding off a bit about how difficult I find some things when it comes to the split of domestic duties between myself and my husband. We, husband and I, had just finished a little bit of a row started by me when I began stressing over having to do ironing with the toddler at my feet, when my mother turned up early to take me to lunch. Exasperated I asked her how on earth she coped with three small children and if my dad had been much help. Her reply was 'I didn't' followed by her telling me that dad was useless and she did everything and had for years just decided it was easier to do things 'for myself' than stress out about him not doing them. She then went on to question if perhaps I was 'more concerned with being politically correct than finding solutions' and then said she was a bit worried that my marriage won't last the way it is going and that is why she divorced my dad.

I am still shocked by her attitude. Shocked because it seems such a step backward and also because it's not something I ever thought would come from my mother's mouth.

I am trying to get this straight. She couldn't stand my dad's inability to share the load of childcare and housework but was fed up with having continual battles about it so decided to just do everything for herself = they ended up getting divorced anyway. (I know the reality is different, there was a lot more than the housework contributing to the demise of my parent's relationship).

My situation: Get irritated by having to do more than half the childcare (washing clothes, ironing etc) and housework (This is something my husband agrees I do more of) so I continually get upset by it but try to talk to husband about how he could help more = us having arguments = vicious circle = us divorcing?

I tried to explain to my mum that I thought wanting to be able to share tasks equally between myself and my spouse wasn't politically correct it being the 21st century and everything. That what she was suggesting was for me to basically surrender myself to the idea that no amount of conversations about the unfairness of it would help and I may as well get on and keep doing the bulk of it.

Now - I absolutely do accept that my attitude often stinks, I can be a right old horrible moaning cow and I take things out on my husband in an unfair way. I can be snappy and I can be rude and I have the most almighty strops where I bash and clatter inanimate objects and make my husband feel like shit. I hate that this is the way I respond to stressful situations and I really am trying to stop these behaviours. I am tired though, and I am easily irritated when I feel like promises made are never really going to happen ("I'll do that later" for example). For more than 2 years I probably haven't had any longer than 3 hours unbroken sleep, four at a push. I am basically an irritable rat-bag. Yet I still don't see why I should just roll over and accept that the other adult sharing my home is going to consistantly let me do the bulk of the housework and childcare and I am definitely not going to accept that I am being 'too politically correct' or that this 'political correctness' is going to be the reason for my marriage breaking down!

As this goes on I do start to wonder (Having friends in similar situations) if this is a default male position. They just do less, or they know that eventually they will just be allowed to get away with doing less. How often have I and my friends heard a man say 'well, you just need to tell me what I need to do'? It seems to be a common phrase in arguments about housework, that men can't 'see' what needs to be done and then 'need' to be told because they are so useless that they just don't notice the mess we can see or the jobs we think need doing. My thoughts are always why should it be women who have to run around after men reminding them or instructing them? I know not all men are like this but I hear it over and over. I have also read that there is nothing more off-putting than a person who refuses to do tasks that he/she feels are beneath them but who has no qualms about letting another person do them instead. It's an unattractive trait.

I don't think my need to be seen as an equal domestically is going to lead to a divorce, and nor do I think I should just give in and 'do it for myself'. Not if it means that really I am doing it for everyone else and not even getting any satisfaction or reward for it. Maybe I should join those who pay someone else to do the jobs they deem beneath them and get a cleaner? While they may not enjoy it (And there's nowt so queer as folk) but at least they will be getting rewarded. I just have to make sure they are rewarded from both mine and my husband's pay!

This made me chuckle:

Perhaps the reason why I am so shocked is because I thought my mum was a feminist. When I think about it though, I am not sure if I am right. Is she? Was she ever? Where did I get the idea that she was? Since I was about 8 or 9 she has been in education or in work, she raised three children while working a full time job as a social worker, she has been divorced since I was 20ish, though in a long-term relationship for around 20 more years. We were definitely raised to believe that women are equal to men, even if that wasn't the example we were being set. I have discovered in recent years that my mum was completely unaware how much my dad was earning when we were teenagers, they (like me and my husband) had separate bank accounts and from what she says she spent a lot of her own salary providing for us kids when my dad just didn't - at least not until after a lot of persuasion. We were very poor, even when my parents had full-time professional jobs. My mum did most of the... well, most of everything I guess. The cleaning, the cooking and so on though I also remember that we were all pretty well trained to take care of ourselves by the time we were teenagers. Up until I was 8 or 9 my mum was a stay at home mum so I always assumed that this was an arrangement she and my dad had come to between themselves. Maybe it was just circumstance and maybe even back then my dad kept his salary (Though he was unemployed a lot) to himself? I need to ask her more questions about all this really but I don't want us to have a big falling out or a big issue between us. I would just like to understand what was going on with her that has made her come out with the kind of thing she did the other day.

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