A few years ago, on some of my readers’ recommendations, I read the book “How to Not Hate Your Husband After Kids.” I mostly read it to review on my blog (and was ready to make it clear to anyone that who saw me reading the book that I do not in fact hate my husband).
I never did write that review. Why?
Because I kind of hated that book at the time. Actually I despised it. It brought up VERY uncomfy truths. Truths that I tried to stuff way down in the dark so I wouldn’t have to confront them.
It was chock full of statistics and studies like the one that showed that single women with no children did a little more than 10 hours of housework a week, and married women with no children did a little more than 17 hours a week. The only difference? The presence of a husband, which costs women seven hours of housework a week. For men, the situation is reversed. They did LESS housework once married.
Or the one that showed that despite more and more women entering the workplace – working and earning the same amount as their husbands- they were still doing twice as much childcare and housework than their husbands.
Or the one by the labor department that showed that husbands, on average report spending almost double the amount of time on “leisure activities” than their wives each week.
Like, how dare this author point out all these things that I was ACTIVELY trying to ignore? The nerve.
I wasn’t ready to face these things yet. I felt like my peace and stability relied on my ignorance. If I owned up to the facts, that women are not treated as equals in their own homes, I would become a ball of raging hellfire. I would never come out of it. I could do nothing to fix it so I would ignore it. I NEEDED to ignore it.
When things went wrong, I could take personal responsibility for them! I could listen to my life coach podcasts and just change my thoughts! Yes yes my thoughts are what is wrong here! Surely my thoughts were all to blame for this nagging sense of hierarchy of which there were two positions and I was on the bottom.
Just think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts.
And that worked sometimes.
But slowly things started to rip at the seams. You see my bubble of ignorance where my own thoughts were always to blame for all my struggles left out one important factor: SYSTEMS. Yes we are responsible for our own thoughts but our thoughts do nothing to explain or examine SYSTEMS. Systems built centuries ago to keep men thriving. Systems we are still living with today.
And if women’s struggles were all the fault of the individual woman- I started to notice some patterns that looked awfully coincidental….
I noticed an awful lot of moms whose husbands get to take sick days and lay in bed all day but when the mom get sick? Their days must look exactly the same because who else will make lunch for the kids and put the baby down? I noticed sick days don’t exist for mothers.
I noticed an awful lot of women who before they go running in the morning or go to a girl’s night must first ask their husband for permission. Meanwhile, there would be no need for him to ask his wife for permission to spend his time how he wants.
I noticed too many women whose husbands get to leave on week long work trips or fishing trips with literally nothing else to do but book a flight and pack. Meanwhile if she wants to go on a trip for even one night, she has to ask a neighbor to babysit the littles during the day, hire a sitter for the afternoon, make freezer meals beforehand so people will know what to eat, and beg and then thank her husband profusely for “watching the kids” and “being such a nice husband.”
I know too many of these women (heck I AM often one of these women) to think that it is all our thoughts that are the cause of our burnout. That’s not fair. We can be BOTH responsible for our own thoughts AND acknowledge that they system we live in is not set up to help wives and mothers thrive as much as husbands and fathers.
It is easier to stay asleep to these systems because what to do when you wake up? Be an angry blazing fireball of feminine hellfire? I mean, we’re not ruling that out but that’s not very appealing to most women. Most women don’t want to be a raging ball of hellfire so they suppress their anger. They stuff down their frustration. They turn a blind eye to the inequality in their own homes. They keep the peace.
Does this mean women are never jerk faces to their husbands? Of course not.
Does this mean all men are taking advantage of their wives? Certainly not.
It means that we need to acknowledge that we’re coming fresh off of CENTURIES of gender dynamics where women were literally considered the property of their husbands.
And we don’t recover from that in just a few years’ time. We don’t recover from that in a few generations’ time.
We don’t need to stay asleep to truth. We don’t need to ignore the presence and history of unfair systems. Because doing so will keep us stuck repeating patterns that have no goodness or beauty in them. We can’t change what we won’t SEE.
The truth will set us free.
It will just piss us off first.
Here’s the main point I wish to make today: our only options are NOT either resentful accommodation to keep the peace OR raging hellfire. Our choices are not either to be a doormat or to be a blaming critic. We do not have to choose between staying asleep or ripping our husbands a new one.
There is a third way.
The third way is called integrity. It is called mature love. It is eyes wide open. It involves being educated about our history and our present and not running from the reality of patriarchal systems and norms in our world. It looks like not supporting oppressive systems. It looks like becoming equal partners with our husbands instead of submissive peacekeepers.
It looks like loving our choice in companion AND holding them to a higher standard of integrity so we can create something MORE beautiful together. It looks like making room for two people’s dreams in a marriage, not just the man’s.
How do we begin?
The path to the third way begins with knowing our own self-worth deep down in our bones. It begins by KNOWING we are worthy of respect and we are worthy of our desires. We hold fast to that self worth and then present it to our spouse with strong backs, soft fronts and heads held high. It looks like taking Brene’s advice to not shrink, not puff up, but standing our sacred ground.
And (here’s an uncomfy one) it looks like recognizing that we’ve been complicit in a system that runs on the fuel of continuous sacrifice of women. And recognizing we no longer want to be complicit in this system.
It looks like telling the truth about how we feel and asking for what we want without apology AND without resorting to criticism and blame. It looks like respect. It looks like courage.
And most of all, it looks like love.
It looks like love for your spouse AND yourself AND the system you are creating together.
I believe there is a more beautiful existence out there for us, let’s forge it.