What’s wrong with a wife?

The NYT Modern Love column is something I look forward too every Sunday. Typically I am pacing for the paper to be delievered because that is my sad life. It’s true. I am generally fired up every Sunday when I check and check and recheck and the paper still isn’t there, only for my lazy slovenly, good for nothing NYT delivery person to toss it into my yard around 8am.

I mean really. We are like 2.5 hours into our day by then, why do I have to pace for it? Its sad really.

So, back to the column. I think Sunday’s column is the first time I’ve been not only pissed off as I read it but also confused. I needed to read it a few more times to even make sense out of what the point of it was.

The writer had me with the first sentence, I was seething, as she bragged about how she has a big job and two kids and how when other working moms comment that she must be so busy, her response was a flippant “Not really, my wife stays home.” Imagine if a man responded in such a fashion. We’d be organizing to burn and pillage his home, decrying him as the world’s biggest chauvinist and wondering why in the world he doesn’t pick up some slack around home to appreciate just how much is wife makes his successful career possible.

Yet instead, because the author is female, we are supposed to accept her obnoxious statement and appreciate that it’s a column about gay women raising children and the struggles with what to call each other.  But not me. I’m pissed off at how obnoxious she is regarding the ease with which she maintains her career because she has a wife at home. Then she goes on to berate straight women in marriages because essentially we take on too much and are power hungry and refuse to relinquish tasks to our husbands, as she so gallantly did to her wife (after implying her wife still doesn’t do it all as well as she would and flat out stating it took her 18 months to accept her wife’s way).

How noble of the author to admit that her career is successful and she is able to maintain it and manage it all because she has an organized wife at home. Isn’t the reality that most women take on the majority of these tasks – whether they work or stay home – and when they stay home, they do so because that is their job but when they work, they do so because these things help them stay connected and involved in the lives of their children in the way that they would want too, if they were home. 

But then she cuts at the heart of at the biggest point of contention among almost every woman with kids I know – the unbalanced workload between husbands and wives. While her arrogance and judgement irritated the hell out of me – she still made a legitimate point in that having a more involved husband at home means relinquishing control and letting him take charge of some duties – without berating him for doing it differently than we would.

What a conundrum I find myself in – both loathing and appreciating some of the words of this woman. And she’s right. We all want our husbands to take on more work around the house, really to just take initiative. To notice when something needs done, cleaning, fixing, purchased at the store, and just do it – without being asked or handed a list. And I do think that this behavior happens more often with positive reinforcement, like that of a child pushing boundaries – the more praise and recognition we heap on them for menial tasks, the more inclined they are to do them. I think if we critique what they do constantly or we don’t ever ask them to do it because we figure that is more work than just doing it ourselves, then we forfeit the right to complain about our husbands because we are enabling them NOT to be a true partner.

Then the author goes back to what was her original point of their identities as two women, both wives, and how to refer to each other publicly. At the onset of their relationship, they felt it was very in-your-face to people to refer to each other as wives, both because it is unexpected and the word “wife” has such negative connotations.

Now here’s something else I have a beef with. Why is this? And why are other women reinforcing this notion? Why is someone who manages the house, primarily raises the children to be upstanding and responsible members of society, and keeps food on the table and clean clothes on everyone’s bodies – why is this condescending and something we recoil over? Aren’t we way past that? Haven’t we all recognized that many women deliberately choose this path and take great pride in it, often times finding it more fulfilling than some dumb job in a cube.

I couldn’t believe this made it into the Sunday NYT.

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