Thursday, May 26, 2011

Feminism, Fear and Tending to Your Boyfriend

I've already written about domesticity and how I spent most of my childhood rebelling against "the woman's role" only to later realize that I actually like hosting and cooking for friends and significant others. Well it recently dawned on me that although I'm no longer defending my refusal to cook with my mother or serve Dad his dinner, I'm now fending off disapproving comments from friends when I decide to help A. with his chores instead.

When A. got stuck working during the weekend late last year, I thought I'd be nice and treat him to homemade meals while he slaved away at his computer. "Oh hell no! I'd make him do it," "Does he cook for you?" and "What is he so busy with?" is what I heard from other females and eventually their words seeped in. What started as a sweet gesture turned into anger as I hunched over the sink to wash the dishes and mentally ticked off all the ways he was lazy and inconsiderate - as if he'd been the one who'd put me through any of it.

Yesterday, because his work load had been so stressful as of late, A. completely forgot he had dinner plans with an old friend last night...when he was set to do emergency laundry and spend time with me before his morning flight to Toronto. "You're going to dinner," I said without hesitation. As for laundry, I told him I'd handle it, blog for a bit and be there when he came home. Simple solution, no stress. And despite the "Tsk, tsk," the "I'd never do anyone's laundry" and "Would he do yours?" I didn't care much this time around. A part of me did want to defend my actions, say half his hamper is filled with my clothes and let them know that helping him out won't set the feminist movement back a hundred years, but I refrained.

It did make me wonder about how reluctant we sometimes are to do domestic things for a guy in the name of "girl power" and the connotations it carries. Perhaps it's the fear of being expected to handle all the chores in the future? Does it carry the same weight or meaning when you offer your roommate a hand? Your children? Do guys get the same flack for constantly paying for his girlfriend's meals?

Obviously every relationship is different, but up until recently, expectations were the leading cause of too many months of arguments and frustration in mine. After we stopped demanding things from the other and each did and let the other do things because we truly wanted to instead, the fights just ceased and the relationship immediately improved. (No, really. I'm still boggled by how our issues mysteriously disappeared.) When we do something, it's not because not doing them would make the other mad. It's because it either causes happiness directly or indirectly through the other person's joy.

So I did our laundry. Big whoop and a small hour-and-a-half long sacrifice to ease his day. His gratitude when he came home was enough, but the surprise cupcakes he bought me definitely didn't hurt either.

Do you guys ever deal with inner/outer conflicts about tending to your partner or lending a hand around the house?



  1. I am just like you - for awhile I scoffed at my sister and the way she took care of her husband, and all the house duties. But now I realize helping out here and there actually boosts my happiness. Knowing that he appreciates it helps, too. Now if it got to the point where it became expected? That would be a different story.

  2. When we were first married we lived with my Mother-In-Law, and she and I did everything around the house while my hubby worked. Then we moved back to Wales and I did everything for him. I was stressed and annoyed... Why should I do it all? Yes, there were arguments... Lots of them!

    Then I lost my eyesight, and I had to learn again how to do... Well, how to do just about everything... So hubby had the job of doing absolutely everything around the house for a bit. Again with the arguments, and the, "why should I do it all?" from one of us.

    Now that I'm in a place where I can do most of what I used to, but hubby has had a taste of having to do it all by himself, we've figured out that sometimes doing some of the other person's chores isn't an issue. As a general rule, for example, he cooks, I do the dishes. But sometimes he'll help out with the dishes - or just do them for me - and other times I'll make dinner. I wont say we never argue now, because there's always going to be the odd thing... No matter how small... Because that's how it works in a relationship. There are definately less arguments now that neither of us feel we're the one with the burden of doing everything though.

    The whole "the woman does everything in the house" thing is from when only the men worked. And the whole "make him do it himself thing"... Well, my view on that is that if he's home all day and you're in work, yes, make him do it (though you can help out a bit if you like). But if you both work, why shouldn't you both do the household chores?

  3. I think we should be able to do things for the people we love just because. Why does it have to mean we're somehow confining ourselves to old-fashioned gender roles just because we make dinner for our guy when he's had a long day?

    It's just silly.

  4. Deep down.. when you realize you and the other person are "together" it means that... so you do the things that need doing, together... as a team.

    :) ...and somewhere along the line I think you and he decided you were not only "together" but you were a "team" too.

  5. These types of issues were definitely part of our fights, and sometimes still are. When you're tired and the fatigue sets in, it's easy to let your mind wander. You start tallying, and remembering, and assuming. But most of all, I realized one thing. He's better at certain things, I'm better at others. When one of us takes the initiative to do some chores, the other starts using that example and takes care of a few things as well. He was never much of a household chore guy. He just didn't do it. Now? He'll get up on a weekend and do yardwork. So I stay inside and do the dishes and laundry. It works, and I get clean underwear for the week. :)

    Miss you and your thoughts and stories. I hope to be back sometime within the year. So sad.

  6. Every relationship is a balance act...and just when you think you've got it have to adjust. It's life. Do what works for you two. Everyone always has an opionion to share - whether we want to hear it or not. Life is short...just enjoy it!! Do what makes you happy.


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