Professional mom seeking clarity, balance and a well deserved glass of wine.
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As defined by Wikipedia: Women’s work or woman’s work is a term used to indicate work that is believed to be exclusively the domain of women and associates particular tasks with the female gender. It is particularly used with regard to work that a mother or wife will perform within a family and household.
I CONFESS: This term has bugged the shit out of me since I was a little girl. Who, in their infinite wisdom, decided that across the board certain tasks were to be done by women and others by men. Or, that one gender is actually better at said tasks than the other?
Growing up, I witnessed this women’s work label in action. Mostly at family reunions and my grandparent’s house, the women did the cooking, cleaning, and child rearing and the men did the yard work, re-roofing and changed the oil in the Pontiac.
Family reunions were the epitome of gender stereotyping. I always wondered how the men got to stand around and talk before the meal, while the women were scurrying around finishing the food, getting everything set out with a toddler attached to one leg, an infant on their hip while barking at the older kids to stop using the rose bushes for batting practice.
Then, after the last burger was downed and mac and cheese scraped clean from the Pyrex, the men retired to ‘lawn chair circle’ to bullshit about their newest mower or sedan while the women, changed a diaper, wiped a nose and worked together to clean it all up. This was the same scene at Thanksgiving, Christmas, weddings, and funerals too. It never felt right!
I feel fortunate that I grew up in a fairly conventional home with semi-unconventional parents. Although Mom did a lot of the cooking and Dad did most of the yard work, I saw them both do it all. Dad wasn’t afraid to clean or do dishes or take us shopping for bras and undies and Mom seemed quite happy doing a remodeling project, cleaning out the gutters or changing a flat.
Although there is a definition of women’s work in Wikipedia, I was most happy to find that there is not an actual one in the Merriam Webster dictionary. There’s hope!
And, now, as an adult and a Mom, I hope to God my daughters feel like there’s no difference between women’s work and men’s work. It’s just teamwork! If something needs to be done, just do it. (Thank you, Nike) You don’t have to wait for a man to help you, save you or protect you. Can you imagine saying that sentence and replace man with woman?! Unheard of. Yet, there are boatloads of men and women who have been sold this bill of goods and spend way too much time waiting for someone else to get the job done.
Now, granted, there are some things that my husband knows how to do that I don’t, yet. Certainly, there are some things that he is better at and some things that I have a knack for. That’s perfectly fine. What I’ve realized is that maybe we fall back on the old “women’s work vs. men’s work” excuse (subconsciously) from time to time instead of learning how to do things. Instead of helping ourselves. I am guilty of this, for sure.
I am so fortunate to have a partner that doesn’t conform to stereotypes. Mr. Confessions cooks, does laundry, buys tampons and cleans the house better than most maid services. He also happens to be very handy with woodworking, automotive repairs and fixing just about anything that breaks. He’s a team player and, although I don’t tell him enough, it’s one of his most endearing qualities. He’s an enlightened man whose showing our daughters what teamwork looks like. Not woman’s work or man’s work, but teamwork!
I’m certainly not suggesting that we have to learn to do every flippin’ task that exists. Maybe just stop resting on our laurels when it comes to stereotyping whose job is what. Teaching our sons and daughters how to change the oil AND bake a cake. Stop avoiding chores or responsibilities based on gender or a story we’ve been spoon-fed. Train future generations that no matter what ‘gender bits’ you were given, you are capable of doing whatever needs to be done.
I confess I am the first person to call a plumber when the drain is clogged. I’m just not surprised or in doubt when a woman shows up to get the job done.
What does women’s work mean to you?
Stay sane, my friend.