A Woman’s Seat at the Table…

How many tables are you currently sitting at?  I am currently sitting at at least four.  I am a mother, a wife, and a daughter with a full time job.

I had a conversation with my mother today about how things have changed (or not) for women over the past few decades.  From the sound of it, it seems not much has changed.  As the mother of an eight month old baby boy, I have found myself constantly questioning, and being frustrated with, the social and gender expectations that come along with motherhood.  I wonder, for instance, why it is that when the baby is sick or a day care issue arises, it is simply assumed that I will be the one to take a day off of work to stay with him.  I wonder why it is that on the weekends, I am the primary care giver for our child, when my husband is home as well.  Generally speaking, my husband and I do a pretty good job of dividing up the household chores and tasks equally.  I do the grocery shopping, and he mows the lawn.  I do the laundry, and he vacuums.  I cook dinner, and he does the dishes.  The only major skewing factor at this point is that I now do all of my tasks with a small child glued to my hip.  We both work full time.  But I am the one who gets up at night with the baby.  Granted, this routine has been established out of necessity, since our son is still nursing at night.  And my husband does offer to go to him at night once in a while if/when the baby doesn’t need to eat but cries anyway.  There has never been a time when I have asked my husband to take care of the baby for a bit and he has said no.  What I’m getting at here though, is why is it something that I have to ask?  Why is it assumed that I will take care of the baby unless there is some other task that demands my attention, like preparing baby food, or washing cloth diapers, or cleaning the kitchen?  Let me go on record as saying that my husband is a wonderful husband and father.  He never has (and never would) say no when I ask him to hang out with our son.  Yet on the weekends, I find myself caring for the baby while he sits on the couch and watches TV or plays on his computer.  Yes, my husband performs countless tasks over the weekend.  He washes the car, mows the lawn, runs some errands, puts the trash on the curb, vacuums…But so do I.  The difference is, all of his tasks are finite.  My major task is not.  It is ongoing, all weekend long, and all night long.  The only reason it is not ongoing all day every day is that I have a full time job.   My husband finishes his tasks and sits down and relaxes.  I cannot begrudge him that.  He works hard.  But I complete my tasks (as many as I can anyway), and then sit on the floor and try to entertain an eight month old for the rest of the day.  Motherhood is infinite in its demands on both my time and my patience.  I adore my son.  I would not change a thing about him (except maybe his unwillingness to sleep through the night) or about our relationship.  It is difficult though, to rarely, if ever have any “me” time.  My “me” time has become showering and commuting on the train on the days I don’t take my son with me.  When I look at that sentence, it strikes me almost immediately that those are two things I have to do, not necessarily things that I want to do.  I find it disturbing that the only “me” time I get is sort of forced “me” time.

My mother says it has been this way ever since she can remember, and that it was the same for her when my siblings and I were small children.  I’m not sure if that’s comforting or disturbing.

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4 Responses to A Woman’s Seat at the Table…

  1. Robin says:

    I agree. Even with the best husband in the world…it’s like that and it’s frustrating as heck!

  2. Carrie says:

    Everything you say is very true. It’s the reality of mothering. Until men grow uteruses, I feel this is the way it will stay. Great job on the blog Cori and I look forward to reading more!

  3. Loren Christian says:

    I agree!! The assumptions of what a mom does is crazy!
    But wanted to add an element that I have found in my own “motherhood”. To be fair to the men in my life, if I was willing and better at giving up control of how I want/need things to be done with our baby, then over the years, looking back, I could have had more help. it would mean, though, letting a precious little baby boy scream when I knew I could sooth. Watching Daddy struggle with something, that i could do eyes shut and while doing 2 other things. Nothing was harder than watching my husband with a frustrated look on his face, bouncing our crying baby, BOTH not happy. Where as, if I was in control of that situation, baby would be content Dad would be happy and the only downside is that I once again, exhausted and just as frustrated but signing anyway, am the one keeping everyone happy. But sometimes that was MY choice.
    Sure Daddy could strap the baby on just as easily as you and mow the lawn or do the dishes. But would he talk and sing to him like you would. no offense against any Daddy, but again, here is that element of control. I wanted Daddy to take care of the baby, but I wanted him to do it “AS ME, like I would”
    Now my son is 3 years old and it’s taken a few years (even though most of the time it took me physically leaving the room, or apartment) him and his Dad have established how THEY do things, how they function together. I can honestly say at this point childcare is %50/50 when we are both home.

    • anmllwyr says:

      Loren, I can completely relate to what you’re saying! All excellent points. I find myself doing the same thing. Yes, of course his daddy could take care of the baby, but you’re right…he may not sing and dance like I would to keep him smiling! You raise an excellent point. Definitely something to think about.

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