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.