I Refuse To Be Cast in the Housewife Role

1950's Housewife

“My generation fought so hard to give all of you choices. We believe in choices. But choosing to leave the workforce was not the choice we thought so many of you would make.”

Sheryl Sandberg quoting Judith Rodin in her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead

I have a friend who got married and became pregnant at 24. She is a stay-at-home mom and has proven herself a wonderful parent. Her boy is smart and polite, very outgoing and eats healthy food every day. It’s easy to see that she has put a lot of effort in bringing him up.

However, while educating her child, she seems to have forgotten herself. In the last years, she has become increasingly frustrated and bitter. She gets upset over small things, becomes paranoid and takes her anger out on the ones closest to her, most commonly her husband. He is the sole provider for the family, a wonderful guy, but in her eyes he doesn’t seem to do anything right.

It wasn’t always like this. I remember a time when they were getting along quite well, laughing all the time and enjoying each other’s company. But, somehow, things went downhill from there. It doesn’t take a mind-reading genius to see that she is unhappy and, in turn, she’s making him miserable as well. And, if I look at her (and my) background, I begin to understand why.

Our East-Eastern society is still raising girls to be wives and mothers. The smaller the town, the more rigid the traditions. If a young woman doesn’t get married or have kids right away, there must be something wrong with her. But I wonder how many women find themselves vexed simply because it never even crossed their mind that marriage and kids is not enough to fulfill them.

I was one of the lucky ones. Since I was little, my parents constantly repeated to me that I have to become an independent woman. Independence can translate into a lot of things, but they were talking mostly about financial independence. My father was particularly fond of saying that no matter how good a husband is, it will come a time when my spouse will remind me that I’m spending his money and I should never put myself in that position. I have been blessed with a wonderful partner and such a scene never occurred, but I’m guessing not everyone is so fortunate.

I have a deep respect for those women that know what they want to do with their lives. Some of them believe that spending time with their families is the only thing that matters. Others are trying to advance in their careers while taking care of their children. Whatever it is, they’re following their dreams and what makes them happy. But, others, like my friend, are stuck in a world of perpetual denial.

She said herself that she regrets not studying more in school and getting a better job before taking her maternity leave. Her child is now going to kindergarten, so I suggested to her that rejoining the workforce is always a possibility. She replied that the money she would earn would barely be enough to pay a baby-sitter, to cover her absence when the boy gets home from kindergarten. She has a point, her income would be quite low, but she’s not only sacrificing her desire to work, she’s also giving up on future opportunities as well. The more she stays at home, the more difficult it would be to rejoin the workforce.

I know that having both a family and a career leads to a lot of compromises. Young working mothers are having a tough time every day. But I fail to see how completely sacrificing all of my career goals and dreams would make me a better parent. If anything, it will just make me frustrated and bitter.

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