Embracing gender roles

“Just admit it, I’m the one who takes care of the kids most of the time!”

This is usually part of an argument between bickering husband & wife, where the wife may feel under-appreciated in some sense. In modern parenting, it’s nearly impossible for a regular middle class couple to have one income, so between trading responsibilities during the week and weekends where not nearly enough time belongs to the family, parents get quickly overwhelmed. Since most people tend to default to natural gender roles anyway, having to be both home maker, mother, and provider takes its toll.

Forty or so years into the Baby Boomer’s grand joke on humanity, and comments like these still surface. Ever wonder why?

Most sensible women know that if they chose to be a mother, it’s with them every day. That’s why most modern, urban women avoid motherhood as long as possible. It’s scary to give yourself to something greater than yourself – a husband, a family, a life outside of Thirsty Thursday – when you were raised to believe in nothing except “you can be anything you want” and “don’t let any man tell you what to do.”

These messages are delivered far too young in most people’s lives for them to mean anything, because they’re told they can be anything they want – but only if they follow the same path as everyone else. So the information gets stored for later use when a little more freedom exists – say, during college partying, or when career ambitions take hold.

Finally, this idea comes home to roost when a late 30-something woman just can’t quite get to the place she needs, mentally, to accept the next great guy she dates to truly settle down.   Men & women both are guilty of this: I’ve played around for so long, what’s the point? As Brett has pointed out, this is why cougars are a modern trend.

Men are aware of this; most modern men are no less selfish, and most men have not had a positive male or female role model in their life either to teach them anything useful about gender roles.

So it comes as no surprise when hard working, middle class women are insulted by the idea that their struggle through motherhood would be meaningless to some, get fed up and reject what modernity has to offer:

“I had to leave my children to find them,” she writes in an essay at “In my part-time motherhood, I get concentrated blocks of time when I can be that 1950s mother we idealize who was waiting in an apron with fresh cookies when we got off the school bus and wasn’t too busy for anything we needed until we went to bed.

It also goes against our culture’s definition of motherhood. But it shines a light on a glaring double standard: When a man chooses not to be a full-time parent, it’s acceptable—or, at least, accepted. But when a woman decides to do so, it’s abandonment.

“I have been a mother since I was 20,” she points out. “I did not have the life a normal 20 year old would have. While I don’t regret that, I knew that I now have the opportunity to reconnect with who I might have been then, but with all the tools and skill sets I have learned through motherhood. I have the unique opportunity most women don’t get to have, of being able to truly create the life I wish to have, do something in the world that makes a difference, and model this kind of independence for my children.”‬ – Shine via Yahoo!

The subject of the above article, Rahna Rizzuto, fancies herself a progressive: why can’t I just leave my mothering responsibilities to someone else, show up at the softball games, and go home to my quiet office/apartment to pursue a career I choose? Oh, and bonus points for not just aborting my kids, as was my right – since I wasn’t one of those 1950s Moms.  You know, the ones who were always their for their kids and contributed as much to the family as the father.

As modern life polarizes most ordinary people toward one or two extremes, this question is timely. When one follows modern motherhood through to its natural conclusion, it dictates a type of selfishness we thought was reserved for the Baby Boomer generation.

You can observe this infecting modern life: if you’re a parent, do a kid-type activity or an activity reserved for families. You’ll notice most families don’t interact with others, are pushy or simply passive, and just want to pay a fee for someone or something to entertain their kids. There are no real “group” family activities anymore, because we over socialize our kids into the same individualistic attitude that infected us – the kids of the Baby Boomers – growing up.

If we’re all supposed to be special snowflakes, but know deep down it’s not true, we’d like to remain ignorant of that. Our “tolerance” only goes as far as our own faces; live your life but keep it to yourself. Our lives were never hard, our kids’ lives aren’t either, so keep interaction to pleasantries only and no one will have anything hard to think about on the ride home.

One of the sources of this damage is the abandonment of gender roles. People like Rahna Rizzuto want to have it all, and attempts to be a beacon of feminism for women who want to do something – anything – different than their mothers. Here’s a logical question to Ms. Rizzuto: if one of your kids was already on his own, as the article states, couldn’t you just wait a few more years until all your kids were college-aged, salvage your marriage, and pursue your career ambitions then?

But that takes the novelty out of the story. Giving up and becoming a feminist hero will probably net her a book deal. Never mind that most of us know older women, mothers of multiple children, that choose to get degrees in a field of study they enjoy after their child rearing years have concluded.

Both men and women need to embrace their natural roles, and find a way to translate them into modern life as best they can. For many parents stuck in our current economy, one income may not be enough. So what do you do? Nurture as best you can and be around as often as you can. Flex your schedule at one job where possible, so the other parent can work nights and/or weekends, but not every night or weekend. This helps avoid the use of undereducated, underpaid day care workers doing the parenting for you, and keeps the parents connected to the idea of family. Surprise, it’s not just the kids who need to feel they are benefiting from the arrangement!

One does not need to become a Tiger-mother – but there’s a reason that idea seemed refreshing to people recently.

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