Saturday, October 20, 2012

Is It Just Me?

As a woman I play many different roles.  I'm the obvious wife and mother by virtue of being married and having kids.  I'm an employee by virtue of being employed.  I'm a daughter, sister, aunt, niece to my family just by virtue of being female and related.  And I'm a friend.  Sounds so simple right?  But mixed in with all these labels are a whole slew of societal responsibilities and expectations.

There's a very funny story I heard a long time ago about when a husband and wife are both ready to go to bed.  The wife, stands up, announces she's going to bed and picks up the dishes on the coffee table and takes them to the kitchen to rinse out and put in the dish washer, fills it with soap and starts it.  She lets the dog out and waits until he's ready to come back in.  She puts new food and water down for the dog as well as the cats.  She then wipes down all the counters and turns out the lights.  She goes into the laundry room and moves clothes around before starting a new load.  She takes the clean clothes to her room to fold them and put them away.  She walks upstairs and checks on the kids, making sure they're tucked under the covers and kisses them good night.  She picks up clothes, shoes and toys from their bedroom floors and puts them away.  She walks back down stairs turning off lights as she goes.  Then she heads to bed.

About this time, the husband stands up and announces to no one in particular that he's also going to bed.  He turns off the TV and goes to bed.

And here's the fundamental societal difference between men and women.  Men are supposed to be the bread winners.  That is their main job.  They take care of and contribute to their families by providing for the basics - food/shelter/security.  Women are supposed to take care of the family and the home.  We're supposed to be the main care givers both physically and emotionally.

When women started entering the work force, society forced them to choose between a profession and a home.  If you worked, you couldn't possibly have kids.  As more and more women entered the work force, something shifted and the expectation became that women had to "do it all".  You had to be able to be a super woman by working all day and then coming home and being the primary care giver, taking care of the house, the kids, anticipating everyone's needs and expectations on both the home and work front.  I don't know why this happened.  And we as women judge ourselves by these ridiculous standards (I know I do!!).  And we were expected to do it all without complaint.  We'd made our choices after all wanting careers in the first place and having kids.  We can't complain because then what kind of mother would that make us?  What kind of employee?  And we can't ask for help either for the same reasons.

And this has had some marital/familial consequences - at least for me it has.  For some reason, I find myself completely unable to ask for what I want / need.  It's so weird, because on the few occasions I have tried, I feel miserable.  I know part of this is my pride.  Society expects me to be able to do it all and when I can't, I feel like I'm a complete failure.  Asking for help makes me feel like a failure.  But another part is the unreasonable expectation that since I anticipate the physical and emotional needs of everyone around me, that someone in my family should be able to anticipate MY needs. I shouldn't have to ASK for what I want/need, they should just KNOW.  Irrational I know, but it's how I feel most of the time.  And when someone does ask me in complete bafflement if something's wrong, I compound the issue by saying 'nothing' and wondering why don't they already know what the problem is?  Am I really so complicated they can't figure it out?

Why can't the people I love see when I am overwhelmed/hurt/frustrated/sad and jump in to help me out?  How come I'm the only one who can see when someone is upset in our house, and work to try to make it better, or at least easier for them while they work through whatever it is themselves.  But yet, I suffer in silence and alone with my frustrations because I can't bring myself to ask for help from the people closest to me.  How messed up is it that I can't bring myself to communicate to the people who are supposed to love me and want what's best for me?  All because I don't want to seem weak, or incapable, or somehow a failure as a woman.. a wife.. a mother.

Is this just me?  Maybe I'm making it out to be woman thing, when really it's just a me thing.

Seriously.. Thoughts?

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