No matter how progressive and broad-minded a lot of us claim ourselves to be, we tend to not realise how deeply misogyny is entrenched in our lives. A Facebook post by Darla Halyk, a mother and a blogger, has gone viral, for addressing how household chores continue to be divided based on perceived gender roles. The physically straining but lighter responsibilities are given to the men and the boys in the household, while the girls and women drown themselves doing the “actual duties”. While many of you might beg to differ, Halyk takes instances from her own life — as a child watching her mother and now, as a wife and a mother herself — as founding stones of her argument.
Her parents assigned her and her brother duties — she was supposed to spend he time “tidying up the house, cleaning the kitchen, and starting dinner” and her brother “would either mow the lawn, take out the garbage” before her parents walked in. Their jobs were divided as pink jobs (hers) and blue jobs (his) and she recollects that there actually were not a lot to do for her brother.
Cut to her life as a wife and a mother and she saw pretty much the same pattern resurfacing. “It’s no one’s fault, except maybe the patriarchy, I grew up in a misogynist’s world. Back in those days, things were different. My parents were instruments of their generations belief systems, and the belief systems of generations before them,” she explains. But at the same time, she emphasises that it is okay for women to be vocal about how exhausted they are of these duties, to expect help and in return, not to be tagged as mad, “nags or b*tches”.
“I was a young girl when I realized there was a hierarchy in my home. Chores were designated by gender. Blue jobs for my brother, and pink jobs for me. Mom did the cleaning, cooking, and most everything needed to make our house a home. Dad mowed the lawn, fixed the cars, and played with my brother and I until he could barely keep his eyes open. An amazing Father.
It took me a long time to understand why my Mother scowled at my Dad when the three of us entered the house after an incredible summer night digging in the sandbox.
That realization came fast and furious once I had kids and a marriage of my own.
As latchkey kids raised in the seventies and eighties, my brother and I were expected to do our chores and start dinner before our parents got home from work. Every day it was the same. I spent my time tidying up the house, cleaning the kitchen, and starting dinner. Usually, spaghetti, because it was the easiest thing for me to cook without burning the house down. Okay, so this one time I almost burned the house down, everyone makes mistakes. Lesson learned.
While I domesticated myself, my brother would either mow the lawn, take out the garbage, or… come to think of it, there weren’t a lot of blue jobs that needed daily attention. I noticed my workload was different, perhaps even harder at times, but I was the girl, and it was what was expected of me. There were multiple days I spent bickering with my brother because I was having trouble handling my workload. I still remember thinking, I just want his help. I felt like I was drowning and couldn’t do it all on my own before our Mom got home. Why was this my responsibility just because I am the girl?
This same scenario played out in my marriage many years later.
It was in those moments I realized his chore list seemed a little heavier in physical weight but much lighter in actual duties.
Nevertheless, I didn’t rebel. I didn’t speak out, complain, or say anything. I didn’t know it to be different, or wrong. But I did know without a doubt if I did complain I would be met with resistance. I might indeed be labelled, crazy. A nag. I had heard it all before. The word ‘nagging-b*tch’ had no trouble spilling from my Grandfather’s lips while my Grandmother waited on him hand and foot.
I had spent my whole life watching the women in my life carry the weight of the entire house on their backs while men sat back and watched them do it. It was normal, expected.
A Grey Cup party filled with food my Mother made became the norm, while the men sat in front of a football game expecting more. More beer, more food, more work. More take, more take, more take. No give.
My Mom was a goddess, and in my mind’s eye, she could run the world. She was already running my world, beautifully.
Somehow, I knew at that young age, I wanted to be just like my Mom. She was spectacular to watch. She could do/and did everything to keep our house afloat. My Dad by her side, supporting her every step of the way, but mostly from the couch.
From my Father’s spot on the sofa, tangled in his legs I would watch my Mother drudge over the dinner I’d half-prepared. Still dressed in her silk jumper, her purse barely placed on the kitchen table, she stood over a chocolate brown stove while the three of us indulged in the newest episode of M*A*S*H.
Every once in awhile I would notice her glance through the butler’s window in our kitchen to catch a glimpse of her family. Sometimes she would yell, and I would wonder why she seemed so angry. Sometimes she would pour a glass of wine and drown us out. Sometimes she would smile so big her eyes would fill with tears stained by love. All the time. Every single damn time — she made my entire family a sit down dinner fit for a King. Not a night went by that woman didn’t feed our family whole real food. She is my super-hero.
I have an amazing Father. I do. He is strong, forgiving, loving, accepting, and, what has always stood out about my astounding Dad; is he speaks of equality, freedom, and humanity in almost every sentence that leaves his prophetic mouth. However, he was brought up in a generation filled with misogynistic values. Taught to be served by his wife. Doesn’t that sound stupid — “served by his wife”. I am literally shaking my head as I am writing the words. He learned it from his Dad, my Grandpa.
It’s no one’s fault, except maybe the patriarchy, I grew up in a misogynist’s world. Back in those days, things were different. My parents were instruments of their generations belief systems, and the belief systems of generations before them.
We can, and need to change this. The mentality of women “doing it all” is not only propagated by males, but females alike. Our belief systems insinuate that the Mom should endure the burden of household chores. This is wrong and unfair.
When I was growing up, both of my parents had full-time jobs. Careers, in fact. My Mother was a successful Bank Manager, yet when she arrived home she still cooked and plated my Father’s meal. No one did that for her. She did it with love, she wanted to take care of him, but regularly she was exhausted. No less tired than any man in her position. Yet she was assumed to come home and feed her family. Expected to clean “her” house, only to be told she wasn’t worthy of the title on the deed. Sometimes she wanted her husband to take care of her. To plate her meal, or fold her laundry. Most times she wanted to be respected and appreciated. This I know because I have lived my Mother’s life. I have catered to the men I love. Not with regret, but often with repugnance.
I now know why my Mom grimaced at my Father when he spent “his” time playing in the dirt with us, especially after a hard days work in uncomfortable heels and constricting skirts. It was her time too. Perhaps she wanted to be the good guy. The “Dad” out in the yard getting dirty. Maybe, she didn’t want to cook another meal. Instead, play catch with her babies on a soft summer evening. Maybe she didn’t want to do anything at all but simply sit on the couch with her babies tangled in her legs.
I want to smash the patriarchy for allowing me, my mother, and all women to believe were not capable of doing it all, without being labelled. That we were and are crazy for resisting our overburdened and under appreciated workloads. When in fact we were and often still are, doing everything, to keep our houses afloat. Making homes.
We can change our world for the better if we allow our preconceived notions to change. Not just for women and men, families. Marriages. And, most importantly our children, and our children’s children.
It is time men stop telling the women in their lives they are crazy. It’s not crazy to be exhausted. It’s not crazy to voice fatigue. It is not crazy to ask for help. It isn’t nagging when a woman pleads with her husband to clean the toilet or help around the house. She shouldn’t have had to beg him to clean his mess in the first place.
Women aren’t crazy; they are tired. They are tired of picking up after everyone in their lives. Women are angry they have gone unappreciated for so long. Women aren’t assholes because they are finally using their voice.
Stop calling women nags and b*tches. Start doing your job as their partner so they don’t have to complain about the shit you don’t want to do. This isn’t about men helping women to run the house, it’s about men actually seeing that it isn’t only a woman’s job.
If I learned anything from my superhuman Mother, it is:
“I can do it all, but all of it is not mine to do.””