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housewife curseHave you ever noticed how a certain pattern plays out within families but also within groups in general where, whenever there is a dinner event or any other event involving eating and getting people together for a meal, the females will most often be the ones who takes care of cooking, cleaning and doing dishes?

To a certain extent, there is nothing odd about this as this is the division of labor that we have been used to for so many years, where it was the woman’s role to take care of the home while it was the man’s role to ‘bring home the bacon’ as in providing money for the family to sustain itself.

Many of us now live in such a way where both men and women are out working and making money and yet it is still primarily the women who take care of the home and the children which often leaves females doing double work.

Growing up I wasn’t very helpful and I would most often prefer to not even engage in family-events, traditions or parties and while I would still most often prefer not to participate in such events, I can no longer justify for myself not helping.

So even though I don’t feel like it I will push myself to help with cooking, cleaning and doing dishes. If I am with someone that has cooked a meal I see it as a joint responsibility to do the dishes afterwards and I don’t see it as okay to leave one person (usually the ‘mother’ or another female) to take care of everything by themselves.

As such, I find myself more and more becoming this ‘housewife’ that takes care of things and I often end up doing dishes and other forms of cleanup together with the rest of the females in the family or the group I am in.

It has created a lot of inner conflict within me because I see that it would be common sense for everyone to help each other. And when everyone assists one another it goes much faster to get everything done and it is not a burden that is placed on any one person.

I could understand if dividing labor in this way served a practical purpose, for example if the males of the family were coming home tired after a long day of working – but often it may even be the females who come home after a long day of working, only to also have to cook, clean, do laundry and dishes for everyone else in the house.

It is however also a catch 22 because I have noticed that it is also females who tend to be the ones who initiate parties and family events, who prioritizes having birthday parties or who hold onto a specific idea about how Christmas or other holiday parties is supposed to play out. Males are usually a lot more relaxed about such events and often wouldn’t mind not doing it or even scaling it down to a more causal level. As such, it becomes the curse of the housewife where the female wants everyone to keep up with tradition, but doesn’t want to do all the work by herself – leaving the rest of the family to either passively participate or forcing them to actively be a part of the festivities (because they do not have a choice.)

I don’t mind giving direction to events, in fact I enjoy being able to get people together and organize gatherings and make it as best as possible for everyone involved, but I do not want to be or become such a female. In fact, I have never cared about traditions or cyclical events like birthdays or Christmases, but I see that I, like a lot of females, allow myself to get dragged into it and positioned in the role of being the ‘herd’ or the ‘gatekeeper’ of the family, whether I want to or not.

As a basic principle, I see that it is best if everyone helps each other in maintaining one’s living environment which includes things like cooking, cleaning, doing dishes and laundry. Here one then has to also take each one’s individual needs into account. Is someone injured or impaired in some way that they can’t participate as much? Is someone working long hours while another is not? Are there preferences that could contribute to dividing the work in a more pleasurable way for everyone?

These are all relevant things to take into account – but what is not okay is for one person/group to have to take care of everything, simply because we’re all still living based on archaic gender roles that have nothing to do with the practical reality we live in.

It is a complex situation, because often one person will have ‘higher standards’ of cleanliness for example than another. Is that person then mandated to automatically demand of others to follow their standards? Or is it okay for the person with the ‘lower standards’ to say: “I don’t need it to be THAT clean, so if you want that, you have to do it yourself”?

Here it ought to be a matter of looking at what is practical and what is common sense. The person with the high standards might be operating based on a fear of how others will see their home and are as such not looking practically at what a ‘common sense level’ of cleaning would be. Or the person with the low standards might not consider how it can be potentially dangerous and how one is compromising one’s living environment by leaving food out and not putting it away.

As such, to establish a ‘best for all’ situation it would be relevant to look at all such dimensions and come to a common agreement of what needs to be done, when and by whom.

In fact, this is exactly what happens when we don’t make agreements with each other in awareness based on common sense; our preprogrammed patterns take over and we get caught in endless cycles of doing things just because “It is what we have always done.”

The other point to then consider is the one regarding keeping up traditions where, as I mentioned, the females tend to be the gatekeepers, the glue that holds the family together based on cyclical traditions.

This can be very difficult to break free of depending on the type of family one is in and how much the females (but also males) value traditions. In so many families I have seen how the males and the children become passive but also take on a stance of being against the female (usually the mother) who directs everything. Passivity is in this case a coping mechanism used where one can participate without really being present or engaging and where one can receive the fruits of the mother’s labor (the pies and pastas and the clean room) without having to take responsibility. Is it in many ways like a passive protest to the establishment, but without any engagement in dismantling it because one still enjoys the benefit it brings.

For the females on the other hand, I’ve noticed a distinct inner conflict where the females who uphold the traditions experience that they are doing it because everyone else wants them to, kind of like they are forced to be the glue that holds everything (and everyone) together and if they loosen their grip for just a second, everything (and everyone) is going to fall apart at the seams. And it tears at them and they feel it is unfair that they have to take on so much, but at the same time don’t see or realize that they are largely responsible for placing themselves in this situation.

It can be daunting to let go of what has always been, because it is like these yearly and cyclical events functions as cogs in the wheel that we call life and without them we wouldn’t know how to make meaning of the world, we fear that we would be lost and that we would be wasting our time living lives without meaning. So these moments/events becomes like the glue that holds our lives together and makes us feel like there at least is some meaning to it all.

For many people it is not possible or realistic to jump from traditions from one day to the next to suddenly not participate in any – and some people also really enjoy them.

At the same time there’s nothing wrong with questioning traditions and the way we carry them out and start questioning our starting-point within them. We can look at how we can optimize our family festivities and open up the point in discussion amongst family or group members.

For instance, I suggested that for Christmas we could do a potluck and instead of giving each other Christmas gifts we could play games. Because I personally enjoy being around the family and I enjoy playing games. What I don’t enjoy has to spend three days making the same food every year and then eat it for a week. I also don’t enjoy being forced to spend money on gifts, although I have always enjoyed giving gifts. So this is a way one can transform a tradition where people otherwise go into certain roles that they play out and where it is not really about enjoying oneself genuinely (because you’re forced to be there whether you like it or not) but about ‘acting as though you are enjoying yourself’ – which no body enjoys, obviously.

With regards to the ‘curse of the housewife’ where females in families (and groups) end up doing all the house work, a solution can be to bring all the family together and see how changes can be made to ensure that everyone pitches in when everyone meets for dinner or when the house needs to be cleaned. It is something that needs to be directed openly and one cannot simply expect things to change from one day to the next. But if one is open with one another it is possible to come up with solutions that suit everyone.

This however also means that the person who’s been directing everything has to take everyone else’s perspectives into account which might be a new experience for most people, but it doesn’t mean that it cannot be done and that new traditions cannot be formed that is more commonsensical and that everyone can have fun with.

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