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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

"Did someone just order a Victorian straight up?"

According to many of the women on CafeMom, a social network for mothers similar to MySpace or Facebook, the oldest tradition of women serving their man is still very much alive. I've heard stories of women who feel it's nearly forbidden to call their husband at work, and a large number of these women feel that their husband's work is done when he arrives home from his job. In terms of finances, some have an allowance given to them and others feel guilty even asking for money.

My wife informed me this morning that I'm one of the only husbands of CafeMom who does dishes or any kind of housework. Part of me is shocked that there are women who still have the service mentality, but then I realize that it takes the combination of a woman raised into this kind of thinking being married to a man who demands or even allows it. I suppose if a couple had no children and the woman wanted to serve all of her husband's needs because he provided a lavish lifestyle, that would be her way of showing her appreciation. In my opinion, the old fashioned mentality of woman serving her man goes against the kind of independence and equality that huge numbers of women have fought for. I certainly don't think that is the kind of relationship to bring children into, as it would most likely lead to women with no goals or dreams of their own and men who expect the same kind of treatment.

This reminds me of "Mona Lisa Smile", in which Julia Roberts is teaching at an all-girl school only to learn that it's a finishing school and the intention of many of the girls is to become nothing more than a housewife. Television shows such as Wife Swap demonstrate this situation regularly, as husbands and their wives learn that the housewife/servant scenario is not common practice when the man who's used to being served is told that he's lazy and the man who is used to doing his fair share is told that his wife is the lazy one who should be taking care of him.

Personally, as a father and husband I feel that I have two roles and my work is certainly not done each day when I arrive home from work just because I generate a paycheck. If the women who actually feel that serving their husband and maintaining the housewife persona is right and makes them happy, then there's really nothing wrong with it. I just know that I'd feel guilty if my wife felt so unsupported at home that she wouldn't dare call me at work or ask for help because she felt it was her sole responsibility. It's unfortunate that there are men out there who allow their women to serve them in such ways, and those who demand it. Some call it emasculating when a man does "a woman's work" but we're not living in the Victorian age when women were expected to serve and basically had no rights. My wife does what she can throughout the day in terms of housework, when she's not caring for our son (which is a job all in itself) and I do what I can to help. She does not have to ask for money, in fact she carries around the only ATM card.

There really is no right or wrong household dynamic, but for the sake of progress and respecting that husband and wife are equals I think the servant attitude is really best left in the age in which it was last considered common practice.

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