Step towards equality by nurturing yourself.

Why as mothers (and women in general) have we accepted the message that it’s ok to put ourselves second, or worse, third or fourth or fifth?

Is it because our own mothers modelled hard work and sacrifice in the home and at work, as was expected of a generation who fought so hard for the right to have both?
When you compare the roles of most mothers to those of our grandmothers it is easy to be impressed with the steps we’ve made towards equality. But you only have to speak to a group of mothers (especially first timers who haven’t quite worked out the balance yet) to realise that in most households women are still doing the main share of the work, despite many also working part or full time. 
Naturally this makes us feel frustrated, resentful and unappreciated.
I read somewhere the other day that it is a waste of our energy being angry that as a society we are not fifty years ahead of where we are. Or at the very least we can be frustrated at society, but our anger is misguided if it is directed at our partners in particular. This is certainly not an excuse to let our other halves off the hook, but the anger, that’s a waste of time.
We need to be aware that most of our partners grew up in homes where chores were shared unequally between the genders and this was accepted as normal. Of course you could argue that so did we and we want to change, but it is very natural to be accepting of a gender role when it serves you. It is only when you feel taken advantage of that it becomes a problem. This doesn’t mean we have to accept the gender roles of the generation before us, but just like they fought for change, we also have to continue stepping towards it whilst accepting that social change is slow.
We need to negotiate new roles and the balance of workload within our homes without resentment. We need to ask our partners to step up and view chores as equal responsibilities. Most importantly we need to be our own biggest advocates and nurturers; to stop expecting our partners to know when we are doing too much and when we need a break, hoping they will offer it and then feeling disappointed when they don’t.
And yes I’m sure there are exceptional men out there who do recognise these things and couples for whom this balance comes naturally, but for the majority of us; we need to learn to ask for what we need rather that expecting our partners to know.
So I vote its time to put ourselves first. While it may feel selfish at first; taking time for ourselves when we feel we don’t ever have enough time to get everything done or spend with our families, the reality is we need this time to create a balanced healthy family, not to mention ourselves as individuals. 
We need to makes sure our needs are met, not leave it up to anyone else, or worse, chance.
The work each of us does in our own homes to step ourselves towards our ideal balance is what will finally take society towards truly equal gender roles. After all, we are now the role models our children will copy in their homes. Let’s give them a head start towards equality, just as our mothers did for us.

3 Responses to “Step towards equality by nurturing yourself.

  • Lila Wolff
    10 years ago

    It’s such a hard step to take but you’re totally right we need to take it and not wait for it to be given to us!

  • I grew up in house where Dad did more than half the housework. He was a better cook than Mum, and loves to wash and iron his sheets every second Dad. Yeah I know he is a little crazy. But My mother always put herself first. So I grew up not by taking example from Mum, but always expecting others to put themselves before me. Justin grew up in a traditional Chinese house where the men do nothing. So now unfortunately I don’t know how to put myself first and he does not know how to do anything…

  • MotherDownUnder
    10 years ago

    Great post Bettina.
    My mom and dad split most of the domestic duties…she cooked, he cleaned and they both gardened.
    I do sometimes struggle as it feels to me like I do most of the work around the house but then when I rationally think about it, Daddy R does a lot too…not always things that I consider essential, but things that he thinks are important and should be done for our family.

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