What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the words “wife and homemaker”?
Now as you probably know by now I’m getting married this summer. I’m super stoked about spending the rest of my life with John because he is my best friend and we have awesome adventures, but I’ve been struggling with what it means to become a wife within our cultural context.
On the one hand I have many fantastic examples of what it can mean to be a wife and homemaker. My eldest sister for example. She was married by 19 and popping out babies by 20. She has a massive garden, grinds her own wheat, cooks pretty much everything from scratch, volunteers at her kids’ school, practically built her house from the ground up with her husband, and manages the office of their business from home. These are amazing accomplishments.
So why do I feel like I should reassure you readers that now that her kids are hitting their teens she has returned to university?
The other day I was talking to John about the pressure I have felt in university (particularly in my Sociology class) to use day care whenever we start having kids so I can continue with a professional career. I explained that it almost feels like there is a sort of “pro-day care” propaganda. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with subsidizing childcare, but some of the arguments I encountered seem to stigmatize stay-at- home parents. He was somewhat bewildered by my argument and couldn’t see where I was coming from. So I told him that the next time he bumps into an old professor and they ask what he is now doing that he should tell them he has decided to be a stay-at-home dad for a few years. I think that got my point across.
So I really do believe that being a wife and mother, and even a homemaker, are valuable skills that need to be respected, not stigmatized. On the other hand, I am a feminist, and I do believe that it’s my duty as a woman of privilege to take advantage of the opportunities I have been given so that those doors can remain open for future generations of women.
As Jennifer Siebel Newsom impresses in her documentary, Miss Representation, it is hard for young girls to strive towards something they don’t see.
Despite the advances of feminism, women are still underrepresented in government, and perhaps more influentially, in media. This often results in the roles of women being diminished, and their value focused on the aesthetic.
So what does this mean for me on a practical level? I mean, it’s not like getting married is going to prevent me from pursuing a career. In fact, probably the exact opposite because John is super supportive about my passion for women’s issues, and is a huge support with my schooling and career plans. No, I mean what does that mean in our relationship.
I was always the girl who swore I would never cook for a man, I was going to find a man who could cook for me. I was going to do something that involved power tools or heavy work equipment and was never ever going to wear pink. Above all, I was determined to never be weak or vulnerable.
Unfortunately for me, relationship is all about vulnerability.
We recently went to the pastor who will be marrying us to get some good ol’ premarital counselling (all the cool kids are doing it) and he talked to us about the roles in a marriage relationship. He kept focusing on some of my least favorite verses in the bible:
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her
Now I really, really hate the word “submit”, but I’ve been in the church long enough to know that the lion’s share of the work is actually put on the husband in these verses as the man is called to sacrifice his life for his wife as Christ sacrificed his life for the church. Yet even that irks me, why is the husband held to a higher standard of living than the wife? On the other hand
On the other hand John has no problem fulfilling many of his expected gender roles in our relationship. He pays on dates, he takes out the garbage, I even thought it was pretty darn cute that he asked my parents if he could date me. In fact, a big part of what I was attracted to about him was the way he was confident enough to hold his own and not back down when we argued, even though it also made me furious.
So have I created a double standard here? I writhe under typical female gender role expectations, but I still want him to “be the man.” What do you think? As a self professing “liberal Christian” do I accept the biblical roles which have created many of the successful relationships around me? On a practical level, is it only fair that if I expect him to play the role of the husband that I take on the role of the wife? Does my position as a feminist mean I need to rebel against any and all gender stereotypes, even in my own relationship?
Also, should I hyphenate my name, or is that just lame?