>> Monday, October 26, 2009
Stereotyping alert. I'm going to make some broad generalizations; try to bear with me.
I've read in the past that women aren't as happy as they used to be and I think it might be right. But the reasoning I've seen on why they think it's so doesn't ring quite right. I've read two articles recently here and here, both opinion pieces, and I don't think those opinions are without merit, but, I'm sorry, they both boil down to me largely to "men still don't treat us as equals." While I'm sure there are still aspects of that out there, I think we should be a little leery of assuming the finger of blame should just be pointed outward. Since there are plenty of people willing to blame men, let me list a few things I think women do to undermine their own happiness - myself included.
Actually, it's one thing. We took on all the responsibility and thinking of the "traditional" male role without giving up our old responsibilities. We want it ALL.
We want the same jobs at the same pay.
We want to be in charge.
We want to have a family.
We want to raise children.
We know these take time and effort 24/7.
We expect to keep our houses in order.
We want to look good for our spouses.
We want to look good for our other friends.
We need to stay in shape.
We know the importance of "me" time and so we need that too, often taking on dozens of hobbies (OK, maybe that's just me).
We want a social network for when we need friends, which means clubs, churches or just close friends.
We want to keep our options open, so we're often doing something we want to do instead of what we're doing OR pursuing higher education.
Did I mention we were raising a family?
Now, not to be too stereotypical, but I think I have to give the edge to men on smarts in this instance. Why? Name (to yourself) all the someones you know personally who are trying to do everything (or nearly everything) on this list, including yourself as applicable. Now, how many (if any of them) are male. Now, how many are trying to be THE BEST at everything on this list? Yeah, I thought so.
And that's pretty smart because you can't do everything and be the best. I suspect, long long ago, men and women realized that doing it all was too much for anyone, so they divvied things up. Since men won the arm-wrestling match, they took the easier tasks, running around looking for food and occasionally trying to kill other men. Women were generally left with the tasks of making whatever they caught palatable and raising children.
When women, millenia later, woke up to the notion that they didn't have to be limited to cleaning house and raising children, that they could do other things if they wanted to, that was a good thing (as was the ancillary notion that fathers could contribute more to family life than sperm and financial support). Men, who once might once have worked 80 plus hours a week to stay ahead of the pack started taking paternity leave and sickdays to care for sick kids (and, yes, I've seen it quite a bit). Many started cooking or doing laundry, but they did it realizing that 80 hours a week wasn't a good plan. They no longer demanded it all of themselves and were happy with a comfortable modicum at home (that they were happy with - not necessarily wives) and work. And they found that they could still bring home good salaries or, with the wife working, could live at least as well as before. And, despite a few exceptions, most men are much more comfortable looking like themselves than some idealized version of themselves (and good for them). Personally, I think that's a very healthy response to the roles women demanded and I'm pleased I'm living with today's men and not those from several generations back.
But, for many women, they haven't let go the notion of being Scheherazade, June Cleaver, Oprah and Gertrude Stein. They want to be the BEST mother and the sexiest woman and the best [insert career choice here] and, and... When I talk with men, some of definitely juggling things, but it will be a crush of business travel or working things without disrupting their marathon training schedule or some short term event. With women, on-line and in real life, conversation seems to be an endless litany of things they have to get DONE so they can do more. We want to be beautiful so we spend endless billions on makeup and impractical shoes and pantyhose, and fashion and jewelry and cosmetic surgery and diet regimes. I just saw a commercial for a drug to grow EYELASHES that can permanently muddy your eye color and damage your eyes. WTF? We want to be good parents so we commit to letting our children do every activity imaginable (so we don't feel guilty for the hours we're at work). We want it all and want to do it all fabulously.
Can't do it all, of course. Nothing wrong with being a mother and housewife, but it WAS a full time job and we shouldn't expect that we can still do all that and everything else we've taken on without some of the quality falling a bit.
Basically, we need to pick and choose and/or expect the overall caliber to drop a bit. And, folks, we're going to have to give ourselves a break before we can expect anyone else to.
At least, that's my opinion.