My friend, Sarah, and I were talking the other day about gender roles within heterosexual couples (amongst mothers and fathers in particular)…
The Yin Yang of domestic life.
We got onto the topic because we were talking about my trip to Maine and how it was empowering for me to go on a more challenging trip, and to be cast in the role of provider (you should have seen me hunting and gathering those hot dogs and s’mores, you guys).
There may have been a time when I wouldn’t have taken my children on a trip like that, because I may have felt as though I needed a man to accompany us in the role of protector and provider.
This is really stupid on so many levels.
For one thing, as the only adult in my household, I hunt and gather the shit out of things on a daily basis – like the perfect tomatoes at the farmer’s market, for example…or the elusive pair of matching socks.
Ahem…to the point…
Oftentimes (not always, but often) when men and women get together in relationships, marriages, families…there are roles that we find ourselves sliding into. Particularly for those of us who have chosen to stay at home to be with our children full time, as I myself did (up until a few years ago).
He took out the trash. I cooked the dinners (even though he is a better cook, I was the one at home when dinner needed to get underway). I did the laundry. He fixed things. He took on the home improvement projects. I did the grocery shopping. He was the grill-master. As a stay at home mother, I obviously took on the bulk of the child rearing.
Sarah and I were talking about how this task delegation happens, often so seamlessly and without discussion or even particular awareness…like a default setting of male and female roles within the home.
Again, not always, but often.*
Here’s where I want to be careful to say that I am not placing more worth or importance on any of these roles/jobs, I am merely pointing out the tendency of mothers and fathers to each take on certain ones.
We wondered if, for children living in a single parent household (which for my children is 70% of the time), wherein that parent (by necessity) fills both the “masculine” and “feminine” roles….
Would this ultimately change the children’s default settings as adults?
I had the (so obvious, yet somehow) startling revelation that their father, who has now revealed himself to be transgender, is really turning the Yin Yang of our children’s world on it’s head.
Just as I have begun to take on both the masculine and feminine “roles” within my home, he has gradually become more and more feminine within his. We are each blurring the gender roles, albeit in completely different ways.
One day a few months ago, one of my daughters said to me, “Mom, do you realize that some day I may actually have two moms?”
I paused to consider this and replied, “Lots of people have two moms, actually.”
She looked me square in the face and said, “It’s not really the same thing, is it.”
This was not a question, but a statement…and she was right. Typically, one of the two moms was not formerly a dad.
We don’t really know what the future holds for our family, but for now my children have a mother who is not intimidated by adventurous trips, takes out the trash, cooks on the grill, and is a protector from big, scary insects (which I almost always relocate outside).
They have a father who wears make up and is very fond of pink, and who likes to pirouette across the kitchen. He also, by the way, can build staircases and cabinets, and knock down and reframe walls. He wears steel toe boots and a hard hat to work.
I think my children are getting quite an education in many things, actually…probably the least of which is not to get caught up in gender roles.
They are learning how to be confidently independent.
They are learning how to be bravely oneself, even – or especially – when you are different, and not everybody understands.
Hopefully, above all they are learning that of all the roles assumed within a family, the most important jobs are shared amongst us all – and those are to love and respect one another.
*To be fair, a little anectdote – I remember settling into my first house after my husband and I separated. I commented that unfortunately, I didn’t have a dishwasher. His response was, “You’re right, I’m not coming with you.”
(So apparently he did do the dishes a lot…or at least he thought so.)