I never wanted to stay at home and be a mom. I was all about career, good daycare and sharing all responsibilities 50/50 with your spouse. If you told me 5 years ago I would be at home with 3 kids, have a husband who works around the clock and be starting my own business in my wee spare time – and that I would love it – I would have called you nuts.
A couple of months ago, at my IT job in a cubicle sprawl of my previous employer, a Singaporean co-worker who I didn’t know very well stopped by desk and asked if I thought North American women were rude!? This seemingly random, at first offensive, question led to an interesting conversation. In his culture people are more or less born into ‘roles’ – so there is a certain expectation and responsibility that, as a woman, you will take care of the home and kids. The “rude” comment was in reference to the fact that many North American women he met seemed unhappy or abrasive and he had some theories on why and wanted to know what I thought about it.
As a younger woman, any kind of societal obligation to do anything was extremely offensive to me. I believe that everyone is free to choose their path in life – I am a feminist and I believe in the freedoms that come with North American society. But talking to this guy, I realize there is a certain amount of order and power that come with these other social structures. He said his wife rules the house and all decisions regarding the kids are her domain, he respects her wisdom in this and she has the final say. Whereas he is responsible for the finances.
Nothing earth shattering here. What really opened my eyes, was that all this freedom us North American’s are entitled to has created a lot of chaos and disgruntledness (is that a word?). Here I was sitting at my cubicle, making decent coin with my kids in full time daycare. My job was totally mediocre and my 3 kids were really struggling with the lack of parental attention (3 kids is a lot to spread the love over in a limited time window). But embracing the traditional role of ‘stay at home mom’ went against all my beliefs of feminism, freedom of choice and of wanting to have a successful career.
I think in some ways “accumulating stuff” has replaced the true meaning of these beliefs. Freeing myself from the rat race to choose what is best for the family is a big decision. And it doesn’t mean giving up on my career, or being less feminist or being submissive to my husband, or even giving up control of my finances. But it does mean rejecting the cycle of work – daycare – buy sh*t – work some more.
It seems to me that the vast number of choices made available to us as North Americans is overwhelming us. With all expectations and obligations abhorred by most people, it leaves us wandering – looking for a perfect role in society, but one that isn’t too traditional or comes with too much responsibility (especially to your family).
How is this benefiting us a society? Innovation is amazing, – and we see it all around us in fantastic ideas, products, people. But not everyone is wired for ground-breaking innovation. So why not just work lots so you can consume all this innovative stuff 😉 And there are many other benefits that I don’t think need to be listed here.
I wouldn’t wish to born into any kind oppressive society. I found living in England stifling because their expectations of women were so low – even though they were allowed to be prime minister, or whatever else they wanted, they just weren’t expected to. But appreciating the wisdom of some “traditional” roles, especially family ones, that have been a part of humanity for a long time, is not a bad thing. And it shouldn’t feel like I am contradicting my principles of equality and opportunity by embracing them! This is a point of view I never thought I would support – but now that I here, it makes remarkable sense.