The role of the Matriarch or the ‘woman of the house’ is sadly (still) undervalued when compared to that of her male counterpart. For starters our mandate is bigger, much bigger, and we manage to accomplish more with fewer resources, and in less time. We also do not expect constant applause for everything we accomplish – we just get the job done….. because somebody has to do it, and women won’t typically wait to be asked, unlike men.
I’m a ‘doer’. I see what needs to be done and tackle it because it’s easier than trying to find someone else who is willing. My husband, on the other hand is a ‘don’t do it if you can find someone else to’, and he has perfected the art of this search. You would think this strategy would backfire on his reputation but it hasn’t. When, and if, he completes a chore, family and friends rally around him with such accolades and recognition, you’d think he won an Olympic gold medal. It naturally follows then, that such a positive reaction would spur him on to do more, but no. He’s ok with his ‘moment’ in the spotlight, then comfortably retreats to his lounger and a good book, or more often than not, a nap.
The woman of the house on the other hand, does the laundry, cleans the home, buys the groceries, cooks all the meals, plans and prepares for the gathering of friends and family, including holidays, diarizes and reminds the man of all family birthdays so when he calls to wish them a happy birthday everyone says, ‘Isn’t he sweet? He remembered my birthday!”, when the truth is he can barely remember his own. And we do this every day. (Maybe that’s why we typically live longer – lethargy is a killer)
I suppose to some degree we do this to ourselves. Women don’t need to be told that the laundry needs doing, or the house needs cleaning; we see it, clearly. Men appear to be oblivious to obvious chores because they’re ok living with dust and dirt, and if they’ve run out of socks and underwear they just recycle the same pair until clean stuff miraculously appears.
What would it be like if we traded roles for a month? Men would adopt the role of housekeeper, caregiver, nurse, secretary and janitor;, in short, nothing would get done. Women would……oh God, wait now, it’s coming…..help me, what….what would we do? I mean after we play 18 holes, we’re spent, and must retire to our lounger, then what? We could change the beds, or tidy the washrooms, or walk the dog, or get the mail, or vacuum the rugs, or cook the meals……wow!, that’s a lot of important decisions to make….we’d better rest while we mull this over……and if we time it right, while we’re snoozing somebody else will tend to all those chores. Ahha! OK, now we’re thinking like the man of the house!
Maybe our roles are what they are because we’ve made them so. I love it when my husband helps around the house (it does happen on occasion) but truth told, I usually redo what he’s done because it doesn’t meet my standards. (you know, if he did it more often he’d probably perfect the effort…but I suspect that’s part of the strategy….don’t do well the things you don’t want to do at all)
I’m always amazed at peoples’ reactions when we entertain. I spend days planning the menu, cleaning the house – I want everything perfect. Twenty minutes before guests arrive, my husband screeches into the driveway (from golf) and runs upstairs to shower. He emerges just in time to ‘set up the bar (this involves taking glasses out of the cupboard and placing them on the counter) and arrange the music for the night, and when guests arrive he’s front and centre welcoming them with just a slight hint of exasperation to reflect his preparation efforts. He makes it look so easy.
After a life time of doing what I do I realize I do it well and that’s what gives me satisfaction. I go to sleep each night content with the knowledge that I’ve made good use of my day. I suppose it all comes down to expectation. I expect a day of hard work and production from myself, and I expect my husband to mow the lawn, bash the bugs, and play a respectable round of golf. I guess we should all just stick to our strengths!