Women assume many roles throughout their lives – like brothers, sisters, wives, mothers, and grandmothers. Women’s roles have been largely dependent on the rules and expectations of civilization, faith, and the patriarchy, in addition to biology. There should not be a judgment related to being a full-time mom, a single career girl, or a “beach bum,” for that matter.
For women in addition to men, the questions I raise, which are seldom asked:
- Are your characters?
- Are different parts of you being denied?
- Have your characters (be them at work or home ) come to define your own personality and thinking, instead of the other way round?
It can be easier to adapt to social norms and follow the example of your mom and friends, but the cost is high if it means sacrificing your beliefs or the expression of different pieces of yourself. This may cause depression.
On the other hand, going against these expectations may create conflict, not just internally, but also within the family – for instance, if your spouse expects you to cook, and you refuse – especially if he has become accustomed to your making the meals. Perhaps, you think that it’s your responsibility that as a daughter you’ll call or look after your aging mother. What should you do if you do not wish to? If you’ve got a brother, would be the very same expectations put on him?
Needless to say, if you would like to take good care of her, then your desires are constant, or ego syntonic, together with the customary role description. What if you really need to travel or go on the street for a dancer or performer, rather than be a homemaker? Maybe you are interested in being a park ranger, but you and your family believe that idea is mad and you ought to reside near them in town. It may be eye-opening to generate a list of all of the things you do in all your roles.
Make two columns, one for “I have to,” and one for “I wish to.” I’m not suggesting that you stop doing all of the things you think about chores, but raising your consciousness about them is important because of this. You may feel burdened with these expectations and obligations, which can drain your energy and lead to resentment. However, as soon as you squarely face the fact that you don’t wish to do something, then you have a choice. For instance, you and your spouse both work, but the grocery store shopping drops to you. If you really don’t enjoy doing this, you can ask him for support.
You may get food delivered, eat out more, buy in bulk, or promote at night when it is less busy. If none of these alternatives work, you may realize that although one part of you hates it, your body and your pocketbook benefit from doing your own advertising. It may be revealing to ask what about it really bothers you, and discover a way to decrease the effect of that factor. This will reduce bitterness about the chore.
After all, you really may “want” to purchase the groceries as opposed to eat out, cover delivery, or get annoyed that your spouse does not store how you’d like. Another issue is when parts of you’re not getting expressed in the roles you play. Mary had a flare for mathematics and became a dental hygienist, since it paid well and she could work part time. Yet, she felt unfulfilled and really wanted to perform fundamental research. That would require her going back to college and admitting that her career goals were as essential as husband’s.
She feared making waves that a battle would ensue. She thought long about her choice, and eventually communicated her enthusiasm to him persuasively. She got his support and they worked out a strategy to make it happen. In a similar scenario, Nancy was a legal secretary, but she believed that her artistic side was being disregarded. She chose to express her creativity as an avocation, and organized for childcare so that she could take classes. Your job description may also be a role which defines and restricts you.
Ruth was a teacher, and loved her profession. She was not aware that she’d turned into a “teacher” in her relationships, and wondered why she was constantly giving instead of getting support from her friends and had had troubles finding a husband. It took some time for her to learn to be vulnerable and share her insecurities and confusion, which would allow her to get and feel more mutuality in her relationships. Additionally, it would enable men to get closer to her. As she shifted, her personal relationships became more satisfying. An unanticipated outcome was that she was more open and relaxed on the job and her pupils responded to her favorably. For every role you play, write down your expectations and beliefs which accompany it. See if you can trace where they came from, and ask yourself what you actually think.