One of the most influential books I've read in the last five years on being a..............human, is Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist. She's a writing role-model for me and the way that she puts pen to paper and gets out what's in her head makes me just want to pump my fist in the air and shout, "Amen," when I read her books. And I didn't grow up in a community that shouted "Amen."
There is a chapter in her book called 'Princess Free Zone.' I am addicted to it and read it frequently, especially since I'm raising a daughter. I want the words from that chapter to be so ingrained in my psyche that they are second nature to me and just roll off my tongue when I'm speaking to Georgia.
Is the chapter about discouraging little girls from playing dress up? Nope. Is it a chapter that encourages women to bash men and throw out all traditional gender rolls? Not in any way. Does it speak of the evils of make-up and cooking and fashion and throwing dinner parties? Just the opposite.
What it does reinforce is that sometimes, a lot of times, women who feel comfortable fulfilling traditional gender roles (which there is NOTHING wrong with) get that confused with being frail, needing rescuing from a big strapping prince, think it's acceptable to not know what's going on in financial matters of the household, can't have strong opinions and strong minds mentality. And it's simply not true.
I thrive on traditional gender roles. I don't have one single problem with them. I want to do the laundry, I want Chris to mow the lawn. I want to do the grocery shopping and cooking, I want Chris to take care of car issues. I want to be home with Georgia and be a full-time mom, I want Chris to handle all of our 401K and retirement details. But that doesn't mean I don't know about all of the stuff he takes care of (and vice versa). And I certainly don't pretend that I have no idea about that stuff because I think it's cute.
Over the years I've been shocked at some of the things I hear coming out of other women's mouths in regards to what they know or don't know when it comes to the matters of their house-holds and how they function. And really irritated. Irritated, because I think it sends such a harmful message to the daughters, and sons, that we're raising. And while Shauna really focuses on girls relying on their looks to get ahead and how ridiculous that is, I think it's equally ridiculous that so many women think it's acceptable to "be in the dark" on matters of finance, what they should expect out of a husband, and the whole idea of a spouse giving the other one 'permission' to do something. That makes you as much of a princess as batting your eyelashes and giggling.
So when I think of raising my daughter in a princess-free zone.........these five comments come to mind........and I think us women should work on striking them from our vocabulary and raising a generation of girls who couldn't even imagine saying them because they've never been privy to hearing them.
1. I have no idea how much money we have....I just depend on my husband to tell me how much I can spend.
I'm sorry but what the what? It's 2012 girls and the majority of us have held a job at one time or another or still do and are plenty capable of retaining financial information. If you don't want to be in charge of paying the bills or balancing the check book......fine. But don't roll over and put yourself in the position of being a "kept" woman. Know what's going on around you. Look at the check book ledger, decide together what you spend on everything each month and stick to a budget.....together......one where you're both fully aware of what's coming in and going out regarding money at every turn.....so you know what you can afford to spend and what you can't.
2. I'll have to ask my husband if I can buy that.
The whole idea of being an adult, and needing "permission" to do something is insulting. If you really mean, 'I just don't think I can afford to buy that,' than say that. Don't blame your husband. That's rude to do to him and makes your relationship sound weird. And if you feel like you need to ask your husband because you have no idea how much money you can spend see #1 above.
3. I told my husband he could go fishing.
This is closely related to #2. I never can understand why people want to make their relationships sound so parental. Just like I don't think a woman should be told by her husband what she can or can't do, can or can't spend......a husband shouldn't be told where he can or can't go, do or can't do. A healthy relationship is built on mutual respect. Absolutely a discussion is to be had before a major purchase is completed, a trip is taken, or a Saturday afternoon is spent away from the family, and sometimes someone doesn't get their way and a compromise has to be negotiated. But once the discussion is had.......it's had......and you move forward as a couple from it.
4. I'll have to ask your dad what he thinks.
Because you have no ability to make a decision? Because you don't have authority as the parent who is dealing with the situation at hand? Do things come up where you're absolutely baffled at the best way to handle something? OF COURSE. And that's when you're so thankful.....again.....that you have a great husband to bounce ideas off of. But, maybe a better way to phrase this would be, "Your dad and I are going to talk about the best decision together and get back to you on what we decide." OR "Your dad and I will decide together what course of action we're going to take." But don't eliminate all your authority as a parent by passing the buck so-to-speak to someone who isn't even there in the moment.
Think about a teacher who every time she has a student misbehave in class she sends them to the principal to deal with. What do her students learn? That she doesn't know how to handle the situations that arise in her classroom and she has to depend on someone else to discipline for her. Your kids will learn that too--don't let them.
5. I guess I just have to be happy that he did the dishes at all and not worry that it's not how I would do it.
Really? Is that the kind of reaction you think a man would have if you mowed the lawn the wrong way, cleaned the grill differently than he would, you went to the more expensive oil change place, rearranged the garage in an effort to clean it, or let a bunch of high school students at the corner gas station wash the car during a fund raiser?
I can just hear it, "I know the pattern on the lawn is all over the place, but at least Maggie mowed, right?" "Oh well that she got talked into a whole bunch of unnecessary stuff at Valvoline, but at least the oil got changed." "So, there's a few little scratches on the car from the high school kids using rags that they put on the ground, but at least Maggie thought to get the car washed. That was so nice of her!"
The other thing about this line of thought is that I think it's insulting to men. They're incapable of hearing what you have to say about how you want something done so we shouldn't have any expectation of them??? And I'm not saying that we should freak out if a cup is put bottom up in the cupboard if we'd put it in bottom down, but unloading the dishwasher means putting the dishes away, not leaving them on the counter and vacuuming the house requires picking up everything on the floor, not vacuuming around it.
So let's not perpetuate the belief that a.) we can't expect things to be done the way we want them done, and b.) we should be so lucky if a man offers to help around the house that we should just take whatever we get, and finally c.) that men can't figure out how to do things the way we want them done--that's just rude--to them.
**Bonus #6.........Man Cave. Enough already. Just...........enough.
So as Shauna says, "I was taught to expect that men will respect me for my mind and my convictions, not for my ability to stroke someones fragile ego by playing helpless. I wasn't raised to play dumb, or play cute, or play princess. I learned to work hard, to develop my skills, to contribute on a team and in a society, and it drives me bonkers when women depend instead on their sexuality or their fragility."
So let's do it girls--let's strike these too often used lines from our verbiage. Let's do it for our kids. Do it today.