Gender Roles & the Expectation to Nurture

“We are, after all, the gender onto which a giant Here to Serve button has been eternally pinned. We’re expected to nurture and give by the very virtue of our femaleness, to consider other people’s feelings and needs before our own.”
-The Truth That Lives There via Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

I’ve only just noticed, after reading the quote above, that my husband and I fall into these gender roles. I’ve always attributed it to personality, but it explains why I am always worried about what other people think, worried about my daughter’s comfort over my own, so defensive about my choice to go to college still, so conflicted about my own needs and wants in general.

My husband, on the other hand, is one to shrug things off, to fall asleep in a matter of minutes because he doesn’t have a million thoughts running through his mind. He just does what he feels is best for him and nods off. Whereas I am kept awake rethinking everything I’ve said and done, wondering if I’ve offended anyone, if I should get up and turn the fan off in my daughter’s room, if I’m a bad mom if I risk her getting cold.

The added stress of repressing my own feelings and needs (like sleep) is a load I had no idea I was bearing, or at the very least no idea I was bearing because of my gender. Men are not held accountable in the same way that women are. No one automatically expects them to be the primary caregiver for their children, no one judges them for not baking cookies for the school bake sale, no one blames them for taking some “me time” to kick back and watch the game.

Yet women are constantly scrutinized if they don’t adhere to the standard of womanhood–be selfless, be maternal, be feminine, be demure, cook, clean, etc.–and that’s impossible so all women are scrutinized. Strayed goes on to say:

“I’m not opposed to those traits. The people I most admire are in fact nurturing and generous and considerate. Certainly, an ethical and evolved life entails a whole lot of doing things one doesn’t particularly want to do and not doing things one very much does, regardless of gender.”

And I agree that these traits I possess are not inherently bad, I only wish that I wouldn’t be punished for letting things slide sometimes and that everyone was a little more considerate.

– – –

As seen here on Odyssey


One thought on “Gender Roles & the Expectation to Nurture

  1. Pingback: The Perception of Motherhood – Partial Disclosure

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