Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Who Will Cook: Part II

This topic, that I've recently begun thinking about with more specificity, what shall I call it? What tag does this fall under? I'd prefer not to name it "Gender-Wars" as I would hope that the exploration of these issues would not have to be tinged with a confrontational tone. "Parenting" isn't quite right, because cooking dinner, though arguably part of parenting, is much broader than that. It has to do with the division of household labor/nurturing/care-taking between a couple, something which could come up in a couple living together (I suppose), but seems to really crystallize as an issue to be dealt with once children get tossed in to the mix.

"Gender" is too vague, and also almost a red herring, because although gender has lots to do with this, it just as easily could have nothing to do with it. And, call me naive, but I'd like gender to have a very limited role here. I'd like, in my relationship if I were to have children, for the division of labor not to be about fixed gender roles but rather about the individual people in question and their needs and wants. I'd like the division of labor to take into consideration questions like, who is more suited to cook, who knows how to cook and who doesn't, who would like to stay at home or work outsidef of the home and why and what would that look like, what do the individuals care about and what do they want to pursue in terms of their professional goals, and how can the division of labor incorporate those goals? (I say this, but I also feel the way I just framed it sounds far too rigid, artificial, and formulaic than I would like it to be).

In other words, I'd like the division of labor, to the extent it occurs, to be tailored around the specific needs and desires of the individuals involved, and not based on any fixed notions of what's expected from one as a result of their gender. That's the basic problem with gender roles - they obscure the individual beneath a cloak of societal expectations based on the shape one's genitals, and in so doing often - mainly with respect to women - work to limit the ability of the individual to realize their full potential as happy, fulfilled human beings.

The starting point of the question should not be: You are a woman, so I expect you to do "X". The starting point should be: How can we balance things so that we are both happy and fulfilled individuals? The bottom line is that I'm going to be a good mother, and my partner will be a good father, if we are happy with ourselves and our relationship. If I'm happy working outside of the home full time or part time or not, and vise versa, as long as I'm happy, I will be a great mom. If, however, I'm not happy, my kids will feel that and they won't be happy either, not to mention my partner. There are so many uncertainties in relationships, but I think one thing is certain - a relationship will not be healthy and successful unless both parties to the relationship are happy and fulfilled.

I know that a couple can agree on many things ahead of time and think it's extremely important to discuss these types of issues early on in a relationship - if for no other reason than that it helps you grow and deepen your own thoughts on these issues. But, the only thing you know for sure is that change will happen, and as a friend of mine was saying, about the only thing you can do is work on being flexible, trusting, and good at communicating. You can't plan everything out (although that would be nice), but you can commit to solving together the many unforeseen issues that will undoubtedly arise. It's all about being a united front with both people having each other's back and supporting one another, and committing to that for the future.

Sounds fabulous, I know, but it still leaves the question that started all of this hanging out unanswered in the ether. Who will cook? I still don't know.


Karianne said...

We only really worry about dinner and whoever gets home first starts dinner, which is usually me!

Buttercup said...

Karianne, Now that is probably the best, most sensible, approach. As long as it's not just a de facto way of getting one party to take on more of the responsibility than they are comfortable with. For example, if your husband got home consistently late without the two of you ever having agreed that you did not mind taking on greater responsibility. I don't know... it probably depends so much on the understanding between the couple.