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Gender Roles in Marriage…by Jane

Hi, it’s Jane again. A few weeks ago you read about Bernard’s ‘tool party’ with the boys – an afternoon of blokey frivolity which included cold drinks, lots of meat and some sort of activity involving the men running and throwing themselves against a giant velcro wall. As I prepare for my Kitchen Tea with the ladies, I can fairly confidently predict that the afternoon is not likely to bear much resemblance to Bernard’s event.

I sometimes find the differences between men and women highly amusing. It is no wonder they wrote a book about Men being from Mars and Women from Venus. However, apart from the occasional frustrations when either sex just cannot seem to understand the other, I would not have it any other way. I think it would be quite foolish not to recognise the fact that men and women bring very different qualities and strengths to a relationship.

Helping my bridesmaids to plan a Kitchen Tea has really drawn my attention to particular stereotypes about traditional gender roles. The development of such understandings is a natural part of life I guess. Growing up most of us come to accept images of a wife cooking and cleaning and a husband mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage. After all, there is much logic attached to these ways of thinking. At the end of the day, men are usually physically stronger than women so it makes sense for them to do heavy lifting and to take on more strenuous or dangerous tasks. Women, (particularly if they find themselves in the situation of staying home raising children), would be in a better position to take on tasks along the lines of ‘homemaking’.

A problem for me is that I do not feel particularly confident in my ability to bring a ‘female’ skill set to our relationship. Having been a dedicated athlete for many years, the reality is that I have spent more time lifting weights at the gym than lifting baking dishes out of the oven. I still live at home and it just happens that the way things work in my family, I have had little experience in the kitchen (my parents may argue that this has been in everyone’s best interests). The fact that I am quite ‘undomesticated’ has been a cause of feelings of insecurity for me. While Bernard’s engagement ring did not come with terms and conditions in fine print stating that I was expected to iron his shirts and sweep his floors, I still put pressure on myself to live up to these imaginary expectations. No one ever likes to feel like a weak link or that they let the team down. It is important in any team situation for every member to feel as though they have a part to play and something to contribute. What I need to accept is that these contributions might not always be equal but they are equally important. Over the years I’m sure we will each have our turn to carry the other through struggles, imperfections or feelings of inadequacy. And that is exactly what love is – accepting each other as we are with all our limitations while building up a sense of worth in the other.

Something valuable I learnt in our marriage prep course was the idea that as a newly married couple, Bernard and I will need to establish our own ways of functioning as a household. What we came to accept as normal in our own families growing up, might not be what is best for us in our new family. What worked well for our parents in terms of distributing chores might not be the same for us as we are two different people to who our parents were. I can certainly see the importance of communication and teamwork in making decisions about household chores and roles. I am very excited about starting a new life with Bernard and sharing what will surely be an adventure of discovering together what works best for us in our own situation.

So when I celebrate my Kitchen Tea in a few weeks, I will simply enjoy it as a special time to eat cupcakes with my friends, take advantage of the opportunity to use pink ribbons and other such girly details that Bernard would not have wanted to include in the rest of the wedding planning; and I will try to not be too concerned when I undoubtedly fail to answer most questions on the ‘name this kitchen appliance’ quiz.

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