I have to admit, while I LOVE being a mother, genuinely my daughter is the best thing since sliced bread (Hovis Best of Both to be precise, being that she’s an exact mix of me and her father); I do find there are times where I feel, powerless.
I was discussing with a friend recently the simultaneous gift and burden we mothers have as sole carer for our children. On the whole it is the fathers who do as their cavemen predecessors did and hunt and gather in the great wide world. True to form, my husband is a head-hunter, gathering opportunities for his fellow cavemen to fill their own roles as “provider”. Therefore, if at any point said caveman is called upon to break with tradition and look after the children, such a request is typically met with a roll of the eyes and an eventual concession to “babysit” one’s own offspring. There may also be a negotiation for reward in response for such valiance, i.e. tuning the TV to the sports channel the following evening.
My response now, to this and other circumstances – a dirty nappy, mealtimes, brushing teeth – is a reminder that I did not procreate our offspring by myself. By that reasoning, my caveman is equally fair game for dirty nappy duty. However, the issue lies in the fact that while I am ‘at home’ caring for our child, enjoying days out at soft-play facilities, art and dance studios, friend’s houses and so on; my caveman is at his office working very hard to provide for our family.
It’s a catch-22. Part of me wants us to be equally responsible for the day to day of raising OUR child, but the rational part of me knows it’s unfair to expect certain things from my husband when he is filling the role we have set out for him. He earns the money so I can stay home. He has to factor annual leave into our holiday decisions so I can stay home. He has to commute to the city every day so I can stay home. So is it fair for me to want him to get up with the toddler on the weekends, or miss out on weekend five-a-side so I can go on a rare outing with a friend, or make a meal when he gets home in the evening because I’m too tired?
It’s this kind of situation that could lead to resentment building as two people try to acclimatise to life in a modern day cave. One that reminds women they should be having it all while playing to the notion of traditional archetypes. So, which is it? Perhaps that is down to us, learning and growing with each life experience as we gradually come to understand what we’re doing here, and figuring out how to get a modern mum and a caveman to speak the same language.
Have I given away some of my power by being a stay-at-home-mum? Would I gain some of it back by getting a job? Does the power lie with whoever holds the financial security or am I in a more powerful position than I realise? Taking charge of the home, nurturing my family, supporting my caveman, organising our schedule, taking charge of the important decisions… this is my domain. It doesn’t mean I must stop fighting for my autonomy both inside and outside of the cave, after all, my caveman may have discovered fire but he’s not the only one who knows how to use it.