Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Good Wife

On a completely unrelated note to my previous blog (nothing if not disjointed, are we?) I thought I'd relate an interesting conversation I had last night.

Not many people came to the pub, due to a huge and confusing lab report due tomorrow. Oliver, Antoine, Katharine, and a new girl named Candy joined Ryan and I. Candy was discussing her difficulty in deciding to pursue a PHD. The way she explained it "There are 3 types of people in China: female, male, and woman with PHD." Which is really a shame, and also rather a blunder on the part of Chinese men, if you ask me. Oliver suggested she marry a Westerner, I said she doesn't have to get married at all, and we stumbled on to the complex topic of marriage.

Oliver complimented (?) me by saying that Ryan was lucky to have a wife that is not an engineer and is willing to follow him half way around the world, not worried about her own career. This is partly true, but not entirely. I do care about having a career, I just don't know as what; and in the mean time travel seems fine. Ryan said he was surprised to hear someone outside SPU espousing a love for (what Oliver deemed) a housewife. Its certainly not seen as the American ideal.

Housewife can be a sharp word. On one hand, I think its a lovely idea to stay home and care for children, the house, the cooking, etc. I think housewives generally don't get enough credit for the complex task of running a household of people. On the other hand it seems to imply a dullness, as if all the interests and hobbies one would have would revolve around groceries or laundry. Also there is the idea that she is "the little woman" acquiescing to her husband's whims on slightest demand, not an active manager of her family's affairs. Would the same be thought of a house-husband?

We certainly don't have it easy deciding amongst marriage, family, career. I reject the notion that people must fit gender roles, but now comes the task of carving out our own roles-- sometimes it seems almost easier to accept the standards of another time. But when I come home from a long day of work to my husband doing the laundry and dishes, I know that this hemming and hawing is worth it. Roles must be continually negotiated and re-negotiated, but if it means me missing out on the dishes, it's all worth it.

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