It’s beginning to look a lot like gender norms…

The Holidays are quickly approaching us.  I have done zero shopping and have begun stressing about choosing the right gifts at the very last minute for my friends and family.   Even though I have been out of work the majority of the past 6 weeks, it doesn’t seem that “skipping” the gift-giving part of Christmas is an option, even though people know I just had a baby 6 weeks ago.  IF YOU LOVE PEOPLE, YOU MUST BUY THEM THINGS!!! LOTS OF THINGS!!! Despite my husband and I doing secret Santa with our families, there is still an unspoken pressure to buy for all of my parents, my grandmother, all of the kids (and spoiled teenagers) in my family.   If I don’t buy gifts for all of these people,  I am afraid I will be seen as selfish or cheap.  And notice I say I, because I automatically assume the role of choosing and purchasing the gifts that come from both me and my husband.

Having a baby has already lead my husband and I to adhere to more of the typical gender norms, which is hard enough as it is for me.  I HATE CLEANING!  I don’t mind cooking but something really grinds my gears about me having dinner ready for when my husband comes home from work (I usually don’t).  I see a woman from the 50’s in an apron with a baby on her hips asking her husband if he needs anything and waiting on him hand and foot. halloween1 By no means does my husband expect this from me, but for some reason I feel like I am being taken advantage of (by society???) when I do certain tasks around the house.

Do I want to take the trash out?  Not really.  Do I know how to fix something on my car (or anything for that matter?)  Definitely not.  I was never taught the more “masculine” tasks growing up.  My complex probably stems from childhood.  Being the only girl out of 4 children, very early on I strove for perfectionism and achievement.  My brothers knew this about me and used this against me for chores.  I clearly remember having to vacuum instead of my brothers because I did a, “better job” than they did.  I remember how angry I felt then, knowing they were tricking my mom into making me do their chores because I would usually try hard at whatever I did.

Fast forward to adulthood.  You know what vision I have of the holidays?  My grandmother cooking in the kitchen while the women help her.  After dinner the women (usually me and my grandmother) automatically start to clear plates and clean up while the men sit around, usually watching sports and drinking beers.   Never do they offer to help.   One Thanksgiving I actually boycotted cleaning and told the men it was their turn to help.  It worked, but for only one time.   For me, they would rather soak up their male privilege and be lazy while the women suffer.  My younger brother will actually make jokes about my role as a woman being in the kitchen.

And can we talk about Christmas cards?  Now that I have a little one, once again the pressure is felt to show off our new bundle of joy.  97c94fd2-f575-4550-80bb-5055dcd425b4_text_hi

I seriously wonder, has a man EVER organized the pictures, labeled, and sent out Christmas cards? Why is this task left up to me, and most women I presume.  Luckily, for most things I talk to my husband and let him know exactly when I feel this way and things he can do to help.  I don’t do these tasks and pretend like I love to do them to please my man.  He’s the first person that knows homie don’t play that game.   More women should speak out and refuse to do things just because it has traditionally been done by women.   Do things together!  Ask for help, and accept things even if it’s not done exactly the way you like them to be.   And if someone asks you why the presents aren’t wrapped on Christmas morning, just explain that Santa went on strike.

Praising the partners

We all like to know when we are doing a good job

A few days ago it was my husbands birthday.  I woke up that morning to find that he was no longer in the bed, and I heard some items being moved downstairs.  The baby woke up and as I began to feed her, my husband came back upstairs.  In an annoyed attitude I asked him what he was doing.  My husband replied that he was cleaning out the guest room and organizing it along with all of the baby items.  My grumpy attitude quickly diminished and I felt remorseful for how quick I have been prone to anger with my husband and lashing out at him  verbally sometimes.  I realized in this moment that I need to stop feeling so angry and irritable with him.  In the past couple weeks I have scolded him for things he isn’t doing/ not doing “correctly,” and for not understanding my experience as a Mom.  Of course he can’t understand my experience, and it’s not his fault!  Biologically he was not created to have his body get pregnant, completely change, deliver a child, breastfeed, and feel his body has been completely hijacked.  Every time I complain about my body or my mood, he always comforts me and tells me how beautiful I am and what a great Mom I am.  I often dismiss his comments which probably makes him feel even more helpless.   On this day I realized how important it is to praise our partners, especially the ones who are doing everything they can.  My husband may not be able to physically feed the baby with his body right now, but his way of contributing is everything else he is doing.  All of the work he does around the house,  going to work every day as I take some time off, cleaning, changing diapers, burping, playing with the baby, etc.   All of these things help ease my stress and feelings of being overwhelmed which in turn makes it easier to care for the baby and be calm around her.  I know these things, but it doesn’t always make it easy to identify them in the moment.  I can identify them now because I am calm, but it is much more difficult to do when I am upset, or when anyone is upset.

In a very simplistic explanation, our brain can be divided into various parts.  We have our brainstem, that is responsible for basic functions we do not have to think about (like breathing,  swallowing, heart rate).   We have our limbic system, (which deals with emotions, memories, and arousal) aka the emotional brain.  Then we have the prefrontal cortex (which deals with cognitive behavior and decision making, otherwise known as our rational brain).  Often when we are triggered or our emotions are activated we are predominantly in our emotional brain,  and it can be difficult to access our rational brain, which is why we can say or do things we later don’t mean, think things are going to be or feel a certain way forever, etc.  Due to lack of sleep, hormones, and various feelings, I have often been stuck in my emotional brain, and therefore lashing out.  I have been neglecting my rational brain,  which is helpful for logical thought and thinking through a certain behavior and consequences of that behavior.   Sometimes it feels as though there is a bridge between these two brains that has crumbled.  It is important for me to remember to incorporate my rational brain and to use the bridge between the two brains in order to manage situations more effectively.  This is called using the wise mind- valuing and using both emotions and logic to manage every day situations.   An example of how I could do this would be if my husband came home and sat on the couch; rather than just immediately demonstrating my anger and making a comment about how I am feeling angry because he didn’t come home and immediately take the baby, I could recognize that I feel angry, and then logically try to understand what is stemming that anger- did I take a nap today?  Was the baby extra fussy today? If I yell at him for sitting down,  is he going to be more or less willing to get along with me?  Then I can make a decision using both minds, the “wise mind” and recognize I feel anger but know it is coming from lack of sleep and knowing that my husband worked all day and maybe needs a few minutes to relax.  Then I can be more reasonable and perhaps ask about his day and let him know I would like him to take the baby when he is ready.

My changing moods and hormones do not justify me lashing out or making my husband feel bad about things he can’t/ hasn’t/ doesn’t know how to do.  Parenting is a team effort, and it doesn’t help anyone when emotions are running the conversations and interactions between the two.  I am working on being more patient and using my wise mind so I can better maintain my role as a partner and wife so that both my husband and myself feel happy not only as parents but also as equal partners in our marriage.   So let your partner know when they do a good job (even if it’s not the way you would do something) and let them know how valuable they are to your relationship.  We all like to know when we are doing a good job and are better motivated by positive reinforcement rather than punishment.