Girl child grew up
I would like to congratulate you on the fact that you are now more or less able to go as far as your male counterparts academically. As you embark on the career of your choice, pause for a moment and consider.
If marriage is anywhere in your sights, be warned. Your liberal minded boyfriend is not about to turn into your liberal-minded husband. Such a man is still a rarity, despite what they say. When you talk to your boyfriend now, especially after college, it is all about you both achieving your ultimate career goals. He sets no limits on your dreams and is quite fond of listening to your musings about what the future holds for you in your career of choice. If you seek to pursue an even further education at this point, he will hold your hand all the way to the exam room.
When this boy becomes your husband, my dear, you will scarce recognize him. For starters, all his discussion points rely heavily on cultural bias. This is the same culture with which you have struggled to attain the label girl child, and the rights you seek to ascribe to it. The words culture, norm, and ‘my family expects’ now flow from his mouth smoother than his affections ever will. He is now convinced that you are bound by the standards and requirements that he appeared to never know existed. Suddenly there are lots more points to consider in your relationship than you ever knew.
It turns out now your default title is no longer career woman. It is wife. The unspoken prefix is traditional. “Traditional wife.” As a girl child, you were given rights and privileges that grant you access to the same opportunities as your brothers. As a wife, you forfeit those rights to accommodate the roles and responsibilities that were never revised in accordance with your new status.
You are allowed to work. However, the primary responsibilities of home and children remain yours regardless. Of course, you can have a maid, but you will have to find and train her; you will have to pay her and supervise and allocate daily tasks. You remain accountable for everything that she does. You are in the minority if your husband offers his time for domestic service. If you fall into the regular distribution patterns, you have an uphill task even if you do decide to ask your spouse to assist you in this regard.
For starters, you will most likely have to contend with the fact that he cannot help you because he does not know how to help you. There are still many homes today where the sons of the house are not allowed to grow too familiar with the layout of their mother’s kitchens. If you listen carefully when people give gifts to you on your wedding day, they will specify that this and that kitchen item is for the bride to use. At this point in your life can you begin to teach this grown man how to match a lid to its appropriate pot? Worse still, is he willing to learn? For some men, marriage was a solution to flee domestic responsibility. You may have watched him wash his own laundry and bring the sparkle into his rented quarters’ floor as a bachelor. But chances are as he considered the idea of marriage he felt it would ease the domestic burden that he bore. Instead of finding a maid he found a wife, so she could serve him over and above the call of duty.
In other cases, a man makes a pact with the elusive creature named culture. Having grown up watching his grandfather waited upon by his wife, he determined in his young heart to find himself a woman to do the same for him. In this pact, however, he selfishly decides to exclude the many children clause. You see, according to culture, whatever the woman does, the children do also. So while it felt like wives served their husbands, they bore many little helpers that they put to work at a young age to help them cope. Modern husbands want the thrill of being served but are eager to escape the responsibility of five or more little mouths to feed.
Perhaps I am being harsh on your husband. He may have no problems with negotiating duties and responsibilities. Sometimes, this means he only wants to negotiate as long as this is strictly between the two of you. Who knows what could happen if his mother and sisters find out. Remember, dear, that sometimes the chains are pulled tighter around you by fellow women. It is women who are the first to object if your husband gets up to clear up the dishes or pick up a crying child. Have you seen any lady visitor, regardless of which side of the family, accept so much as a glass of water from the man and not apologize?
But surely you can still pursue your career and assume all these seemingly trivial domestic responsibilities? You surely can. Yet should your pursuits keep you away from home for long hours, you will be warned about the dangers of not satisfying your husband or of neglecting your children. You are sometimes asked to make arrangements with close relatives to fill the gap. When a man works very long hours he is merely applauded on working hard to provide for his family. Additionally, everyone expects their children to be breastfed. You will be told that it is best for the child to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and to continue to breastfeed until age two. You may get maternity leave, but obviously not for six months. You cannot bring your baby to work, and your baby’s schedule will have to adjust to your work schedule. When you go out in public with your baby, and s/he cries, everyone will demand that you breastfeed. No-one will speak so loudly to make public areas more suited to this action.
When it comes to working far from home, the art of negotiation comes into play once again. Despite what your husband says to you when you are dating and you earn more than him, very few men are actually willing to sacrifice their jobs for their spouse’s career. You will have to find a way to make it work for you and him without that option. In fact, he would much rather you stop pursuing opportunities that complicate his life in such a manner. Also, should you somehow lose your job without anticipating it, your husband will be severely compromised as he was obviously depending on you to pull your weight. If it should happen to him, however, it is clearly very unfortunate and there is nothing he could have done and you will need to find a way to comfort him and provide for him without seeming to demean him. Getting a promotion at this time is probably just gloating, so is being busy or confiding in friends and family.
However, with effective premarital discussions, some of these pitfalls can be avoided. It is possible to have a husband who is your better half in every sense of the word. He may turn out to be the domestic pro that you never could be. In which case be prepared to be called lazy and a witch and everything in between. Society at large remains decades behind the grown-up Girl Child.
Enjoy your career, marriage, and motherhood.