Sunday, May 14, 2006

And then it was quiet...

Yes, I admit that I refer to Mother's Day as "the fake holiday". It's true that I don't have a lot of regard for a day which, while making a ton of money for Hallmark, seems to bring our culture no closer to anything resembling genuine respect or admiration for the the portion of the population that supplies you (me/us/everyone) with an increased quality of well as life itself.

When it's time to celebrate Father's Day, what do we do? Hmmm....well...women put in a full day's work at the office and then come home and do the same. We shop for the groceries and plan the celebration. We cook and clean for the company that we'll host. We buy and wrap the gifts and then after everyone leaves...we clean up the mess.

But when it's time for Mother's Day, what happens? In many cases I see women doing the exact same thing as they did for Father's Day...except they don't buy their own gift. See, those of us mothers who are still in the trenches? Many of us have mothers who are still living and worthy of their long-ago accomplishments as the primary caregivers of children. But who is going to do all the work?? This question seems to throw so many men into a huge quandry. Who indeed? Cleaning? Shopping for food and preparing a meal? PLUS a gift??? How can we do all this? Wouldn't it be easier just to take everyone out to dinner? seems to be easy to celebrate multiple generations of Father's Day honorees because the gender which supplies so much of the unsung "MAN-power", in addition to making the money that makes so many other things possible, is doing what they always do every day of the year. When you stop to consider what a total SHUTDOWN of tradition it requires to pay the same kind of homage to women...well...maybe you see my point. It isn't the same. And while you probably won't see too many guys cooking their own Father's Day dinner, I've seen more than my share of women contributing to a dinner that honors their own mothers while simultaneously cancelling out the intent of the celebration for their own role as a mother.

My own Mother's Day was spent with my parents and Mr. Half's parents and my sister and her family. Yes, I shopped for some of the food and I cleaned the house, but Mr. Half did as well. Mr. Half cooked burgers and all of the sons cleaned their rooms and did yardwork. The oldest son made a fabulous apple cobbler and the middle son did the dishes with his dad while I sat in the back and watched an episode of "I Love Lucy" with my mother and sister.

All in was a good day. Better than most Mother's Days wherein tradition reared its ugly head and too many females wound up scraping dishes after the feast and the gift opening. Still, the grocery store was filled with women...a couple still sporting their Mother's Day corsages...slogging through the store getting food and toilet paper that others were unwilling or unable to buy. I saw a man in the parking lot flying a kite with his kid. Maybe he was giving the wife a few minutes alone to breath and form a coherent sentence while he took the kid out for some fun. Most likely she was one of those in the store doing the shopping for the meal. I wanted to scream at him, "Get your country ass home and make your wife a meal for a change"...but lacking the proper information I only cursed him under my breath. But in a nice way.

The men in my house are learning what it means to appreciate the one person in our house whose endless list of mind numbing responsibilities doesn't get consistently validated by a Boy Scout merit badge, or a big fat A+ or even a nice paycheck. I hope it's a lesson they'll take with them. Because it's only when women take the day off that certain others are made to realize how much of the sky we really hold up. Think how great life would be if we didn't have to spend the other 364 days trying to keep them from forgetting.


Anonymous average blogger said...

Ha! I spent Friday and Saturday in Texas sans the menfolk in my life. At least 3 people asked, "Oh, is your husband planning a Mother's Day treat for your return?" I said, "Dude, I'm DOING my Mother's Day treat: His staying home with Junior and giving me a chance at a two-day debauch is gift enough, wouldn't you say?"

Then I came home and he had made a cake ... AND dinner! Huzzah!

9:56 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

I saw it at the public pool: Mom who usually has 2 kids parked in a stroller on the pool deck swimming laps sans kids.

Then Dad pops in "Hi honey, I brought the kids by to see you. Mom gives dad a wan smile.

I get the picture. Obviously the deal was that he would watch them this once as a Mother's Day treat. But the buffoon couldn't even hack that.

Mom greeted the kids warmly, but I could tell. Daddy ain't gettin' any nookie tonight, or maybe for the rest of the week.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Jozet said...

Amen. Just a solid amen.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Well don't I feel bad my mum spent Mother's Day with my sister planning my wedding shower. We're taking her for a picnic next weekend and we'll plant the peonies we got for her.

Oh and dude! I just noticed you linked to me! Thanks! :)

4:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am SO right there with you. For mothers day we ate EVERY SINGLE MEAL outside of the house and I had not one ounce of guilt about it.

Happy Mama's Day!


5:42 AM  
Anonymous V-Grrrl said...

I've never been caught in the multi-generational crunch. And my kids and hub go out of their way to make Mother's Day nice for me.

I do however relate to what you wrote about in regard to ALL other holidays, where I increasingly resent my role as the one who makes it a happy occasion for everyone but me.

5:59 AM  
Blogger Rude Cactus said...

Happy Mother's Day!

8:06 AM  
Blogger Nilbo said...

I'm always uncomfortable with the broad generalization that "... men don't do (fill in the blank)". Some men don't, and in fact let's go further and say "lots of" or even "most" men don't grocery shop, or cook, or clean, or do laundry, or do other chores traditionally associated with women.

But I think that's changing. The pace of change may be glacial, but I see more and more men in the grocery stores.

Lots of men, or most men, or some men are asshats, but when it comes to human beings, always better to paint with a small brush than a roller. I'm not keen to get splashback on me because some dork can't feed himself.

This Mother's Day, my wife spent the day on a plane en route home from business meetings. As I do every Sunday, I cooked a big breakfast made with lovely ingredients that I had shopped for (as always). I then spent the day doing yard work with one of my daughters (constructing a fence) while the other cleaned the house thoroughly. (We'd all negotiated who would do which jobs, by the way ... in my house the words "... because you're a girl" are considered the most extreme provocation.)

Around 5, while one daughter went to the airport to pick up her mom, I got the bread *I* had baked out of the oven and began to pull together a lovely feast. (Lobster, potato salad, cole slaw, and salmon steaks for the girls who don't like lobster (heathens!). I didn't have time to grill the salmon steaks, so that job was done by my future son-in-law, who is a chef. And, parenthetically, also a man who does most of the shopping, cooking, and cleaning in their home.)

On Father's Day, I will cook breakfast with food I bought, and while there probably won't be much yard work (unless you consider rearranging turf on a golf course to be "gardening"), I will end the day by coming home and - as always - making dinner for everyone. I do not expect the world to grind to a halt.

Women do hold up half the sky, and I'll go along with you and say it's probably the heavier half. But I get a little impatient when some of my friends complain to me about how their husbands do nothing, not even buy gifts for their own mothers, and they end up having to do that. I tell them "That's called "enabling", and you can do it, but you don't get to whine about it later."

To women whose spouses won't contribute, I say the longer you enable their behaviour, the sadder and angrier and more resentful you will become. Men can and will feed themselves (and you); they can and will clean; they can and will contribute fully. And in some cases, they'll do it of their own accord. If not, you'll have to provide incentive to power the change.

And if a man can't or won't feed himself, or keep his nest clean, or pull his own weight, then it may be time to trade him in on a man who will.

8:15 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

You're right. As I said in my e-mail to you, my own situation is great. Mr. Half is a man who cooks/cleans/organizes and comforts. I have no quarrel with him.

It's the patriarchal traditions of my family of origin which cause me endless strife. I should have made that more clear.

Feel free to pistol-whip me as you see fit.

8:33 AM  
Blogger Nilbo said...

Not a pistol-whipping - more a virtual flick of finger to forehead. (thwap)

And if you can't do that to people you adore, then we'll know the terrorists have won.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous jess said...

You're so right. I think it's harder than people think to change that patriarchal system within your own home. The "it's just easier if i do it" syndrome. I suffer from it regularly.

We did clean the entire house together this weekend.

Happy mothers day to you wordgirl!

8:54 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

I don't think Wordgirl merits even a finger-thump to the head. Men can be asked, bribed, coddled or forced to do things that don't come naturally to them, but they can't necessarily change. And to enter a marriage thinking you're going to change your man into a wonderful, job-sharing, equal at-home partner is dangerous. Dangerous because you will always expect A and will usually get B, you will always be bitter, and you will nag incessantly.

There is a difference between enabling (which I agree with the won't-buy-his-own-mom-a-gift scenario) and just getting what needs to get done, done without having to be passive aggressive, writing sticky notes, filling out his day-calendar or just letting the refrigerator get stocked with beer and condiments. The majority of us moms do the majority of what needs to get done, and for the most part, if it's different than that, it's anecdotal. It happens often in the Mommy Wars where a considerate husband will speak up and say "Our relationship isn't like this!!" and someone like Wordgirl will be forced to backpedal and say "Okay, yeah, you're right, I should've phrased it differently." but meanwhile 1000 women are nodding their heads and saying to themselves, "Our relationship is exactly like that, you say it Girl!"

So, Nilbo, I applaud you and your marriage. You are obviously setting a fine example for your kids, but sadly, you are a minority and it's not fair to say the rest of us are enabling or somehow deficient because we didn't marry you or one of the five or six other guys like you.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Mignon said...

Oh and I forgot to say Is that your dining room?? How badly do I want to be sitting at your table having some coffee and laughing. Gorgeous.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous lildb said...

Wordgirl, as usual, your post has enriched my day. I have a better-than-average husband who did all the cooking *and* bought me a gift *and* watched the baby while I took a much-needed nap post-travel. However, I think Mignon's point is excellent; too many men just aren't that brilliant at the fair-sharing of duties, and you shouldn't have to eat your words (along with the meal you cooked for your own special day) if you want to speak that truth.

p.s. For all us latey-mclate-pants out there who've wreaked serious havoc, I would like to apologize. I'd also like to swear that I'll never do it again. Only, I hate getting caught in a lie.

11:04 AM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Being as I was in kind of a "state" when I posted this Mother's Day thing last night, I take full responsibility for the tense undertones I employed to get my point across. It wasn't until I became a mother myself that I realized how complicated Mother's Day becomes when you relinquish your own day off in order to pay tribute to older mothers/grandmothers on their day. It rankles something awful and when May approaches I confess I find myself sorely tempted to leave town. Or drink my way through until June.

It isn't because my own mother doesn't deserve thanks for a job she did (and finished, thank you) so many years ago. It's because some of us with kids still at home have to give up the kind of Mother's Day we invision for ourselves because...well...our mothers (senior citizens whose idea of a good time is slightly different from my own) want us to pay them tribute. Guess what? After they left our house, my in-laws had to drive over to see their own mothers, ages 94 and 95 respectively. So even my own mother-in-law couldn't stay around to have an extra piece of pie and conversation. Gotta get over to the home and pay some more tribute, don't cha know? That's what happens when you have four generations of women still living and they're all mothers. It doesn't end until someone dies.

Mr. Half's solution (and I confess it was the only good one anyone has come up with so far) was to cook the main part of the meal and invite all of the mothers in his family. He also got the exterior of the house looking spiffy (something very important to men of his father's and my father's generation) and shopped for groceries. He also rode herd on our sons who worked incredibly hard to clean, cook or shop. They also bought the thing I really wanted for my day, the sixth and last season of "I Love Lucy" on dvd. These guys? They pay attention to what I like.

I am incredibly lucky that I'm married to someone who wants to break the cycle of the patriarchy-driven lifestyle. Guys like Nilbo and Mr. Half are rare, but we do have to give them credit. Because even though we think they're great, their peers aren't giving out any "atta boys" for a guy who does the dishes without being asked.

I'm grateful for my friends who want to defend my right to say what I think here. I'm also grateful for those who feel free to share their views with me here...even if it differs from mine just a bit. All (except the anonymous drive-by scabs) views are welcome here.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Brooke said...

No piston-whipping're right on. And I don't feel you EVER need to defend your feelings. Your honesty is why we love you!

4:52 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

This post resonated with me on so many levels. This past Sunday I *felt* pistol whipped by 7:30 a.m. - with the Look at me and the honey do you want...

Terrance and I had many a heated discussion when Em was a baby. When I would want to go out and quilt - or whatever for the same 2 hours he felt free to go play basketball, he would make a comment about being willing to babysit.

And I would say - You don't babysit your own child - you parent her.
He's much better now, but I have to admit that the gender set roles that came into play when I gave birth shocked me. Stunned me. Horrified me. I thought I had an equal partnership, but it wasn't and I was pissed.

Of course, keeping that anger inside didn't help resolve the situation. Only when I communicated that my expectations were not being met did we move the mountain at all.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Too true!!! We spent Mother's Day by my mom's mom; none of the mothers had to cook, as we ordered pizza and the non-moms took care of the rest. (Note: none of my uncles. Don't even get me started on my family's patriarchal traditions.) But I'd be lying to say it didn't irk me to see my mom sitting next to my 24 year-old brother at the table, asking him things like this every thirty seconds: "Jake, would you like more milk? Can I get you some carrots? How about dessert?" I remember times when we've tried to force her to relax & enjoy "mom time," but then she's up like a shot when we're not looking to get everyone drinks and snacks.

We tease her about it, but I think she just loves to nurture. Plus, foisting food on people is THE way to show affection in my extended family. I guess when something's a habit for so long it's pretty hard to break.

8:39 PM  
Blogger Rock said...

Growing up - Mother's Day was probably the biggest holiday next to Christmas. No matter what was going on (Houston Rocket winnign championships) Mom's Day ruled.

Dad is a stickler for tradition. And we always had to do it right. And we did - and it was big.

I don't love near them anymore - butg i alwasy send a hugh flowr arrangement for Mom. She even knows the florist now!

1:19 AM  
Blogger Rock said...

I mean - I don't LIVE near them anymore....

1:21 AM  
Blogger Marcie said...

You really hit the nail on the head with this one. I should copy this off and have my husband read it.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Marcie said...

One more thing, I forgot to tell you I love your dining room.

8:20 AM  

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