“The Good Wife”
I have experienced many roles in my life –sister, daughter, student—but nothing quite prepared me for the role of “wife.” Once I was married, I experienced an unsettling phenomenon common to most 21st century wives: two sets of standards for one role. You see, before the early 1930s, the responsibilities of married women primarily consisted of domestic duties, such as cooking, cleaning, hosting, and raising the children. While this description constitutes a full time job, this role was at least manageable because these women were not expected to go to work –that was the man’s job. Naturally, men enjoyed coming home to a freshly prepared meal, a clean house, and well-behaved children, and this system worked well.
However, as we are all well aware of, most families in today’s society cannot survive off of one income, so most of us women are expected to work as well. In addition, we are expected to be just as –if not more—educated than men, which means we also must invest in a higher education. While none of these things are bad and many women genuinely enjoy work, we are now caught between the old ideals and the new realities.
When I initially discovered this, I was determined to be a good wife, so I did it all. I worked 40 hours a week, cleaned, cooked, took online and night classes, arranged social gathering with my girl friends, couple friends, family, and my spouse, babysat, volunteered at the church, and still managed to go to the gym three times a week –and I was utterly exhausted.
Because I was trying to do everything, I did nothing well. I felt resentful, hurt, and alone. But then I realized that when I got married, I did not just inherit new responsibilities – I also gained a lifetime team member in my husband. Tearfully, I went to him and expressed my frustration. Being the wonderful man I married, he took on more responsibility. He began helping around the house more, cooking dinners, and running errands. However, he was not the only one who changed. That day, I learned to say no. I learned that the world would not cease functioning if there were some dirty dishes in my sink or I missed a girls’ night. I learned that by signing our marriage certificate I was not simultaneously accepting the position of Super Woman, and I learned that while being a limited human being, I could not only be a good wife, but a great wife.