Pep Talk Tuesday {The Role of a Wife}

"Being married is hard work isn't it?" I get asked this a lot and it never ceases to amaze me how taken aback I am by such a statement. A lovely twitter user today sent me a tweet about what the hardest part about being a wife is and for her it's the expectation of women trying to fit into some traditional role of wife. She told me she wasn't aware that some people think it's a role to be played and for me she hit the nail on the head. Societal expectations of what it means for us chicks to become a 'wife' has me feeling a little fired up.

In the months leading up to our wedding I was really looking forward to graciously accepting this new wife role. I was eager to throw on a pretty apron and get into the kitchen using only the finest of Bed, Bath and Beyond products, stopping at nothing to please my hard working husband like we're we something straight from the set of a 1980's sitcom. It was the ring on my finger, the commitment my husband would be making to me, the perks of being married; these things which all signified that I was worthy enough to be given such a role and so as not to take advantage of such a privilege I wold need to do my very best to oblige by these set standards.

I was raised by parents who placed a lot of emphasis on love, respect, individuality, hard work, sacrifice, success and happiness. Never was I sat down either at home or in a place of worship to be told that being a wife meant you had duties and responsibilities you were expected to adhere to. Any connotation of the wife role that I have, were personally shaped and created strictly out of the things I have witnessed, read, seen or heard rather than what I have been taught. And for me being a wife, means being an important half to the team that Andrew and I have become. We are first and foremost a team, meaning we work together to bring out the best in one another and we work together to create a happy, fulfilling and prosperous life for ourselves as professional individuals and ourselves together as friends, lovers and partners. We love one another equally, so we do what we can to live and support one another the exact same way.

Husband comes home from work many times, and I look up from my computer only to find myself saying sorry a bazillion times because, I haven't fixed dinner, I forgot to make the bed and me? Well I myself look like a hot mess because I've been staring at my inbox since 9:00 am. On nights when I'm frivolously typing away trying to play catch up at my desk and my husband is pushing the vacuum around my work station, I cringe a little bit because I think I've failed at my role. And he's working overtime to fill in the holes.

But you know what, being married really is hard work. I'm only seven months deep into this new relationship status and I know things can be hard or messy or tough or confrontational. We're trying to figure out where we're going to live next, if we can afford a new couch and if we'll ever decide we want to have kids. At worst, we fight, we cry, we disagree. But last time I checked, I remember those five years I spent as my husbands friend, girlfriend, and fiance before becoming his wife were also really hard. And the same things that are hard now during my journey as a wife, were just as tough when I was a girlfriend or a fiance or even, gasp, when I was single (i.e. my studies, my health, my finances, my relationships, my image of myself, and so forth. Remember high school? Just finding an acceptable outfit everyday was hard work). Being a wife doesn't define my existence or my purpose in life so naturally there are other things I encounter in my life that are "hard work". Deciding whose role it is to cook dinner and kill the spiders shouldn't be a toughie.

What's your definition of the whole wife role issue?

32 Lovely Comments:

Keri said...

Very well said!

Megan said...

What a wonderful post. I feel the exact same way as you, marriage is a partnership and a team. I will care for my husband after a hard day at work, just as he will for me. The Mr and I have been together for almost 10 years (crazy!) and we had to talk about the role of a wife early on in our relationship. The hubs family is cuban and follow a traditional latin view that when the husband comes home, everyone stops everything they are doing and take care of dad. It is all about him and his needs at all times. This is how the hub thought things were and should be and since I was brought up in a home where marriage is a partnership, we really had to talk it out. We are both on the same page though and understand we are in this life together and each of us is just as important of a member as the other.

cindy* said...

i get the "how's married life?" question all the time. I tell everyone it's pretty much the same. Sean and I were committed to our relationship long before our vows and we lived together for 5 years before...living with a room mate is a struggle, but trying to create a life with another person is a whole new level. I'm not the demure vision of the Americana housewife, I've been called bossy (and, gasp! bitchy) too many times to make that cut...though I do take on those traditional roles and my husband is the bread winner, but I try not to apologize if I'm not super girl everyday. I like to think of us as a modern minded couple with old fashioned hearts... if that makes any sense... :)

Shafonne Myers (Pretty Pear Bride) said...

I have been married for 7 years but with my husband for about 16 years and he knew exactly who I was when he meet me, a go getter and a person who will stop at nothing to get things done. So 16 years later, with 2 kids and a growing career in the wedding business, I am still that person. I think the role of a wife has changed dramatically but I think the world as a whole has changed too. I stay at home with my kids during the day and he knows that when he comes home, I might look crazy (I laughed when you said that because that is exactly how I look now), dinner is not going to be made and there are tons of things around the house that need to be done but he is living his dream at his job and I'm doing the same. Our kids are great, our life is great and we all love each other. End of Story!!! :)

- - Little Miss Martha - - said...

You know, I was just thinking about this the other day... because I find myself hoping {wishing} someday to be a stay at home mom or just able to work part time. Right now, we are unfortunately unequal partners in the finance portion of our life and are often wondering how we’ll get through next month as I hear so many other newlyweds do. But with that being said, I know that there is much more to being a wife than just one half of a team. I find that I tell myself it doesn’t matter who makes more money, who does the dishes, or who cooks dinner… so long as it gets done and so long as it’s not the same person doing all of that three weeks in a row. We are good at taking turns. We are always supportive of each other. We love each other for better or worse.

I don’t think there is a definitive description for the role of “wife.” We all will do things differently. There will be things that some can do and others can’t. If we defined this role, we’d constantly be comparing ourselves to other wives out there and let’s be honest… I don’t think we want to start doing that {more than we already do}. That could get ugly. We know how we women are. It doesn’t matter how you approach your duties as wife or even how you determine those duties… as long as you and your partner are happy with how things are and are willing to compromise, keep working at things, and just make sure everything is taken care of together, then I think you are doing alright.

Sharon Chironda said...

What a refreshing post! It' funny how we always thing we are the only ones going through something until someone is open and honest enough to share.
My husband and I clearly and early on decided that we would define our marriage the way we wanted to. Everything is 50/50. No duties are feminine or masculine. I sometimes assemble the Ikea furniture and he cooks when company comes over. Each chore is gender neutral to us. We are both not belittled by doing chores that society sees as gender based: laundry, cooking, yard-work, killing the spider etc. Sure we get the odd looks when people come over to our place but they quickly realize that we are not defined by the chores we choose. We both interchangeably do whatever needs to be done. If laundry or grocery shopping needs to be done, either one of us does it. This has really helped our relationship. We allow ourselves to live life without the role play.

Miss K said...

awesome awesome post R!

I think women, me too, have a "role" we're supposed to magically become after getting married. I've told myself over and over again that after we've said I do's I won't be waking up the next day in an apron and kitten heels with a meatloaf in the oven. However, I still have that image of what I should be after our wedding.

To be realistic, my fiance and I feel how you do. That we're a team and we work together to make our home, family, and living. It doesn't matter who does what, it's what works for us. I just need to remember this and even make it our mantra.

Lauren @ ELD said...

Great post! Lol I actually was thinking about this last night because for the first in AGES I made dinner and wasn't on the computer ALL NIGHT LONG and was actually able to be attentive to my husband and spend time with him. I was excited that I actually made dinner and had it ready minutes after he got home, and I found myself thinking about the "wife" role. I myself think it's just what you said- the other half to a partnership. In my house, neither person really has specific roles- things just happen as they need to. Yes, it's true that the majority of the time my husband actually cooks dinner and cleans because I just don't have time for it. But when he doesn't have time and I do, the roles reverse. Or should I say, go back to "normal"? ;)

Sarah {A Paper Proposal} said...

Thank you, I was smiling and nodding along while reading this entire post! I actually grew up with a single mom, who worked day and night to take care of my brother and I, and always pushed me to be independent and self-sufficient above all else. Having watched my mom work her butt off her entire life, I now consider myself LUCKY to have found a reliable partner that I actually want to take care of and can rely on. My husband and I take care of each other, and I think that's how we maintain a balance in our relationship...And I'll be honest, I actually LIKE making dinner most nights, just like my husband likes covering the bill when we go out for dinner. I think that some women get too caught up in being independent and not becoming another "victim" of the supposed role of the traditional wife...Many may call my husband and I traditional (I even feel the tension and judgment from my own friends at times!), but who cares as long as it works and makes us happy? At the end of the day, it doesn't matter WHO is making the dinner, doing the laundry, or paying the rent every month...as long as we're both happy, well fed and clothed, with a roof over our heads.

Piril Maria said...

Your writing made my day. Greatness. Thank you so.




♥ Love,
http://thebookness.blogspot.com

Koru Kate said...

This post definitely made me stop & think. Being just shy of three months of marriage, I'm no expert on this wife thing. As with everything else in life, I strive to the best wife, friend, sister, daughter, etc I can every day. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I win. But I always try my best!!!

Emily said...

Thank you for making me like I'm not alone. I will be a wife in 2 months after 5 years of being together (and living together). I'm wondering what will change when I finally take his last name. I hope not much, but also I want to take this as a new step. A fresh beginning. A continuation of what we've built.

Luckily he is supportive, willing to cook and do the chores, and understanding. And I'm working on being those things too. :)

Great post Rhi!

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

Beautiful post! I have been stalking your blog for the last week or so and I absolutely LOVE everything about it :) I'm getting married in July 2012 but I've been with my fiance since we were 16 and we've lived together on-and-off (while also doing some long-distance do to me going to school and him working and vice versa) for the last 5 years. So I'm *pretty sure* marriage won't be that different for us in a lot of aspects. We just bought our first townhouse together and will be living in it together for the next 15 months while we plan the wedding!

Karli said...

I so agree with you! This is such an amazing post. There is so much pressure as a newly wedded woman to be the step-ford wife it's ridiculous! There are days when I look around and see that his laundry has been done (by him) & mine is still sitting in the laundry basket waiting to be washed. He does the dishes more often than I do & it's hard not to think that as the woman in the relationship I'm the one who should be completing the household duties. You know what though, we do what works for us. He does the dishes and his own laundry, I do the bathrooms & we split the rest. It works for us and we both consider it to be fair. He knew who I was before he put the ring on it & as long as we're happy nothing else matters!

Michaela said...

Great post, girl! Lots of good insight to being a wife. I loved the part about working together as a team. First and foremost. That's the most important thing!

kellyhicks said...

Ahh I so relate to you! There's been many a times when my husband has found me at home at 5pm in pjs. Does that make me a bad wife? No. Because ultimately it's not about doing your wifely duties - it's about putting your spouse as your number one human priority, valuing their opinions, and supporting their hopes and dreams. And that goes both ways!

If it's super important to my husband that my hair is coiffed and I'm dressed in a cute outfit every time he comes home from work, then I hopefully I would do that! But thank God, I married a guy who smiles when he sees I'm not ready for the day (again), gives me a kiss, and tells me I look cute.

Alicia@CharityWedding said...

This post is perfectly fitting as just today K came home from work for lunch and said, "I figured you'd have lunch ready for me when I got here." To which I just stared at him for a minute as I had spent the morning cleaning, running errands, and doing various other things not just sitting around waiting for him to get home! Our lives growing up were very different- he lived in a home with two parents where his Mom did handle 100% of household things, plus had a job, but cooking/cleaning were generally girl things. I grew up with a single Mom where if you wanted something done you probably would have to do it yourself and everyone helped do everything. While I do like to play the wife "role" sometimes, I enjoy cooking and even cleaning, but I never want it to be expected or taken for granted. It is definitely a conversation couples should have especially if they don't live together first and even more so if both are working outside of the home.

Nikki said...

Marriage is tough if you don't communicate your expectations. That was the biggest lesson for me. I remember the first year saying nothing was different and then something changed. I realized I was relying on my Husband for my happiness and making him responsible when things didn't happen the way they were in my head (I sound crazy I know). But the minute I took the reigns, and the time to communicate my needs and expectations things got better. I don't know why it wasn't a problem before we were married, but I certainly didnt' want to get stuck a traditional role and we had to sit down and talk about that. Since we learn certain things from our parents, once person might just assume the role his father did and I was not having that!

Megan said...

oh Rhi Rhi...this spoke to my soul. for the first year i felt like such a failure for not fitting the perfect wife mold. and put so much pressure on myself that i ended up just retreating into my own world and pushing my poor husband away so i didnt have to deal with the guilt...

thankfully we have figured it out..three years in now and i still struggle with feeling like im not measuring up. But, its a journey, and the reward is beautiful.

Tucker said...

Rhi, I can't tell you how much I appreciate this post. so real and honest. it IS tough work. and sometimes roles, traditional ones, are reversed. and that is hard. when my husband brings me coffee in the morning, I feel guilt a lot, more than just thankful. We're both so lucky to be married to the men we are!

Naomi said...

Well written and said. I usually talk in jest about the relationship I have with my husband because to me it's such a 'personal space' {one of the only ones I have left in my life} that are not shared with anyone. However, I felt I had to chime in and say that I wholeheartedly agree with you. I do not feel guilty when David brings me coffee EVERY morning or all the countless wonderful things he does because he's my husband and I'm his wife and there are things you do for each other. Needless to say, I do wonderful everyday things for him as well. Yes, at times the scale tips more in my favor however, I do know that through the course of our lifetime together, there will be times when it will tip in his. I am so blessed to have a husband that understands what I am trying to do, where I want to go, and allows me to do so...even if it means I forgot to put the sheets in the dryer and all the other sets are in the hamper dirty...at midnight. He's also very lucky that he has a wife that doesn't fuss all the time whenever he leaves a cabinet door open for the 100th time. Marriage is hard work but the rewards and benefits are better and sweeter than any job I have ever had. There aren't any bosses here just two people trying to do their part to keep 'position' in the 'company'. Bravo for writing such a brave post. xoxo

Marcie said...

Wow, this is such an amazing write up! I am loving all your concepts. I agree that being a wife doesn't define who you are, it is just one piece of you.

Great job!
Marcie

Melissa Larson @BirdcageBridal said...

Incredibly well said. I am getting married in a few months and I have always thought about the "be yourself" role but never in the way you just spoke it. Very incredibly well said. You have a new diligent follower.

Anonymous said...

Good job tiny on this post! While I might be pushing that vaccum around the living room while you are on your computer, this is a partnership and responsibilities are shared so I have no problem doing these things. I love you and you have made leaps and bounds with your blog and your business so I am very proud of you! I am hoping that you are such a success one day that I no longer have to vaccum and that our maid can do that HAHA just kidding! ILY

APB

la petite coquine said...

This is really perfect, Rhi. Somehow even women raised by equality-minded parents learn that "wifely duties" include aprons, gourmet meals piping hot and having sex with your spouse, even when you don't really want to. It's giggled about and spoofed, but as with all stereotypes, it comes from a very real place. Women want to make their husbands feels adored and strong, and men want to feel cared for, but I hope we can all learn that the only way to express those things is through the darning of holey socks (just throw them away already!)

I think everyone is really looking for a partner; someone to pick up the slack when you're struggling and celebrate when you've had a success. And that sounds just about perfect to me.

Melina said...

I agree with the partnership thing, my husband and I strive for that. But as a military wife I feel like my role is different especially when he can't be around. So for me it isn't about cooking or cleaning or making him happy, but rather just being his support, his refuge and just someone who is so proud of his work for our country! I never complain to pick up his crap (sometimes I do) but I really am so proud to be his wife and to be able to do my part serving this country by taking care of and loving him! :)

Megan said...

Beautiful post, Rhi!! I just kinda posted about this today, considering that I feel SO guilty for not cooking for my husband. It's funny how even though I don't like the concept of the 1950's housewife, I feel like I must live up to that. I work full time, too! You are SO RIGHT..it has to be a teamwork effort!! I'm so grateful for my amazing hubby...he cooks, cleans, does laundry, etc.

LouBoo said...

Hi Rhi...so you have hit the nail on head here! I have lots of thoughts about this - as we agreed once - a wedding does not make a marriage! I am 11 years into this now and still wonder whether I am qualified to comment as every marriage is different and the old adage stands: you never know what goes on behind closed doors. But I do think it's about respect and hard work. I personally work very hard at keeping the marriage strong and that does involve being a housewife.

When I was at university I studied feminism and think of myself as understanding feminist issues but housewifery is one thing where it all comes unstuck! My view is that to make a marriage work you have to have some defined roles - and for us that means I do the house. He does the garden. I do the laundry, he irons his shirts. He cooks at weekends, I cook in the week. It's a lot of give and take. I think I do more than him in the home - it's just easier that way. I like the harmony that comes from getting stuff sorted and him coming home to a calm house where there is food ready. But I completely agree with the point you are making; it's very hard work to keep it that way! Lou x

ASHLEY said...

I loved this! Wonderful post! Jeff and I have been married for 5 years and it is tough. I made the choice to stay at home and raise our little babes and when I started my business we had to figure out how to make it work with mommy being busy. I am so lucky to have a guy who helps with the kids and the daily chores. We don't have set responsibilities we just all pitch in when things need to be done.

{The Perfect Palette} said...

Great post! Brad and I have been married for a year and a half {together for 4 years total}. We made the choice for me to stay at home and raise our babies when I got pregnant last year (only a little over a month after saying 'i do'. It's funny because I started my blog when I was newly engaged and now I'm married with an 8 month old baby. It sometimes gets hard balancing it all, but really who am I kidding? I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work from home, that it all is worth it. I also have a really great husband who totally pulls his weight when it comes to helping with our baby and the house chores. So I definitely don't feel like it's all on me. Thank the Lord! But yes, I totally understand and have the same guilt if I don't get around to fixing dinner. Not that he expects it, but I feel like he does so much for our family, that it's the least I can do. Must find some easy crock pot recipes asap.

Krystal said...

I loved reading this! I think I agree with you most definitely. And besides, no one said being a wife was going to be easy - so it's no surprise. But seriously though, sometimes i just don't want to make dinner and he has to do it!

Adventures in Dressmaking said...

Really great post. I have pretty old-fashioned expectations for myself as a wife as well--always cook, clean, do the dishes--and I have no idea where they came from. My parents always encouraged me to be myself and be a strong, independent woman, but somehow society's 1950's picture got stuck in my head, too. I'm getting married next month and am so excited for what our relationship will become, but you're right that every stage has its challenges!