Gender Roles and Shame: Part 2

Gender Roles and Shame: Part 2 December 11, 2010
After my last post about shame, I started thinking about the rest of the story. Maybe we grew up in strange homes, but we both believed that God had created males and females for extremely different reasons and purposes. That it would be going against God’s plan to do anything differently than what was “commanded” for us to do.
We got married at barely 20 years old and went right off to graduate school (yes, my husband was homeschooled and graduated early). He worked a job and took between 12 and 19 credit hours of graduate coursework a quarter. And I was a stay-at-home wife, because being in the home was my place in life and it would be going against God’s plan for a woman to do anything otherwise. We somehow made it through that first year on less than $15,000. He was gone long hours, worked long hours, and did homework late into the night. I puttered around the apartment, I cooked, cleaned, and did the grocery shopping.
At this time I thought we were flaming liberals. I mean, I wore pants sometimes now! And I listened to the radio and watched TV! When I needed new violin strings, I told my husband, after a few weeks, I thoughtfully reminded him that I still needed them. He acknowledged that I needed the strings. I continued to remind him from time to time, and finally after 4 months (somewhat puzzled) he asked me why I hadn’t bought the strings myself by now, if I needed them so badly. I told him that I was waiting for him to purchase them, or at the very least tell me how much I was allowed to spend on them and when. My father had always controlled every purchase, I was used to it, and now my husband was telling me I could choose to buy something all by myself? Wow! We were practically feminists!
I did everything around the house, and after babies arrived and my husband graduated, that pattern continued. But all that has changed in the last 18 months, I explained more in this post. Now my husband understands the sheer amount of work I do, he now contributes to the housework as well. We are learning to work as a team instead of each doing our own separate thing and waiting for the other to do what they are “suppposed” to do.
Even though I now realize how unhealthy the extreme gender roles were, I have been trained my whole life to think that way and so has my husband. It has not been easy to break out of that way of thinking.
I know my husband is willing and able to help, even honored. But sometimes I still feel ashamed of myself when he does work around the house. It is very hard for me to push myself to ask for his help, and on days that we are both exhausted and neither of us feels up to cleaning, instead of letting the house go for the day until a time when we both feel more rested and capable of working on the problem together, I feel guilty. Guilty that I didn’t do everything myself, and obligated to get “my” work done.
My husband struggles to notice what needs to be done without it being pointed out to him (after all he’s been trained to ignore it his entire life). As we’ve discussed life after our 3 year contract in ministry is up, he still feels incredible pressure to be the sole provider for our family, and guilty for wanting to leave our stable ministry job in the first place. He feels shamed whenever we talk about ideas for supporting our little family together, because he was always taught that he was supposed to take care of all that completely on his own.
It is frustrating to find ourselves continually pulled into the old patterns and feeling so much shame and anxiety when we try to think differently, but we are in it together. We are free from the family system’s now, we do not need to consider what “they” would say or do if we make a choice different than they’ve taught us to. We are a team, encouraging each other and doing what is best for our family. Facing all of the work, inside the home and outside the home, together.

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