Facing the Truth
Great column today on Shareable.net, the terrific website for all things shared. The column in question is called Stereotype Me, by Gen Y work/life blogger and entrepreneur, Astri Von Arbin Ahlander, and explores her own personal experience taking on more of the domestic roles at home while her boyfriend assumes a more traditionally male outside-the-home breadwinner persona. Astri is Swedish, and a devoted activist and spokeswoman for gender equality; her boyfriend is American. So it is disconcerting to her to notice that she has quickly and almost eagerly assumed the breakfast-making duties, and later the dinner-making responsibilities, simply because, well, she works from home and because...could it be...because she's a woman?
I've always loved Ms. Ahlander's writing (she used to co-host the now-defunct Work.Life blog on TrueSlant) and really enjoyed reading her analysis of the situation here. Her conclusions feel genuine and ring true. She wonders if she has jumped into unequal domesticity because she believed that her American boyfriend wanted this type of traditional role-based relationship (he didn't), and describes how she feels when he spontaneously decides enough is enough - he wants in on the cooking too - and starts to take over dinner-making.
But the best part of her analysis, for me, is the last. She boils the issue down to one of trust. By quickly taking on the primary homemaker role, she had found a way not to test their relationship for equality. She didn't have to have the potentially scary conversations that would test her mate's true intentions to pull his weight around the house. She could pretend that he would step up if she ever wanted him to, without actually ever addressing the truth. What if she demanded that he share the meal prep...and he didn't? Better not to turn over that rock, right?
In the end, she realizes her own truth (which conveniently matches with mine). She says, "When you share, there is the inevitable risk that one party will take advantage of the other. When you put bigger things on the line than who cooks what, such as sharing monetary resources or responsibility for your kids, that fear just gets more real. Probably, it is the risk intrinsic to sharing that makes people resource-hoarders. But, as tends to be the case with sharing, if the relationship is based on reciprocity and trust, it’s almost always preferable to hoarding. The result for me and my American Joe was not just that we started sharing chores. The agreement that we could and would share deepened our relationship in much the same way that two neighbors who share gardening responsibilities or car pooling shifts become more connected with each other and their community than when they operate as discrete, isolated cells. Sharing demands trust, yes. But sharing also means connecting, and deeper connections lead right back to heightened trust. And trust, well trust is something we, as romantic partners or simply as citizens of the world, can’t do without."
Here's to the courage to face the truth, and live by it together as partners.