Challenge #2 Differing gender role expectations

I have been avoiding this topic for awhile. Even though it is one of the first things I thought of when pondering intercultural challenges in marriage, I really have not wanted to tackle it. Why? This issue is at the heart of all the conflicts or arguments in my relationship with my husband. It is intensely personal. I am taking the plunge now because I believe it is important to share, for those who are interested in such things.

Gender role expectations …  my background taught me that men and women should share the burden of household chores in some equitable manner. As an adult I have been a slacker with regard to household chores, in part because my ex was as well. I am a clutter-bug. I am not all that conscious of things — if something is out of place, I don’t notice it. I also don’t believe that it is my job to pick up after everyone in my household. This is regardless of whether or not I work outside the home.

My husband would beg to differ. He firmly believes that women need to cook, clean, serve, care for the children, and work. To him, a man’s responsibility is to earn money at a job (or two) and relax at home. He gets very bent out of shape if food is not served to him. He believes that moms who don’t work outside of the house should have immaculate homes because all they have to do take care of kids, clean and cook. Apparently, in his cultural background, the women do all of these things. They clean constantly, cook every meal of the day and give the children all of the attention they require.

But something must be falling through the cracks. I just don’t believe that it is possible to do all of those things to his high standards. My cultural background says that it just is not possible! Not only that, but I don’t believe that it is right.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like a clean and orderly home. Parts of my home can be that way, for a brief period of time. But I choose to pursue other interests and to spend a lot of time with my children. For instance, our infant daughter will not sleep by herself. That means that when she naps — as she is now — she does so on my lap. She is still primarily breastfed, which means that whenever she eats I sit with her to feed her. No handing her a bottle and getting busy with housework for me!

My attachment parenting style does get in the way of meeting the gender role expectations of my husband. We talk about it nearly every day. Sometimes he seems to accept  that caring for our baby really does take up most of my day. Other times he insists that the computer is the problem. Well, we were without internet at home for two days. The only additional thing I did was vacuuming. I did that while wearing our daughter in a carrier.

I keep hoping he will relent and allow me to be the slacker that I am accustomed to being. Whether this is truly a cultural issue, or merely his personal preference …  I am not sure. It is probably a bit of both. I am doing my best to compromise and improve my homemaking skills, but it is a hard road. I will continue to walk it.


3 responses to “Challenge #2 Differing gender role expectations

  • emjayandthem

    While I don’t know you or your husband, I respect the careful road you took to this subject. We all come to relationships with expectations: will he bring me flowers on my birthday, will I care for the home like his mother/aunt/grandmother did? It takes time – and conversations – and the courage to speak up about the things you’re passionate about. Truth be told, my hubby is far neater than I. I’m a warrior cleaner; things can pile up for days then BAM I take 4 hours and the house is shining. He’s the one picking up the stuff I dropped. But, after nearly 20 years, it works. Keep talking; my experience? If you do enough things well that convey how much you care… he will back off his “expectations,” too.


  • Janell

    “He gets very bent out of shape if food is not served to him.” Haha. That sounds like another man I know that is related to you 🙂 I was a little bent out of shape at first to hear about it, but his wife was brought up with similar expectations/values, and I had to accept that if she was fine with it, it was really not my concern. She also knows when to tell him it’s not gonna happen. She can also leave for a month at a time, and he gets by fine. In the meantime, I recommend you give DH a copy of “What Mothers Do: Especially When It Looks Like Nothing” ( Having DH working at home gives me an advantage. He knows what goes on around here and has a better idea of why it seems like I never get anything done!

    • familiesinablender

      LOL As I was writing I was reflecting on my home while growing up. I remembered, with amusement, how my father wanted “a full complement of silverware” beside his plate at dinner. :shaking head I definitely grew up in a “traditional” household, but my dad is a pack rat, my mom is too, and she worked full time so I prepared dinner most of the time.

      I would like to think that some changes in attitude could occur, but with how old we are … also, my mother in law came to visit shortly after the baby was born and we cooked together. She cleans, literally!, while she cooks. Stir with one hand, wipe off the counters and stove top with the other. Simultaneously. I had never seen anything like it!

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