Tag Archives: multiculturalism

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.


InterCultural Challenges

Challenge #1

Only half of my husband’s family speaks English.

Have I mentioned that I am only proficient in English?

Challenge #2

Differing gender role expectations.

Have I mentioned that in my 20s I was a self described radical feminist?


Let’s tackle the language challenge first. My husband is biliteral, not just bilingual. A biliteral person is proficient in speaking, reading, and writing more than one language. I knew him for months before I became aware that he was from another country. No kidding. It’s true! And when the person told me, I didn’t believe her.

When we started dating I was not made aware that many of his family members did not speak English. In fact, I believe we were driving to his sisters’ house when he mentioned in passing that she was just starting English language classes. Did I feel awkward when I met her? Yes. Was I worried that he would think I didn’t fit in because of the language barrier? Yes. To a certain extent the language barrier has been a problem.

It has also been a blessing. There have been times when I just felt like spacing out. Since I don’t speak the other language no one expects me to follow the conversation. I also stink at casual conversation and chit chat. No worries there! No one expects me to be chatty. I tend to be shy and a bit of a wallflower. Ahh! Being ignorant of the language suits me perfectly.

And then there are the times when it really stinks. Like when I met my mother in law. I could only say that I was pleased to meet her. After that we were not able to communicate. I spent a lot of time smiling and nodding. I’d like to say that my husband did an excellent job of translating for us, but he didn’t. And still doesn’t. Over time, and with a little study, I have gotten to the point where I can identify about 25% of a conversation. However, I still cannot participate and I am still struggling to learn the language. I am looking forward to the day when I can hold my own in a conversation. Then I will feel like I am really a part of the family.

We’ll tackle gender roles next time …


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