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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gender Identity

I was born a girl. No question about that. Growing up in my family being a girl had certain expectations associated it. I should learn to cook. College may or may not be in my future and that was okay. I should expect to get married, have a family, blah, blah, blah. Okay, I got married (not that I expected to all) and have a family. Still can't cook well. And am still trying to graduate. Sigh.

One of the biggest sources of stress in my house is the role I'm supposed to have. I'm supposed to know how to cook all sorts of things. I'm supposed to be the one to do that laundry. Again, blah, blah, blah. I can cook. I can do laundry, though - and I'm sure I'm not alone here - I hate it. I am the primary caregiver to my kids. I'm a pretty traditional mom.

Only I'm not. And now I'm really not. The economy bit our butts, too, and now I'm the primary breadwinner AND all those other things. As the myth of Super Mom gets busted in front of my family, they are now faced with the reality that their roles have changed, too. My husband (who has always been a better cook than me) is now in charge of the girls' breakfasts, lunches, most dinners as I'm often out of the house before they're out of bed and home after everyone is done dinner. I left him this morning with the task of braiding little girl hair. We'll see what that looks like when I get home. He has, in reality, become not only Dad but also Mom. And it's taking its toll.

I, on the other hand, have reverted back to my old life. I'm working more than I have in a long time. I can schedule lunch or coffee in between jobs with friends. I'm taking on more challenging jobs as I start working for different agencies and clients. And I'm starting my own business. Stressful? Sure. Fun? Kind of. Different? Definitely.

Now, don't get me wrong. It's annoying to have someone else take over some parts of life that were controlled by me. The dishwasher doesn't get filled the way I do it. The laundry doesn't get washed the way I do it. He buys a different brand of peanut butter than I do. I'm working at being adaptable - as is he. There's a learning curve for all of us.

My kids still come to me when tears are involved. They still ask me to sign school papers and to arrange playdates. In our previous life, I scheduled everything and just informed folks of where they needed to be and when. Now I do the scheduling by phone or email and try to fit things into my work schedule. When they can't be fit it, they go to Dad. I have visions of Michael Keaton from Mr. Mom in my head. I don't say that out loud.....

So here I am. I've always known I'm a woman playing in a man's world. Now I'm on both sides of the fence. And now my husband gets to experience what I've known all along. Staying home and taking care of the house and kids and trying to remain sane all at the same time is far harder than going to work. Then again, it's hard to be away from home working so much, missing birthday parties and playdates, missing homework. I'm not sure who's getting the better deal here. I guess this is one of those rare times we get to walk in each other's shoes. I'm hoping it's just a stroll and not a marathon.

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