When I was a girl in Lahore, I was constantly scolded, urged to be more adaptable, more flexible, more willing to change for my future in-laws/husband. I wasn’t really supposed to have set habits or a real personality beyond being “sweet.” I was supposed to be able to do everything, occupy every role with a smile. The ideal daughter-in-law was in her early twenties, not fully “done,” ready to be re-baked in the oven of a new family, to be re-made in the image of whatever her husband desired. As I grew older, I watched women transform themselves and become housewives, working women, fashionable partygoers, conservative covered women, moms of many kids, – as well as everything the husband and his family needed.
I never heard anyone teaching boys how to be husbands or fathers. And their utter lack of preparation showed.
Girls and women were supposed to be ready for change. Boys and men were accepted as is. Today they face a tough reality. And it’s going to get harder. Their inflexibility and lack of adaptability is rendering them, in many ways, dead weight.
Today, I sense tension in many homes, dissatisfaction bubbling just below the surface about how men have not adapted to the expectations of the new realities of marriage today. How many men have not adapted to being *married;* how many expect it to be pretty much like single – life plus additional perks.
Yawn, my wife keeps needing me to take care of the dishes. Do I have to watch the kids again? Fine, I’ll do the minimum. She’ll be home to pick up the slack.
Working women are managing homes, children, complex schedules, and high expectations. Men are chipping in just barely enough to get by. They’re irritated when asked to do something. I see men not catching up with the need of the times. And increasingly, I hear women’s grumblings of discontent grow louder. Is it worth it, they ask.
Why should they labor so hard to maintain these high-maintenance male-divas, just to be in a traditional marriage and/or two-parent family, they ask. And many women are leaving marriage behind, finding themselves perfectly capable of managing family lives without the dead weight of men.
It’s not just chores and domestic labor either. It’s also emotional labor. Women have soured on the emotionally unavailable man – Mr. Darcy, if you will. When he’s a father, he still embodies too much of his father or grandfather’s emotional persona, while his wife is the multi-tasking goddess of all, extending her emotional and physical reach into new arenas.
We talk about adapting to the changing workplace, but men aren’t adapting to the changing family. Yes, it hurts to have to get out of your comfort zone. Try being a woman in patriarchy, where nowhere is a comfort zone.
Men are falling behind. The endless labor of maintaining their self-absorption may be too much for increasing numbers of women. In so many ways, men are going to have to prove we still need them.