Coping With Traditional Gender Roles: Or, How I Found Myself Becoming Ward Cleaver
I’ve written here a number of times about the bullshit ideals of masculinity as a writer and how I’ll never be the sort of Hemingway he-man blue-collar writer that seems to be so popular in rural crime fiction these days. I’m twee and vain and soft and privileged and hyper-self aware of who I am and very comfortable with who I am. And until recently I was that way in real life too.
For me, the best part of being a full-time freelancer was being a stay at home parent. Getting the kids off to school, playing with them on vacation, seeing them grow, and also doing the housework portion of the job. I’ve always been a bit of a neat freak and enjoy cleaning so it was a good match while Becky went out into the real world and made money and kept us in health insurance and such. I read mommy blogs and parenting blogs and found myself nodding along with what the most sarcastic and mean ones had to say about those other mothers who were making things too perfect for their kids.
But then a funny thing happened. My desire to stay at home and do the work I loved was replaced by this terrifying need to provide for my family. The need to provide became so disrupting that I couldn’t work (ironic, right)? Suddenly the freedom and flexibility I’d been enjoying with freelance scared the hell out of me and kept me up at night. That was easily remedied by going back to work full-time, getting platinum benefits, a great retirement, job security, and still kept the ability to write and edit books on the side for fun and extra money. But I also kept up a lot of the housework part of the job because I couldn’t work in a messy house and Becky was laid up due to the pregnancy from hell. This part sucked. I enjoyed doing all of that stuff when it was part of being a stay at home parent, but doing it on top of working full-time AND keeping up with the side jobs was really a pain in the ass.
And then another funny thing happened. Becky turned into Molly Friggin Homemaker. Suddenly she went from the slob I loved to the cleaning machine I love. She created a cleaning schedule for the house and a schedule for the kids and a homework schedule and a menu schedule. And she’s really good at it. She’s even making her own butter and learning how to sew. She’s happy and healthy and the kids love having her at home and the baby loves her and we don’t have to write giant painful checks to the daycare and my life is so much easier. The house is clean enough that I don’t have it as an excuse to not write or edit. She makes me a lunch to take to work and snacks and sometimes even breakfast. Suddenly I’m Ward Friggin Cleaver and it’s weird.
I’ve gone from being the only man in a lot of female dominated professions to one of many men in the web and IT field. At almost 40 years old I’m suddenly the embodiment of the traditional male trope for the first time in my life and have no idea what to do with myself. I’ve found myself slipping into lazy habits and I found misogyny and sexism is far, far easier to slip into than it ever used to be. This is going to take some growing on my part and some of that hyper-self-awareness I mentioned earlier. Will I survive? Will I start wearing house shoes and smoking a pipe? Will I have to join a lodge? Guess we’ll have to find out together.