I went to the bank today, cashing several checks: a paycheck, a babysitting gig, reimbursement from a church activity, that sort of thing. The ATM couldn't read the information on one of them (ironically, it was my paycheck -- the one that is typed up and tidy!) so I had to go inside, trying to ignore the fact that I was out in public in sweatpants.
The teller quietly helped me with my transaction, because we were all listening to a conversation between a couple of tellers and one of the customers. They were all laughing, loudly, and their comments included any of the following, and more:
"Men are just lazy."
"My son-in-law does that."
"I'd be so happy if my girl wanted to be a sugar-mama!"
"Did you know women are 75% of the workforce?
"I'd love to be a stay-at-home dad."
"Women are the backbone of society."
The entire exchange was amusing, but it wasn't until I got back into my car that it struck me as very, very sad.
Firstly, women are the backbone of society, but I don't think it has much to do with our paid employment. Families are the fundamental unit of society, and mothers are the center of our homes. (Or ought to be.)We have God-given talents meant for nurturing. One of our greatest challenges as women is being true to those gifts without drowning them out with hyper-management and overly high expectations in our home. (And if that's not you, that is DEFINITELY me.)
Secondly, I wouldn't outright agree that men are lazy. I will say however that just as many women struggle to find purpose and meaning and satisfaction in their roles as homemakers, I know many men who quail at the idea of being financially responsible for a house full of people. And just as we women have special gifts that help us as we care for others, I think men have a special strength and solidarity that helps them to succeed, too.
Why would God ask us to do jobs that come particularly easy to us? I bet Chris would like to have the flexibility in his schedule to peruse the Internet in the name of book research, or experiment in the kitchen for hours at a time, or take a nap so he can be a more cheerful spouse. However, I don't think those are the things that are going to make him grow into a stronger, bolder leader. He'd probably stay very much the same, or worse, start to stagnate his character development. I would love the structure and tangible results of a full-time job, when I could get home and relax guilt-free and know the hardest parts of my work were over. But I don't think that would make me grow either.
I guess what I'm saying is that each gender has specific strengths to use and specific weaknesses to root out through our more traditional gender roles, and I worry what we're losing by inverting them. Character development? A place to use our strengths? A sense of "Thy will, not mine, be done"?
Regardless, I am tremendously grateful for the life that we have, where I can be out of the workforce and instead spend my time developing the skills and character that I need in order to be a truly excellent mother. I'm grateful to have a husband who, although it's a huge challenge, has accepted the task of providing for our family and leading our home in righteousness. I'm an amazingly lucky girl to have someone who will watch Conference talks with me, pray with me multiple times a day, and so readily offer his help and support when I have any sort of quandary.
Today, we're celebrating our own little Valentine's Day. Free of commercialism, outrageous prices, or cultural obligation, we're just celebrating us. That we're in love, that we are working to become better people together, that we are so excited to be a part of this team. Today I'm celebrating the man in my life, for all that he is -- his strengths, and his determination to overcome his weaknesses.
I think that's worth celebrating. Don't you?