I had a really interesting conversation with a good friend this morning. As usual, we discussed marriage and motherhood, and vented about how frustrated we've been lately.
But today we started to develop some theories about why we feel the way we do, and how we got here.
The structure of the American family today seems to be similar to that of the upper class families in Newport (or other similar shoreline vacation spots) at the turn of the last century, except with one major - and, in my opinion, problematic - difference.
What do I mean?
Well, back in the early 1900s, women would pack up their children and the house and summer in Newport. The men worked in Manhattan, and would only visit their families on the weekends. The women were left to run the household, and were trusted to make decisions unilaterally. The men were responsible for earning the money, the women managed it, and each party trusted the other completely.
Today, in the early 21st century, we moms pack up the children and shuttle them to school, sports, music, and any one of the myriad activities scheduled on any given day. Our husbands work in Manhattan, or Greenwich, Stamford, or wherever, and typically return home just as the kids are being tucked into bed. We are left to run the household, but aren't always trusted to make decisions unilaterally. The men are responsible for earning the money, we women pay the bills, but the men reserve the right to reject any decision, maybe because they had a crappy day at the office and feel the need to exert some power somewhere.
Many of us consciously sacrificed our careers and our earning power to stay home and raise our children and manage our households, yet we aren't trusted to make major financial decisions for our families. We are not uneducated women; we have advanced degrees and earned as much as, if not more than, our spouses when we left the workforce to become full time mothers and homemakers.
Why are we being punished and subjugated when our foremothers were left to their own devices?
Has the women's movement - equal work for equal pay - finally come back to bite us in the ass? Are we being punished for contributing to our families in a way that isn't financially compensated, and therefore not as valued by our society? Are men so frustrated by a frail economy, where employers take the attitude that employees should just be happy that they have a job and therefore twelve hour workdays should just be accepted as the norm, that if they're miserable, their wives should be frustrated too?