Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ayelet Waldman, "Bad Mother"

Maybe I'm not as much of a feminist as I think I am. After all, I stopped working and stayed home with kids for years, and neither Michael nor I even considered for a moment the possibility that he would stop writing. Maybe I enjoy feeling inept with a hammer and a screwdriver because part of me thinks that's how girls are supposed to behave. Maybe that's why I haven't been more aggressive about making my daughters learn the intricacies of the toilet's balky flushing mechanism.

But I don't think so.

I think this has more to do with the nature of marriage. In every union roles are assumed, some traditional, some not. Michael used to pay his own bills; I used to call my own repairman. But as marriages progress, you surrender areas of your own competence, often without even knowing it. You do this in part because it's more efficient for each individual to have his or her own area of expertise, but also as a kind of optimistic gesture. By surrendering certain skills, you are affirming your belief that the other person will remain there to care for you in that way.

This kind of capitulation is not without its pitfalls, of course. Every woman who has given over the financial reins only to find herself divorced and penniless knows its dangers. Still, one of the wonderful things about an intimate partnership is the division of life, the parsing out and sharing of responsibility.

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