Many have tried to define the role of a wife – from feminists to liberals, conservatives and the media. The role has changed considerably from what it was in the past to what it is today. Progress has come in the sense that wives now have choices to make that they never had before.
They can choose to stay at home and care for their children, have a career or do both. However, stereotypes are hard to break, and not all women manage to find the “I” in wife or even believe there should be one.
The historical role of a wife
Historically women could not vote, hold jobs or have a place in politics. A woman married mostly for economic security, but as soon as she married, her independence and her identity was sacrificed. A marriage was often a strategic alliance rather than a union of two people in love.
Women fought to change this and today they are finding their place in government and politics, making career choices that were unavailable to them in the past and no longer relying as much on men to support them financially. They are independent in ways their forebears only dreamed about.
A gap between ideals and reality
As liberated as women may think they are, the way many marriages still work is that the men provide for the family. Women still tend to take primary care of the children. If both parents work, it is often the mother who will take time off work when a child is ill. Most women – although not all – still do the cooking and the cleaning.
Where the husband works is still likely to have more influence on where the family lives and he is likely to be better paid. Even in smaller matters, tasks are generally divided along gender lines. The husband takes out the garbage and cuts the lawn.
The wife does the laundry and fetches the children from school. There is still a gap between idealism and reality. “Parenting” is still considered largely as mothering. Of course, these are generalizations, and there are many exceptions.
Changing gender roles
Gender roles are complicated, and they are slowly changing There was a time when there was no question that husbands were in charge, and although this is still very much the case in certain places in the world, now men and women are largely seen as equals.
We have feminists urging women to be tougher and learn how to successfully compete with men. Most women do not want to be an appendage and a “wife” at the expense of their own independence. However, many of them do not want to compete with men either. They believe there’s more value in focusing on being a better woman than trying to be a man.
The role of wife is constantly evolving, particularly in a modern western society where many couples feel they don’t even need to get married. Most married couples are still trying to figure it all out. Many of them believe that the wife should not serve the husband, but that service is a two-way street that’s born out of love.
The problem comes when other people outside of a marriage project their gender expectations and criticisms onto the actions of a couple. A wife may choose to do something for her husband, not because she’s been conditioned by gender norms but because she loves him. A husband may want to make dinner for his wife because she’s had a rough day – he does it because he loves her.
There are only two people who should define your role as a wife – you and your husband. You need to free yourself from the judgment of others. You are unique, and you don’t have to become what’s expected of you.
The “I” in wife should not come at the expense of serving and caring, but it should be there. Marriage should be complete equality between two people who love each other.