I recently read an article entitled 7 reasons your wife is stressed out all the time by Samantha Rodman and clicked on it because hey, I’m a wife and it’s easy to get stressed out. What I read quite honestly, horrified me. Four (and a half) of the seven reasons given related to the perceived judgement of others and validated a worldview whereby we ought to be motivated by what other people think of us.
I strongly believe that we need less judgement and more community in the world. Judgement makes us keep people at arms length, it impedes trust, keeping us wary, always wondering what our “friends” are really thinking. Judgement is the enemy of community.
So here I offer my response, 5 ways modern expectations are ruining your life, because we have a choice about the expectations that we buy into, and perpetuate.
Maybe you can tell me if you agree with me, or not?
1. Women are judged differently to men.
According to Rodman, “if a mom brings a kid into school looking a mess, the teachers, the other parents, and anyone else within a mile radius is thinking, “Hmm, is she a closet alcoholic or something? Poor kid.” I’m going to leap in here and say, firmly, no, not all parents and teachers are going to think that.
The year my daughter started school I had a newborn and a toddler and was running a business. I spent that first year with my head in a million different places, feeling constantly behind and like I was never all together. Because I was never all together.
My daughter (and the rest of us) regularly rocked up to school looking like a bunch of messes. You know what the other mums said to me? “You are in the hardest year right now, but it will get easier and you are doing a great job.” They also held my baby, helped my toddler get a snack and hunted down my child at pick-up time for me. This shouldn’t be a revelation, it should be what our communities look like. Those mums gave me so much encouragement as I navigated new territory as a mum of three.
It may well be that women are judged differently to men when it comes to parenting, but since when do we have to buy into the idea that this kind of judgey, ungracious attitude should be accepted?! We need community and does it exist, so if you don’t have it where you live don’t give up, get radical.
On a personal note, if you live somewhere where this kind of judgement is genuinely what happens; move. That shit is toxic.
2. We have bought into the idea that “judgement matters”
There are so many things wrong with the statement “Judgement matters” that I almost don’t know where to begin.
It’s easy to couch notions of judgement in positive language so that they seem like reasonable expectations and the behaviour of ‘reasonable people‘. For instance, Rodman argues that “children deserve not to start out with the deck stacked against them because they don’t fit in.” It sounds reasonable at first glance BUT what surely matters is the kind of person you are – warm, genuine, considerate, honest – not what kind of lunch you and your kids eat. Animals understand this, kids understand this, but us adults? Gee we have a hard time with it.
If you constantly worry about the need “fit in” and spend time with people who will judge you, and your child(s) worthiness for a playdate based on appearance or any other superficial metric then you are hanging out with the wrong people. There are non-judgey people in the world, people who are all kinds of awesome and who don’t care about the superficial so… be them.
3. When we feel overwhelmed, instead of stopping we try to DO MORE.
This doesn’t need much explanation. We feel overwhelmed juggling all the balls we have in the air, and instead of letting go of some, we slip into “If only I…” and put more pressure on ourselves.
Problem: I’m so exhausted/stressed
Answer: I should take up a yoga class to relax
Problem: The house is a mess
Answer: I should get up half an hour earlier to tidy/clean
Problem: I have so much on my plate – work, kids, house, meals, shopping, family etc…
Answer: Oh shit, I forgot to sign up for school readers. I should do that tomorrow.
There’s no miracle solution to this, just the discipline to prioritise and to realise that setting priorities means accepting that some things don’t matter, or simply can’t matter as much as other things. We each have to be willing to accept that, and determine our own priorities without worrying about how other people are setting theirs.
4. We have bought the lie that housework matters.
Just this week I was mopping the floor when my daughter asked, “Mum, what is the point of doing that when it’s only going to get dirty again?” A girl after my own heart! It led to a great conversation about housework, time and basic standards of hygiene (ha!) Annable Crabb, one of my female heroes says My house, where my partner and I and our three children live, is a glorious tribute to all the things that are more important than housework. When I start to feel a bit anxious about the state of our house I remember those words. My house isn’t messy because I am lazy, it’s messy because there are other things we value more than keeping it tidy. This is a conscious decision about how we spend our time.
The reality is that many of us, especially those with children, could spend most of our time every day of the week, cleaning and tidying. It’s a job with no end. It’s also a job that keeps you focusing inward, it’s the enemy of community because it stops us from using our time and energy for people and activities that benefit our communities. You might argue that a tidy home makes it easier to welcome people into it, but we have confused hospitality with entertaining.
Hospitality is defined as “the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way”. Entertaining, however, is defined as “providing amusement or enjoyment.”
Having a perfectly tidy and clean house only matters if your goal is to entertain. If your goal is to provide a ‘warm, friendly and generous’ home for people then how you make people feel is the focus, not having a sparkling tidy house with all the fine dinnerware on display. When we put things “on display” to try and look the part we miss the point, and we miss the opportunity to build deep relationships with people.
Think about the people who you like to spend time with? Are they the ones who put on airs and make sure everything is just so, or are they ones with whom you can be real, raw and relaxed around. For me, it’s the latter every time, and that means trying to be that kind of person too.
5. Our models for good communication in a relationship are largely crap.
We don’t learn to communicate on our own, rather we model our behaviour off the examples of others – the stories we see in our own lives and the stories we see in the media. Most TV couples have terrible communication – that’s what makes for both compelling TV and intrigue as well as reflects back (or dare I say, encourages) a certain level of frustration and even disdain for our partners, emphasising the gender stereotypes of old. You know the ones, the man is a bumbling, farting fool who couldn’t get through a single day without his wife’s guidance (peppered with sarcasm and veiled contempt for his idiocy). The wife is a nag and there is a lot of eye rolling going on.
What we see in the media is toxically self-centred and that does not make for good communication and we have to take a conscious position, either for or against, these models. The challenge is that most of these toxic undercurrents are incredibly subtle and bathed in humour. So to even suggest that they are toxic is such a lame thing to do. Right?
Can you think of a TV couple who is consistently considerate and gracious with their partner? By contrast, how many TV couples can you think of where eye rolling is normal?
Now you might say that it’s “just TV” but when we let these and stories into our lives we can easily find them carrying them through into our own relationships.
(And as an aside, did you know that eye-rolling correlates to a higher divorce rate?)
The classic movie plot is grounded in miscommunication. In fact, forget cinema – anyone remember Romeo and Juliet? COMMUNICATION PEEPS! We sit there internally shouting for them to just say what they actually think but they don’t – because that would be boring. Unfortunately, in real life, we often do the same thing. We tend to both second guess what our partner is saying, as well as be unclear about what we are saying. We use extreme words like “never” and “always” and instead of owning our emotions with “Hey, I’m feeling a bit stressed about this, I know that rationally there is no need to be but I am – can you help me with this as it will make me feel calmer?” we stomp around the house feeling frustrated that NO ONE IS DOING WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING AND WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT?!?!?
We desperately need good roles models of relationship and communication and to be conscious consumers of the media.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment – Emerson
We choose the expectations we take on and perpetuate. What will you choose?