Sunday, January 20, 2013

This Modern Wife

As I penned this little note to my fiance (!!!) yesterday - celebrating 18 months since our first date and 1 month since he popped the question - I suddenly felt a strange urge to clarify the word "wife". 

Old fashioned folk and people of certain philosophical persuasions may hold the view that a wife joins the jumble of property that a man may accumulate over his life, a person to birth children, cook Sunday roasts and attend to general house-wifely chores that neither overly challenge nor unnecessarily stress this asset the man has collected for himself. There may be certain expectations in the bedroom - although presumably not too daring - and certainly expectations in the social context: perfect hair, well-mannered and of a generally pleasing aesthetic and nature. Frankly, it would be pretty easy to be a Stepford Wife (minus that nagging feeling you could be doing something better with your time and brains).

Somehow, this somewhat archaic view of "wife" just isn't very me.

So what of the modern wife? What is she expected to be? Certainly something far more complex than our ancestors would have envisaged. Juggling a meaningful career with parenthood, maintaining a close circle of friends, continuing to be educated either at university or via an endearing book-ishness and of course a socially progressive wild-thing in the sack. All this without undermining the patience and ability to bake a cake, plait daughter's hair and fold hubby's socks - without complaint, except for that socially prized, badge-of-honour statement: "I am so busy". 

It makes me wonder why I clarified (and upgraded) just plain old wife to "modern" wife!

Both these options seem monstrous. Either way, there is a standard of perfection and long-suffering good humour that accompanies these stereotypes, neither of which is appealing. While I joke that I would happily bake cakes and iron all day if it meant not sitting in arctic-cold air conditioning for 45 hours per week being told what to do, I don't really mean it. I gain a lot from my work, and huge chunks of what I learn and derive (including a pay packet) lay the foundations of what I believe I will be as a wife, and where we go as an equal-shares partnership. 

Greater participation in the partnership of marriage is what (to me) sets the modern wife apart from earlier iterations of a wife. Where previously many women followed their husbands' careers to new cities devoid of old friends, more and more I see women's needs - be they career, health or lifestlyle related - taking priority in decision-making. Not only that, and possibly because more women than ever are balancing work and children, the importance of that woman's support system becomes critical in decisions to leave or move to a new city. For the time-poor woman there are caterers on hand to deliver dinner parties and kiddy events without (too much) judgment. Outperforming a husband in title or pay packet is totally fine (provided you're with a new-age husband). Best of all? Catching up with our girlfriends is now considered networking. 

While there are more expectations of the modern wife, she also has more choices - should she dare to embrace them. Perfection is an unfair benchmark that we set for ourselves, which is most certainly not assisted by an independent girl's phobia of asking for assistance or advice. 

Before this modern day bride-to-be thinks too much more about life after marriage, she needs to find a dress... And dozens of good helpers who can cook, arrange flowers and clean up confetti.


Phuong said...

LOVE this and particularly the part about 'perfection' - we need to get better at this as often us women set silly expectations of ourselves and particularly each other!

A said...

You write so, so well Rach! I think you have it completely clear in your head now what sort of wife you hope to be - and it sounds like you have a man who wants you to be whoever you want to be - yourself. Partners in crime (as my man described us before we became each other's significant other) - a very modern partnership, but also with a good old romantic throwback to Bonnie and Clyde! Certainly a domestic goddess, but without being a traditional 'housewife'. How exciting!!! And re: dress - you will look amazing in whatever you choose!! x