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December 20, 2017

Shouldn’t Equality Begin at Home?

When Dad is the Hero, and Mom is the Zero.

“I’m with Her.”
“Women’s Rights are Human Rights.”
“ReSISTER.”

I watched as the 20-somethings in my family marched with the women in their vagina hats, and I shook my head. I think the correct sign for them to have held might be:

“Change begins with Me.”

As these young women progressed to driving age, my husband and I gave them each a vehicle. It was a specialty of his, finding reliable, used cars, and it was something we could afford to do for each of the four of them.

Were you to ask any of them where they got their first car, the answer would be that their uncle/dad had gotten it for them. There would be no mention of me.

You see, I was the stay-at-home mother. I did not earn an income, therefore, a purchased item was a credit to him. It was not our resources that purchased this item, but his.

My stepdaughter married this past year. Her father has been thanked repeatedly for her wedding; I have never been. Since it was financial support, the attribution is his. It doesn’t matter that several of the vendor deposits came directly from my separate personal account. He is the man. The money was his, not ours.

It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth that they shout equality, but my role as homemaker is clearly “less than.” I wonder if they decide to stay home to raise their children if they will relinquish the equality in their marriages and accept a diminished value as a non-income earner as their fate.

It feels so archaic, the role of wife and mother being so marginalized, but I live and breathe it today.

It’s incredibly difficult as a woman to feel as though I am enough; to then have my worth so blatantly reduced by my own family makes me ask myself, “Am I less than?”

I am not. While I appreciate that money is vital to most everything, everything also takes planning, organization, timing, and execution.

>> You can’t send a payment into the blue and magically arrive on vacation—that’s not how it works.

>> Money for food is great, but without someone to purchase it at the store and prepare the meals, it really doesn’t sate your hunger.

>> You can purchase a present for your child, but his birthday is incomplete without the cake and the song.

Treating earned money as his and not ours is akin to giving me all the credit for the younger children’s manners and good grades, and that never happens either. His financial contribution is deemed great enough to allow him credit in all other aspects of family life, while my contributions are clearly put in to categories.

How can I possibly be seen as my husband’s equal if even my own family doesn’t treat me that way? And don’t get me started on how my neighbor often assumed I had all the time in the world to take care of her child as well as mine.

Why would one march and post about her rights and equality if she clearly does not believe the women in her own life are equal to the men?

When the 20-somethings treat me as less-than because I am not the primary income earner, then they are contributing to the global problem, and it negates their efforts toward resolution. When they mentally pull apart what is his and what is mine in what should be an equal partnership, they are assigning different values to each person in our dyad.

I don’t think this behavior is unique to my family. Not even close.

As women, how difficult are we making it for our future when we align a woman’s worth with her income and dismiss her family and societal contributions as inferior in value?

I do not—and will never—regret the decision to remain home and be a full-time parent for my children. I am grateful that my spouse’s job was lucrative enough to allow that to be an option for our family. I do not think the choices we made in this regard resulted in my being less independent, responsible, or strong. It did not muffle my voice. I do not think it means I contributed less than he did to our family. Frankly, it saddens me that the 20-somethings treat me as though it does.

Why write about it instead of talk to them about it? Ahhh…I have separated from my husband, and these same young ladies have shut me out. Apparently, in their lives, women should also only be able to choose their own fate if it is in line with these young ladies’ expectations. When I chose to pursue my own happiness and not be there to make everything just-so when they bop home for a weekend or holiday, they quite simply shut me out. I got the silent treatment, and they fawned over their uncle/dad.

It makes me sad, bitter, and hurt. I worry that their mindset will poison the children my husband and I share together, and that is scary. So, I try every day to be my truest self. I do my best and take my encouragement from where it comes.

I hope that in being raised in a home with me for their entire lifetime, these boys understand that a person’s worth is not based on their bank account, and it is certainly not based on whether or not they follow someone else’s script. I hope they learn that the true measure of a man or woman is his or her consistency of character.

And so, the 20-somethings march with their vagina hats—and, in my mind, have turned a blind-eye to the most strong and independent woman they know. I cannot explain such juxtaposition—I just hope for change.

Perhaps Walt Kelly’s phrase, “We have met the enemy and (s)he is us,” rings true when it comes to women and equality.

In our current efforts toward feminine equality, we best consider how we treat the women nearest to us. The best motto might truly be, “Change begins with me.”

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Author: Jeanne Fiocca
Image: Angelina Litvin/Unsplash 
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis

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