I was talking to a friend who was taking a small vacation from his wife, or more properly, his wife was taking a small vacation from him (mutually agreed upon) and asked him to reflect on marriage.
I was thinking that many couples look forward to kids then to raising kids. Despite this, it seems to lack enough drama that movies are devoted to the hardships of raising kids. It's difficult to convey the joy a smiling baby gives to a parent, the simple progress that seem like major achievements to parents, the tantrums thrown that exasperate parents. So many couples go through it, and yet it's not something movie makers want to deal with. They prefer the romance of a male and female where love is the ideal and responsibility is given the short shrift as it changes a fairy tale to a harsh reality.
One issue brought up was the sharing of responsibility. It made me wonder whether such a thing was particular to "western" cultures. Of course, women make many decisions on the upbringing of a child, but there are other issues, often revolving around money and how its spent, or possibly the future of the child or whose job child-rearing belongs to.
Once upon a time, the wife was expected to raise the child by herself, the husband to busy with "important" work to deal with changing the baby, watching after the baby, and so forth. Maybe as the child grew older, the father would teach the boy to throw a ball, to catch a ball, and so forth. Husbands often issued decrees that they wanted their wives to obey. Given that some cultures gave no freedom to the wife--she could not get her own job, divorce was frowned upon or worse, the wife often had little choice. Even under such constraints, she experienced some joy in seeing the child grow up.
These days, the wife now contributes to many decisions that the husband might traditionally have had, even to the point that husbands sometimes defer to the wife on these decisions. Phrases like "I need to check with my wife" replace "I need to check with my husband" and shows the increasing importance of wives to modern relationships.
Because wives now have more power in the relationship, once dynamic has appeared that was perhaps less common before. When wives were subservient to their husbands, they were told, from youth, that their role was to keep their husbands happy. Their own happiness was secondary. He would provide for the family, and she would support him. In some jobs, this still happens. Husbands that coach sports find that their success depends on the team's success and that the team's success requires an inordinate amount of time spent preparing the team, time that is not spent with the wife. A coach's wife is expected to understand that this time is required, and to be patient, supporting the husband, and perhaps providing advice and food for the team. Coaches' wives often hang out with one another since only such wives understand each other's dilemma.
With the increased power of women, one change that has occurred is that women who once were asked to support the husband now can think more about themselves. They might expect their husbands to be their emotionally for them to stand by them even when it may not be wise to do so (I'm reminded that actress Delta Burke had said something negative about someone else, and her husband backed her up, even if there was some indication that maybe Burke wasn't telling the full truth).
This observation is purely anecdotal (as are most of my observations), but it's lead me to observe that American women are sometimes more likely to be emotionally fragile and thus more demanding of their male counterparts. This has lead to phrases like "high maintenance". This isn't to say that men can't be high maintenance too.
To be low maintenance means that you have to be self-assured and independent and thinking of others. Conservative cultures seem to tell women, essentially, to suck it up, and put aside their feelings for the sake of the relationship. Men tend to do that anyway, because despite the increasing balance between men and women, men are still expected to be "in charge" (but taking lots of opinions from wives).
I raise this issue because I am pondering whether conservative cultures, despite their downsides, have some redeeming features that aren't obvious, and this seems to be one of them.
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