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Published January 04, 2011, 12:00 AM

Parenting Perspectives: Feminists can still get help with jars

I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist. I was too young to burn my bra or march for the Equal Rights Amendment. But I acted out the words to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” in my purple-flowered bedroom and wanted to grow up to be just like Mary Richards from “The Mary Tyler Moore show.”

I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist.

I was too young to burn my bra or march for the Equal Rights Amendment. But I acted out the words to Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” in my purple-flowered bedroom and wanted to grow up to be just like Mary Richards from “The Mary Tyler Moore show.” And while I never tossed my beret up in the air or turned the world on with my smile, Mary made me feel like I, too, could “make it after all.”

So you can imagine my shock when these words came out of my 8-year-old daughter’s mouth the other day: “Mom, you know what I like best about being a girl? We don’t have to fix things.”

What have I been teaching my daughters? I might be talking about being a feminist, but actions speak louder than words. What am I showing my daughters? I had to admit my shortcomings. I realize that when I can’t open the spaghetti sauce jar, I don’t really try that hard. I know I’ll get my husband to do it. When the cars break down, I know that I don’t need to figure out exactly what’s wrong. He’ll explain it better to the mechanic. (It’s a lesson I learned in 1989 when I tried to explain to the mechanic that the engine of my Buick smelled like burnt lobster, which got a puzzled look in return.)

My husband and I are a modern couple in many senses. Because we both work full time, we realize that we must share household duties. I’m so lucky to have a husband who doesn’t think keeping a neat house is just my job. If that were the case, I’m pretty sure I’d be the subject of a “Hoarders” episode.

But I also have realized that we’ve naturally drifted into more traditional roles. I remember the first time he asked me if I could sew a button onto his shirt. My first response was, “What, your fingers don’t work?” But then I realized that semester of home ec I had in 1977 made me more qualified. Besides, I’d rather sew a button on a shirt than shovel the driveway. I thought it was a fair trade.

When we were first married, we tried to share cooking responsibilities, too. But that ended before the honeymoon was paid off. I’m the cook. He’s the grill guy. A couple of weeks ago when I was going out with friends for dinner, I told the girls that dad was making dinner. I heard the 6-year-old tell the 8-year-old, “Oh that means it’s either spaghetti or Burger King.”

Despite some days feeling like we’re a lot like Ward and June Cleaver, it works for us. I’m doing the cooking and sewing at our house because I enjoy it more than shoveling and fixing things. I want my daughters to do what feels right to them, to define their own gender roles. I want them to have husbands who will work with them to find what works, traditional or not. But, I will tell them the whole jar-opening thing is non-negotiable.


Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and is an employee of Forum Communications Co.

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