Sunday, 16 June 2013

What is a wife?


I've been thinking about this quite a lot lately, particularly since I have been doing a weekly core workout class in a quite a chichi West London gym.  A couple of weeks back we were waiting for the last few stragglers to find a spot for their Chanel handbags and settle down with a mat, when I overheard a phone conversation that made me ponder the thought even more closely.  The young, very beautiful wife, was talking to her husband, a successful finance guy, he was late for a flight to New York for a business meeting and had lost his passport.  He had called her in desperation to see if she had any idea where it might be.  It was that litmus test moment, to my mind, a good wife would have left the class and gone home to help him to find lost item.  As much as anything else, this course of action is survival,since if my whole lifestyle, is dependent on his income and the smooth running of his work, surely the sensible wife makes it as easy as she can for the husband to what she needs him to do in order to continue her lifestyle?
Cherie Blair famously mentioned how she would fight tooth and nail to avoid the Allderednic syndrome.
An Allerednic is a social phenomenon identified by Professor Jonathan Gershuny of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. An Allerednic is a Cinderella in reverse. The term describes the circumstances where a man marries a clever, successful, achieving woman and in so doing rips the glass slipper from her foot, condemning her thereafter to a life of kitchen drudgery and child-rearing.
We were always told that the recipe for a happy marriage was to marry someone who was educated to a similar level.  But I wonder if I would give my own sons the same advice. As I look at some of my friends and contemporaries,  many are lawyers, accountants and even doctors who never got past the first few years of their careers, preferring to marry, give up work, and despite having not contributed financially to the household for more than 15 years, still would never dream of doing housework, and take pride in their aversion/inability to cook as a mark of an emancipated career woman (and avoidance of the syndrome above).  I'm all for a bit of girl power, but heaven forbid I say this, I am wondering if may be it has gone a little too far. Not just due to the in balance in the marriage, but also unrealistic expectation on the part of women who are setting themselves up for disappointment. (to be continued) 

This is a controversial one I know, but I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject...

17 comments:

  1. You know I was going to write about this but life has been a bit angst filled so I've kept the blog light, I think it's a really excellent question in this day and age. I suppose the best outcome is if a husband and wife answer that separately and their answers tally, whatever they may be, otherwise, the marriage is 'under the volcano.'

    Have to say though, my husband is so scatter brained that had he called me about the lost passport I'd be hissing and spitting!

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  2. Yes indeed one never knows the whole back story of course! It used to be enough that your primary role in life was to be a wife. But in the 70s, that changed and the role is belittled. Now that I don't have a 'serious' job, and I am completing some kind of form, I do feel like a loser when I write 'housewife' and that is only society's influence, as I am much happier now than I was in the corporate world.

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  3. I feel much more of a loser, I haven't even produced a child and only work part time.

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  4. I think the kids are the easy bit (it doesn't last long!), it is the monotony of maintaining a house, cooking, cleaning that separates those with real backbone from the ones who just give up and pay someone else. It is a skill, it can even be an art and it is totally under rated!

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  5. so interesting - i live in two worlds - the uber rich very spoilt wives of chelsea and the equally spoilt, less rich, more bitter of suburban sussex - i have worked my whole life but to my own schedule, my own business and in a lot of ways i am spoilt in that i dont have the financial restrictions of some of my friends, and i dont have to do the commute and i dont have a husband who adores me unconditionally, he adores me but pulls me up and i think that counts a lot because i dont want to become one either of the above mentioned wives and i agree it is a v hard job, and v taken for granted - if you do do it that is! x

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    1. You seem to have a really good perspective on things, and an understanding of how lucky you are with your lot. I can't help but smile at the irony when I hear a certain type of lady (driver, nanny, housekeeper etc) moaning about how tough life is. I live amongst the west London uber rich, but I'm not one of them, going somewhere else and experiencing 'real life' and having a sensible man keeps one's feet very firmly on the ground.

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  6. Oh and like the lovely tabitha - i too feel the failure of never managing to procreate - but that really is a whole other conversation x

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    1. It all ties back into this, for many of the women above the act of procreation is more about survival and the husband's fear of big settlements, many of them spend so little time with their offspring that they may as well not have bothered. And it's funny that educated women don't want to be defined as being a housewife, but some high flying career women, once they have kids, become completely obsessed and utterly defined by their role as a mother to the exclusion of everything else. But once the kids hit 12 or 13 and really aren't that into 'mum' any more what do they have left?

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    2. You see I married a penniless man, so never gave this a thought!

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  7. Wow....ok. I cannot really believe that there are women out there whos husbands go out to work every day to earn money to pay mortgages, bills etc so that there wives can stay home and be a housewife yet they don't actually do any of the housewife things???? Seriously....isn't that what you supposed to be doing. Looking after the kids, cleaning the house, cooking all the meals, being taxi driver and why would you even need a nanny or au pair if you are not working. I think I obviously live in another world. I work part time as a personal stylist, have brought up my two children, do the housework, cleaning, cooking, shopping etc and my husband is the main breadwinner.

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    1. I totally agree, I just hope that my boys find a girl who was raised by someone like you and not the other type!

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  8. It was me who put the anonymous comment....sorry thought I would get flamed for what I said but so glad you agreed with me.

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  9. Very interesting debate, I work full time and do the vast majority of cooking, cleaning, childcare outside of working hours,, organising holidays, organising everything basically, oh and a little blogging on the side. It baffles me that women can be 'SAHM's' or SAHW's and not actually do anything- but if their husbands let them away with it why would they not!!

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I would love to hear from you and quite happy for some lively debate so feel free to say what you think! ....