Our Marriage Works Better When We Take On Traditional Gender Roles

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woman cleaning kitchen

Despite my best intentions, my marriage isn’t new or hip, or trendy, because I cook and clean.

He does the lawn and the taxes. I sew curtains and decorate.

He watches the budget and fixes the garbage disposal.

It’s not that way because I am trying to reverse the women’s movement, it’s just that our marriage works better that way. I am a better cook. He’s a whiz at taxes. I really enjoy a nicely Swiffered floor. He loves multiple trips to Home Depot. Call it genetics. Call it culture. It’s who we are.

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I used to feel guilty that my marriage seemed so normal.

When I got married, I imagined my marriage would be different. I wanted to bust up traditions. Reinvent what marriage meant. I

was determined not to let my marriage resemble the traditional roles of my parent’s relationship. So, two months after I said “I do”, when I found myself unemployed and picking up my husband’s socks off the floor, I started to cry.

When Dave came home and found me sobbing on the couch, I threw my apron at him. “You make dinner!” He made hot dogs and mac and cheese from a box. Breaking down traditions didn’t taste as good as I thought it would.

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I did eventually find a job, although I work at home. And no matter how many pants suits or power heels I own, I still throw on an apron every night and cook barefoot in the kitchen.

It’s not that we haven’t tried to break tradition. We tried to rotate cooking duties until I got tired of hamburgers. Once, I took over lawn duties. But when the lawn became a pile of weeds, I was fired. My husband and I do split the majority of the cleaning; however, I find it cathartic to scrub the floors and he finds it convenient to let me.

This isn’t to say we divide life into strictly gendered lines. For example, I get the oil changed and take care of the cars and he does the laundry.

But these changes stuck, not because of gender, but because of our own individual strengths. I’m great at saying, "No, I don't want my air filter changed" and he is great at remembering that we need clean undies.

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Ultimately, in our struggle to break tradition, my husband and I learned that tradition is what works best for us.

I’ve given up trying to turn my marriage into a feminist ideal. I haven't given up on feminist ideals; it’s just that I believe that at its heart feminism is about choice. And, while I hope one day Gloria Steinem can forgive me, I'm happy being barefoot in the kitchen as long as it's accompanied by a glass of wine.

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Lyz Lenz's writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, Pacific Standard, and others. She is a columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.