Saturday, March 18, 2006

Expectations in marriage...

Over time, women in the US have managed to set things right for themselves where men are concerned. They have very well established that they are no slaves and they are no maids and if husbands want a good clean house and well cooked meals then these men would simply have to put on the "kiss the cook " apron and ditch in.....(part removed here)... So how come there are the married couples in bliss in the middle east? Very simple. Women have used every part of their wit and intelligence to get what they want from their husbands. They know for example that if they cook and clean and sweat all day in the kitchen, then that is sending hubby a message: I respect you.

This comment on another blog got me thinking about the idea of what spouses expect in marriage and how that is influenced by culture and upbringing. Now, let me be clear that there are some differences in the cultures that get lumped into the "middle eastern" label... But for the purposes of this discussion I will be lumping but understand my personal experience is mostly from a city Egyptian's view.

What I would say is the hardest thing about being married to my DH is our different views on areas of responsibility. And this is a recurring theme in Middle Eastern/American marriages pretty often (from my perspective). My DH will be totally up in arms that I didn't do something and I will feel like it wasn't my job in the first place. If there is a culture clash for us that is it. Masha'Allah we get through it but I think both of us have our deep-seeded beliefs about what we should and shouldn't have to do in the family.

For most Middle Eastern men it seems that responsibility ends at the office exit door. They bring the money the family needs (and masha'Allah will do it no matter what) and then they are DONE. Now what happens when such a husband comes home to a mediocre dinner and a messy house (even if the wife also works) he flips. Why? Because the entire day has been spent fulfilling his obligations to the family and the wife hasn't met hers in his view. Is this bad? Does this mean that these men are self centered, chauvinistic, bullish, lazy or some combination of the above? No. That is the culture they are from, and that is most likely how they were raised.

Now of course the difference is that in most Middle Eastern countries the wife can just pay to have the things that she struggles with done, where as in the US that is not an option unless you are really well off. And how well off would you have to be to afford a woman to come cook with you every weekend and whenever you have an invitation? Or someone to deep clean the house weekly, or bi-weekly? Not to mention all the other things that an American maid will not do and an Egyptian maid will. My SIL, for example, has a maid come every season change to re-organize the family closets and store all the out of season clothes and things the kids have grown out of. So, the other factor for Middle Eastern men seems to be if he is doing OK, why not hire out some of the work?

Now, my DH taught me to cook Egyptian food, and could give laundry tips to the most seasoned wife... But he never does either of the above; if he does he leaves the clothes on the couch to be folded and the kitchen full of dishes and cooking debris. Am I mad, am I annoyed, do I wish he would help more? Yeah. But I don't think he is being lazy or mean... He just isn't convinced that I can't manage it all without his help.

So I guess what I am saying is the next time a culture clash occurs in your mixed marriage ask yourself if you even agree on the basics of who does what in the house... Chances are you don't!LOL Hmmm, I'll try to remember that the next time my DH asks me why the lawn hasn't been mowed in ages...

3 comments:

cncz said...

Nice Husband and I have this problem that I call the stay-at-home-mom problem. His mom worked ber behind off macha Allah and raised six beautiful kids, but she never worked out of the home. His two sisters worked briefly out of the home. Right now his mother, sister and sister-in-law all live in a house, and let me tell you, that house is SO CLEAN. You could eat off the floor, it SHINES. Macha Allah. The problem is that the three of them don't have day jobs. I do. So even though intellectually he understands that I work forty hours a week, emotionally or subconsciously or something, he is comparing our house to one where three Algerian housewives live. Not fair. The good news is that we are trying, like you mentioned in your post, to intellectualize the "cultural differences" and put them in their proper context.

camilla said...

I face this everyday. I am taking it well for one reason though...'my hubby is brought up that way.' As long as my hubby doesn't complain why things are not done, I am fine with it :D

amygdala said...

you guys are living my life too. zawji reassured me before we got married that we would split the housework equally, that he was quite capable of cooking etc etc. he's working 9-5 and i'm studying 9-5: the difference being his salary. therefore i'm the one who gets lumbered with the washing, the cooking, the dinners, and he grumbles whenever i bring it up!

i think i've let him off for too long and i won't get any help now. but in a year's time i'll be earning three times what he does, and working longer hours too... so maybe the worm will turn...

any advice on convincing lazy husbands to iron will be much appreciated.