Growing up, my dad was the epitome of the Latin father—or as we would say jokingly, he was a machista. My mother would make dinner, set the table, and then wait on him hand and foot. Whenever he wanted something, like a spoon, rather than get up and get it himself, he would ask us to get it and joke, “That’s why God gave me three daughters.” Yes, I know you are cringing as you read this, but I’m sure many of you can relate. Though women have come a long way—we’re equals in the workforce (though not paid equally, mind you) and are in positions of power all over the world—somehow, when it comes to fulfilling that role of mom, wife, provider of all things, there are still certain gender roles we can’t escape.
My father is not really a machista; he raised us all to be very strong women, to be independent thinkers and doers… However, what I have realized as I’ve grown up, gotten married and had kids of my own is that marriage and parenting are a very delicate balancing act. I see how my parents, through good times and bad, have worked over 40 years to balance each other. And I use the word “worked” because that’s exactly what it takes.
In my home, we also try to strike a balance. We fight over the things many parents do. But this is where he gets points. He does the carpooling to hockey and soccer, and he also helps with the baths at night. I tend to do the grocery shopping, cooking and laundry. We have found a balance by establishing our own set of roles.
That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like him to help out more at home, and I’m sure he would love it if I could get to the games more and share in the driving to practice. But if you’re anything like me (and admit you do this too), when your husband or partner does the chore you ask but not quite with the result you want, don’t you go back and then do it yourself anyway? I have learned to try and relax a bit, but that’s not always easy.
One of our readers had a question about changing gender roles:
My daughter-in-law and I used to get along beautifully. The relationship has become strained because we differ in opinion on child rearing, and family roles. She feels my cooking, cleaning, and old school approach to child rearing (wash hands, don't run in the house, do what I ask you to, be respectful, do not talk back, etc.) is antiquated and unacceptable if I want to spend time with the grandchildren. She thinks I spoil them too much (yes, I do, I take them for ice cream and give them chocolate during the week). I don't understand this new 3, 2, 1 approach to child discipline and rules posted all over the house. She feels I'm being a martyr because no matter how I'm feeling, I still take care of my family if necessary.
The children are being used as pawns now and though I love them dearly I refuse to be pulled into this drama where the kids are either inaccessible or I am reduced to begging to spend time with them. How can we come to some type of agreement and close this huge generation gap, without compromising our positions?
A: I feel your pain and know you are just trying your best to be their for your family and especially your grandkids. You want what every abuelita wants, to have your time with your nietos and to do it your way. I know there are also two sides to every story and I will assume the best of your daughter-in-law. I would suggest a good old-fashioned heart-to-heart over a cafesito. Tell her what you need out of the relationship and that you have your rules too to go along with hers. Find a way to meet in the middle. Maybe you can work out a schedule when you get to watch the kids without her looking over your shoulder, but also respect her wishes when it comes to the rules she sets for her children. I do think if you ask her permission on ice cream or chocolate she will appreciate that you ask first. Also, find out what is an "acceptable" treat because tell her you want to make your time with the kids something they always look forward to. I know you have a lot to teach her as I have learned so much from my own mami... But we too don't see eye to eye sometimes when it comes to setting the rules. Just remember, you both ultimately have the same goa—to love the kids and give them the best upbringing possible—and you shouldn't let your differences get in the way of what was a good relationship and a very important one for your grandkids. Suerte!