Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Your Poor Wife!"

This morning’s post is a two-sided coin. Some people are hostile towards women who have embraced a more traditional role and, perhaps more importantly, have embraced the inherent femininity that they find within themselves. However the hostility that certain people seem ill equipped to hide when facing a woman who has embraced this role doubles (at the very least) when they encounter a man whose wife has embraced this role. I’ve seen it first hand and let me say: It’s not pretty.

Poor Paul. My insistence on acting the way I act, like a woman who believes that her femininity is a gift from God, means that the words: “Your poor wife!” are ones that he hears fairly often.

Here’s a typical scenario. Someone asks how the family is doing and how old the girls are. They then add: “So are you done yet?” As a side note, I often wonder when our society degraded to a point where this became an appropriate question for a casual acquaintance to ask. Stranger still that the very-much-called-for-answer “excuse me, but that’s really none of your business” would be looked on by many people as rude. But I digress. Back to the conversation.

He answers this rather rude question in a variety of ways depending on his mood. He might say: “Oh no. No. Not even close” accompanied by a shake of the head. Or “We’re really hoping for at least seven.” Sometimes it’s: “No, we’re still trying for at least another ten more… I can’t see her being done this early…” and other times, when he’s being particularly silly: “Seriously? The (fill in the name of a nice Mormon family with lots of little ones who lives in the area)’s are still beating us by like three.” Or maybe it’s the sweet: “I realize that my wealth won’t be money. My wealth are my children.”

Given the unvarying response to whatever answer he gives he might as well have fun with it.

Because he knows that really, it doesn’t matter how he answers the question, he’s going to get the same response. A widening of the eyes. A shake of the head. And then the: “Oh, your poor wife!”

It isn’t possible, in our modern world, that I would chose of my own accord, un-coerced, to embrace the children that God sends our family as a gift and praise Him for His generosity. That is simply unbelievable. They must be being forced upon me.

This way of thinking extends into other areas. My husband must force me to cover my head (no). He must force me to wear skirts that are past my knees (no). He must force me to cook and clean and make a home for us (no). I could not have chosen this life on my own. It must have been thrust upon me (no).

The funny thing is, Paul is a theology guy. He reads lofty theology tomes that, on the off chance I pick one up out of curiosity, are bound to put me to sleep in next to no time. I’m more interested in books that focus on the practice of religion and the formation of the person on their journey towards sainthood. His books are often about the “whys” and mine are usually about the “hows.” Paul insists that his are about “hows” too… But his are different “hows.” His are about “how is this accomplished.” Mine are usually about “how we should live and grow.”

Thus he was never the one who suggested my lifestyle changes. I read about headcovering and told him what I’d found and he supports me whole-heartedly. But it was never his idea. I read about dressing modestly, did a few month-of-dresses experiments and found that I really was treated in an extremely different way when I dressed modestly. This isn’t the motivation behind my dressing modestly, but it did influence my interior debate over what was necessary for me personally and what wasn’t. I made the change. He supports it. But it was my change.

He is the head of our household. But he trusts me and knows that we make a pretty good team, particularly when we both play to our strengths.

Still, I feel for him. His wife is feminine and perhaps a bit retro, so he must be a tyrant. Ah well.

I’m made more thankful by the fact that I have a husband who supports and understands my vocation as a wife and mother than I would likely be able to be if we lived in a world in which it were a common thing.

So we will continue on our way, doing what we are called to do: helping each other to grow in faith and grow towards heaven.


  1. very good post...it is funny that we are actually being 'strong' women when we decide to act like ladies!

  2. Great post(s)!

    I often visit your blog and read through some posts in the archives - they're great reads! :)

    I'm 19 and if I say something as simple as "I only wear skirts", people assume so much. I usually get "You've been brainwashed by your fundie parents into this submissive role!". I can't help but laugh - my own father is an atheist and my mother wears pants every day! It is unfathomable to them that I might actually WANT and decide for MYSELF to do such things!

  3. Ah, this post just reminded me that I have a blog post to write about inappropriate questions I have been fielding lately. I think some people just have no filter on their curiosity these days. It's sad, really.

  4. My husband and I get this all the time! At a wedding recently, I wore a cute shawl because my dress didn't completely cover my shoulders, and one of my friends asked, "Did your husband make you wear that?" She asked the same thing about my veil.

  5. Been there, done that... with the snarky comments. Fortunately, you young folks have the internet to keep connected & encouraged. It can seem lonesome at times and the temptation to self-pity or discouragement may be present. People are so odd.

  6. This is a great post, and actually something that's going to be very directly addressed in the Catholic novel I'm planning to write.

  7. Ahh love this post and could not agree more with you. I often wonder what people think when they see me out with three children.


  8. Hafsa - Well, if you walk in after me with my 24 week pregnant belly and my other 4 children in tow, they'll probably think you're normal. :)

    And yet I have to admit, I have never gotten anything more than "You must have your hands full." or "You have your hands full, don't you?" from a stranger or random person at a store. I guess I've occasionally gotten, the "Are you going to have anymore?" None of these I find terribly offensive; the latter is simply off the cuff curiosity and the former two are just ignorantly obvious - of course I have my hands full. I usually respond to this by simply saying, "Yes I do. And I wouldn't have it any other way."

  9. Hi Sullibe-

    I wonder if that has to do with geographical location (which kind of came up in the last post too). I do get "You must have your hands full" (with just two! But Sadie is spunky!) and that doesn't bother me. "Are you going to have any more?" wouldn't bother me if it was from close friends or family. But complete strangers? I do think that's a little rude.

    I guess I just don't get why that (where we are) is the follow up question to "Oh your baby is so cute" (usually in a store) followed by "So are you done yet?" I've just heard it so many times and then the responses along the lines of "You know what causes that" and "Don't you have TV?" (DH gets those more than I do) are, in my mind at least, more than a little obnoxious.

    But I do suspect that that might be a regional, California thing. Does anyone else (who's read this far down the comments at least) gotten that where they live? I suspect in places that are more family oriented it might be a little different (or at least come along later!).

  10. I have a buddy who wants to "field his own football team". I figure he will need someone to play against.

    Groucho Marx made a joke about having a TV when some guy said he had 8 (or so) kids. I think it is an old expression.

  11. In today's society it takes a much stronger woman to live genuinely as she feels called to live than to live as others tell her to.

    With 4 girls we often get the "are you done" question too. I despise that question. I've gotten used to being asked if we want more children but "are you done" makes it sound like I'm just roasting chickens or something.

  12. In answer to your query about whether attitudes differ with location, I think they definitely do. I have never heard anyone make such rudely personal remarks to women with more than a couple of kids. Attitudes vary so much though! I live in London (yes - England!) and there's been many a debate in the press of late about whether there is a 'trend' of affluent couples having large families as a kind of status symbol because it shows they can 'afford' to!

    It just goes to show it's all about perspective - there are millions of poor women in developing nations who have large families they can't really 'afford' and they have no choice whatsoever about how many children they have due to poor education and cultural demands that they submit to their husband's wishes - if you know what I mean...- and they're much more likely to die in childbirth than we are too.

    But you know, at the end of the day, it's just basic BAD MANNERS that a complete stranger would say something like that to you.


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