Women opened the windows of my eyes and the doors of my spirit. Had it not been for the woman-mother, the woman-sister and the woman-friend, I would have been sleeping among those who seek the tranquility of the world with their snoring. – Khalil Gibran
We are moving forward in many ways, leaving behind victims of culture. They are the dumbfounded, dazed men who have no clue what hit them and the dutiful women who cannot yet decide what is important to them. Progress has educated us, but culture has trapped us in a confusion of accomplishment versus obligation and self-actualization versus self-sacrifice. The roles of gender seem to be set in stone in some cultures. This confused and educated generation is suffering the non-realization of personal goals. They fly with many dreams but are quickly trapped in the cultural net of traditional values of marriage and family.
Is marriage and raising a family a trap? No, not at all.
But to this particular generation, in some cultures, it seems to be. Why? They have not yet figured out how to respect each other’s individual vision for their own lives. The traditional role of a man is still the provider. The woman’s role is still the home-maker, even though she, too, is an individual with dreams of accomplishment.
How do we overcome this dilemma? How can each partner achieve their goals, stay happily together, and raise children? Is this even possible?
Yes! Many individuals in western cultures have successfully transitioned from being enslaved by tradition to free-thinking people who honor their partners by acknowledging that each person is individually gifted and yearn to succeed.
All it takes is a change of mind prioritizing the individual over tradition. People who come together with a healthy vision for their own lives and respect for their partner’s vision will find that they uphold each other in their individual pursuits, and a great sense of well-being is achieved because they are both purpose-driven.
If and when the children do come along, both partners feel the responsibility of their upbringing and care – because the decision to have children would be mutual and anticipated with the joy of two people secure in their own selves. There would not be an auto-pilot maneuvering of responsibility toward one partner. If such was the case, then one person must assume their pursuit of purpose is higher than the other’s. True equality is achieved not by forcing the issue in a culture driven by traditional roles for men and women, but by teaching people to see others as having the same dreams of success and achievement in life. It is willful blindness that darkens the mind to the suppression of individual desires. Willful deafness dulls the heart to a partner’s cry for an opportunity to shine. And so a marriage falls apart. Maybe not externally through a divorce, but internally through bitterness, self-pity, jealousy, and sheer purposelessness.
But does this mean everyone has to follow these so-called énlightened’ views? Not at all.
Many people choose traditional roles willingly. Some women love being a wife and mother. This is their unique calling in life. Some men thrive on being the provider. When such people come together, it is probably a match made in heaven! But it would serve humanity well to realize that this is not the only way matches are made in heaven.
When secure people who live meaningful lives make decisions together, they hold up their end of the bargain with joy – not as an obligation.
Here is what the Bible says about the character of a noble woman:
Proverbs 31: 13-29
13 …..She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings, she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand, she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household, for they are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”
Millennia ago, people were wise. Men and women seem to have equally contributed and talents were not wasted—appreciative children and joy in the household. From the above, we see that women did not suffocate their children 24/7; neither did their entire lives revolve around feeding the family and keeping a clean house. This should make us wonder at what point did our traditions change to suppress our partners to a particular ‘role’? We may never find that answer, but we are blessed to have a snapshot of the ancient past to show us that life could be lived well by honoring our partners, encouraging each other to use their particular gifts, and freeing each other from the heavy yoke of cultural expectations.