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Ode to Womanhood



strong womanIt’s easy to know a woman’s job…just look at our sisters, mothers and aunties around us. You sweat for your family, deny yourself clothing to pay their fees, deny yourself laughter in your quest to keep it all together. There’s nothing strange about it, it is our way; we are women.

We have grown up with a culture of self-denial, and so many times we cross over into martyrdom without even noticing we were at the river. It happens in life…as we grow up, in relationships, at work, it happens all through our lives, as we sweat and we bleed to give and fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, hoping that those we have given our all to, will somehow understand that we deserve something back.

As children, we quickly give up our self indulgent play, as we learn how to cook and clean, “for the man we will someday marry”. Sooner or later, on one level or the other, it seeps into our consciousness; you are not meant to choose, say No, and refuse to work one more minute. How dare you decide you hate to cook, you will not clean, are not in the mood… have you forgotten that you are a woman?

We get married and then the real work begins. We wake up at 4am to make hubby’s breakfast so we can leave home by 6. And when the children come, we buckle down, waking up at 2am to breastfeed the baby, who obviously has a built in sensor that triggers an alarm as soon as you fall into tired sleep. It never once occurs to you to ask for help, you’re a woman; it’s your job.

And as the years go by, we juggle home and work, hubby and children, friends and in-laws with almost inhuman strength. We become so used to saying No to ourselves that it’s impossible to say yes, even when our bodies are crying out for relief. Instead we yell at our children for being children, snap at our husbands for being men and snap at the gateman just because. When budgets are tight, we immediately change saloons and start painting our nails at home so that we can still buy the new Barbie backpack for our daughter – you don’t want her to get laughed at in school. We do these things without thinking, we are women.

Sometimes, our loving husbands decide we work too hard and offer to do something. They might say, “Stay in bed, let me take care of the kids this morning”, but as you lie back, you remember hubby is actually as big a kid as his kids; he’s going to allow them eat Frosties for breakfast instead of Quaker Oats. Before you know it, you’ve worked yourself up so much that you can’t stay in bed. You swoop into the room 10 minutes later and dispatch the kids to the table while you start tidying up the spotless room. Why?

Why is it so hard for us to accept help sometimes? Why do we deny our need for rest, relief, sometimes even laughter? In pain, sickness or sadness, we keep on, never stopping to ask ourselves why this doesn’t feel as good as it should. Do we have something against feeling good, lazy, and sometimes just a little bit selfish?

There’s nothing wrong with working hard for those we love, but why do we let it go so far? Why do we insist on sacrifice, even when it’s not necessary and then feel wounded when it’s not appreciated? Why do we feel good only when we’re juggling everything at once and then envy our friend who refuses to give up her monthly visits to the spa and her quarterly shopping trips to the US? When did we decide that we only find truth in giving up and giving up and then giving up some more?

I have a man I love with all my heart. One day, when I walked into his room to see him vigorously brushing the rug, I experienced a moment of pure blinding panic. At my frantic questioning, he quietly replied that he just thought the rug needed to be swept and he wanted to help. It was scary at first; I couldn’t relax. I finally stood and started cleaning up too.

Months later, I’m realizing its okay for him to take out the trash too.


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