Like most women, I wear many hats but the three I am naturally comfortable in are Wife, Mother and Educator (in no decided order). My dilemma reaches beyond deciding which hat will match my outfit for the day – given the extent of my wardrobe does not allow much choice – but rather, if I have to wear all three at the same time, which hat comes first.
The answer is not so obvious to me. I have attended numerous talks by supposed parenting gurus (those people who make it look easy) all encouraging their audiences to put the husband before the kids. “This will set the tone in the home and eliminate all discipline issues.” Really? I’ve tried this on more than one occasion. It never lasted (read worked 😜) because my personality is just too strong and my mouth works faster than my brain, and we still had discipline issues to tackle. I absolutely 100% respect my husband and recognise him as the head of our home but I have a voice and opinions that count. In my head, I equate those women to slaves; following in a subdued fashion behind their men, not being allowed to disagree or question their master’s decisions. Of course I know this isn’t actually how it goes, but that’s what it looks like in my head and I would never allow that for myself. I want the freedom to choose what I want to do, to say yes to playdates for my kids without saying, “Go ask your Dad”. I want to be free to disagree with my husband and have my opinion acknowledged. I also do not support the old adage “children should be seen and not heard“. Neither does my husband, we just differ in opinion about how much children should be allowed to say.
So my struggle is this: how do I put the wife hat first if I am unable to separate “I am proudly loyal and submissive” from “This looks a lot like abuse”? It’s all about perceptions and understanding, I know. I see the world in pictures and the picture I have been presented of a wife who puts her husband first is not one I’d like to frame and hang on a wall.
Okay, so I’ll choose a different hat to put in first place – motherhood. I’ve tried very hard to wear this hat well and feel that I deserve the Aspiring Pintrest Mother of the Year award! Sadly the only followers I have are aged 6 and 2 1/2 and then it’s only when I go to the bathroom.
Putting my children before anything else introduces a crux. The expected hierarchical family order is overturned and my world becomes messy. Bystanders comment and raise their eyebrows, the children walk around with inflated attitudes and I am left disappointed and exhausted. This doesn’t seem right. This picture is not in accordance with that of any advice column or non-South African mommy blogger. The internet is flooded with parenting articles urging me to be at the beck and call of my children lest they become prime candidates for psychological issues derived from society’s accusations of neglect. In the same breath, I risk offending my husband who, unknowingly, is competing for the very position in which I have placed my children.
There’s a third hat – Educator. The question should be raised, “Why is this even a contender?” Well, for one thing, I feel called to the profession but more obviously, without the income it provides I wouldn’t be able to wear the motherhood hat. I love teaching. I love having kids in my classroom, listening to their stories, watching them interact with each other, and witnessing that lightbulb moment when they finally grasp a point. Working with teenagers is special, they keep it real. So real in fact that I find myself relying on their comments rather than my mirror most days. But this hat takes away time with my children and demands my undivided attention for more hours than I care to give. Being a teacher means I’m always on show, and sadly so are my children and their academic abilities because, you know, “… But your mom’s a teacher.” (Insert exaggerated eye-roll). Something I’ve had to be conscious of is not allowing my responsibility to other people’s kids to overshadow my responsibility to my own children.
So I guess it’s not the educator hat that comes first either. Instead, I juggle these three hats in an effort to give each one the recognition and placement it deserves. This juggling demotes me from being the ringmaster of my circus to a clown performing silly tricks. I’m okay with being the clown.
I wear these hats with pride. These three particular hats will always be at the top of the pile. I may not always know which hat to put on first and at times I may wear the wrong hat but I will never take them off and that has to be the answer.