Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Doing It Out of Obligation

I read an interesting article today that has me thinking.  So, of course, that means I need to write.

This post by Jowita Bydlowska, A Failed Woman Out of the Kitchen: Why I Don't Cook, appears on The Huffington Post website.  It is one woman's explanation of why she doesn't cook.

I do not intend to pull apart her arguments.  I will say that if you say there is a difference between selfishness and self-interest (knowing that you have to state it because people will accuse you of one when you claim to be the other), you ought to at least try to define the difference.  I will also say that while she claims not to have a political agenda, with all her references to societal expectations about gender roles and how they make her feel like a failure sometimes, she has at least taken a political stance.  Also, her assertion that a painting or photograph is a higher art form than a beautifully prepared pie says a lot about her feelings toward women (and men) who consider food an art.

But none of this is what has me thinking.  The idea that bothers me from this essay is that doing something out of obligation is wrong.

Please understand, I don't like to cook either.  I don't cook well.  I don't derive satisfaction from a meal well prepared.  It's part of the reason I got the rest of my family cooking as soon as they were able.  I don't care if this woman cooks, bakes, or pickles.  It's her family and they can all work out what's best for them.

I am also in full support of taking care of one's self.  I believe there is an amount of selfishness in every healthy individual.  I believe it is appropriate.  We must meet our own needs, and that includes the need for creative outlet and relaxation.

I also believe that when I chose to start a family, I chose to accept the obligation to care for them.  My husband and I chose this together.  The obligation is shared.  It is up to us to decide how the obligations involved are to be met.  (And if something were to happen that he were no longer able or willing to fulfill his part of the obligation, I would assume his share as part of my obligation.)

In our case, he is the primary breadwinner and I am the primary nurturer.  It fits us.  I am happy in my role and he is happy in his.  Maybe not every day, but most days.

I think the point that is missing in this article is the idea that we choose to accept obligations.  I chose to have kids.  I chose to care for their well being.  My husband chose to work.  They are our obligations because we agreed to them.

I do not believe in society-dictated obligations, aside from obeying the law.  If society thinks I should cook, that doesn't make me believe that I should.  I weigh my options, listen to my heart, and do what I think is right.

Other people have expectations.  Other people have ideas about what or who I should be.  That does not mean I am obligated to fulfill those roles.

Obligations are something I choose when I make an agreement with someone.  Doing something out of obligation is not a bad thing.  It is a way for me to do my part.  It is how I earn my share of whatever I get in this life.  Fulfilling my obligations, those I chose to accept, makes me feel good about who I am and what I offer to the world.


Towanda said...

I agree with you Robin that we make choices and with those choices come certain obligations. We should know that when we make our choices. I tend to think of certain things as my duty, which sounds the same here as obligation.

Katie said...

I haven't read her article but think I will when I have a few minutes spare time. (Such a rarity these days for me!). I do agree with you totally. When we chose to do something, whether it is becoming a wife, mother, provider, employee - we take on the obligations that come with it.

Are we obligated to care for our children, and for at least awhile, be the food preparer? Sure are.

I have a lot of things that are obligations that I don't enjoy doing. Um - cleaning toilets is one. I hate doing it - but I'm obligated to do it because nobody else is of age to do so in my house. Should I stop just because I don't want to do it? Don't think so. I personally don't want my ass or anyone elses I care about on a nasty toilet.

Lol. :)

Very nice post today! Glad I took the time to stop by again!


MaggieJo said...

She had some good points but what it comes down to, for me, is money. Weather I hate cooking or love it, I have to do it. So I'm off to my obligations and let me tell you, they won't be that healthy or that good but we'll survive.

Birdie said...

I am with MaggieJo. I have to cook because I don't have money to have someone else do it for me or eat in restaurants.
I also want to know what is going into our bodies so I cook.
I also think that we should be way past the point of thinking of cooking as being a feminist issue. I mean the "feminist movement" is over. This is not 1971. If we are to call ourselves feminists let's focus on equality in the work force and not on who makes dessert.
I hate cooking. I seriously hate it. But I do it

Anonymous said...

I love this. I've run into a lot of silly arguments against my mission... basically, since women aren't "obligated" to go and the like. But I've accepted to go and made it my own obligation--because I wanted to. I love how you have described obligations in general. :)

p.s. I would love to come look at books. :D Did you go see the Help?

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

Amen sister. I can't find a single hole in your argument. Too often I see both fathers and mothers say I don't do X,Y or Z because...and I wonder if the children are getting short changed. We have several stay-at-home fathers in our neighborhood who do the traditional chores that women usually do. It works the best for their family but more importantly, they are meeting the obligations that they took on as parents.

Great post, glad I found you through SITS. I enjoyed hearing from you on my SITS day.

Life with Kaishon said...

You wrote about this so perfectly. What a great post. I am glad that most days you find joy in your role. Wishing you a happy weekend. Love, Becky

Heather said...

Wonderfully written! And now, you have me thinking and wanting to write!

Katy said...

Great post, great points, great outlook -- as usual! But mostly I just wanted to say that I love your new subtitle for your blog. Did you have it before? I think it is great!

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

A very well-reasoned, well written response.

Nelsonzfuy said...

A very well-reasoned, well written response.