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.