As a feminist, my attitudes towards the gender balance has significantly shifted in recent months. Here's why:
I'm newly married and 33 weeks pregnant with our first baby. Prior to this life-changing situation, I believed myself and my husband to be equal. In terms of intelligence, employability, capabilities and everything else. Although it became clear that I have a lot more common sense, whereas he's much more up on general knowledge. His earnings absolutely dwarf mine (although I maintain that is because he is in finance and I'm in the arts) and when it comes to DIY, it is safer for everyone involved if my husband is not allowed, without exception, ANY ACCESS to an electric drill. But there was a certain recognition of a level of Ying and Yang in our relationship. In a lot of ways, we compliment each others' strengths with our own weaknesses and vice versa.
As an educated woman, I was fervent on being a success, earning my own money, whilst maintaining a good level of health, fitness, an active social life and when the time was right - we'd decide when to start a family, where we would both play an equal role as co-parents.
I realise now that this was an unrealistic expectation. I know... there are hundreds of married women who will claim that they do ALL of the above, which is great. But how many truly (and I mean really honestly) can say that they play an equal role as their partner in their lives? There is a difference between finding balance in a relationship and being equal.
On finding out that I was pregnant, my initial reaction (after getting over the shock as it was unplanned) was to read books, join online communities, engage with fellow parents and start planning for our new life. My husband on the other hand, went into a state of denial, which began with a two day drinking bender followed by a general attitude of indifference. At best, this was upsetting and at worst, (following weeks of little sleep, turbulent hormonal imbalances and the forced purchase of multipacks of GIANT, ugly underwear) rage-inducing. How could he be so selfish? So self absorbed? How can he possibly find the football more interesting than this chapter that I've just read on whether to swaddle or not?!!!
Previously, I put our small quirky differences down to our personalities, not our gender. The fact that I generally prefer clothes to be hung in the wardrobe, rather than strewn on the carpet. How he does things in 'his own time', (loosely translated to 'if I wait long enough I know you'll just do it anyway') whereas I'm much more of a 'let's do it now' type. His need to win at everything and my desire to have everything in order... the list goes on.
It wasn't until we got pregnant that I realised that these weren't his personality traits, they were his male traits. One morning, arguing about the growing pile of clothes that had built up over the week, my husband pointed out quite an obvious fact: It wasn't actually his fault if his clothes on the floor bothered me so much. The clothes weren't hurting anyone, AND if I just waited until 'he was ready' he would put them away 'in his own time'. It was my 'do it now' attitude that had started the row in the first place.
Following a night of my husband getting drunk and rolling in at 2am, I had decided that enough was enough. Any rational person would know that it is perfectly acceptable for a man, who works hard during the week to let off some steam on a Friday night and come back late. Under normal circumstances, this sort of thing really doesn't bother me. However, as a pregnant woman, unable to drink, let off steam or stay out past 9.30pm, I felt that this behaviour was entirely outrageous, divorce-worthy and that my husband was nothing more than a selfish, arrogant, drunk who had no concern for his wife or unborn child!
Now I see that this was quite a 'female' reaction. I was jealous that he was having fun and I wasn't. I screamed about his disregard and refusal to 'understand' what I was going through as a pregnant woman. He explained that, yes he was sorry, but he didn't actually go out with the sole intention of hurting my feelings and how on earth could he ever, really 'understand' what I was going through? He was a man! Hmm... was he right? Well I started to think so but obviously, being a stubborn woman, I wasn't going to let him know that. N.B. Very female trait of having to win every argument. Always.
Which brings me to the conclusion that men don't always mean to be selfish idiots, they just don't have the foresight to predict how their wife/girlfriend may or may not react. Admittedly, the very nature of the female does hold a certain level of unpredictability.
I have now come to realise that in order to restore balance and avoid the Saturday morning 'clothes on the floor' argument, I resolved to pick them up. He has made more of an effort to be interested in baby-related talk, I don't huff and puff when he switches the football on, just as he doesn't complain when I weep my way through another episode of 'One Born Every Minute'. We are not 'equal' because we are not the same. Genetically, biologically, emotionally... men and woman are entirely different and I've found, that for us, the only way to find 'balance' is to accept the differences and make them work for you both.