I've been stewing about this for a very long time. When we moved into our neighborhood 5 years ago, I was pregnant and I hoped there would be a lot of kids around for my kids to play with--like I had growing up. Well, there are a TON, but we were kind of blindsided by the fact that we apparently bought in a very conservative location (which is odd because this is apparently the most liberal, sinniest city of the entire state). So, there are a bunch of kids, and I'm virtually the only full-time working mother.
I guess the people are nice about it. I get the usual lip service/concern trolling of, "Oh it must be so HARD for you.", "I'm sorry you HAVE to work" (N.B. I don't, I clearly choose to and I'm grateful for that choice) etc. Generally, we're just left alone, and my son is at an age where he doesn't notice that everyone else is having a playdate and he's in his backyard alone.
However, there is one dad who is just getting the better of me, and I need some OS therapy. Let's call him Bill. Bill and my husband became fairly good friends quickly. He is a constant tinkerer and my husband went over to his house a lot to help. Their family is picture perfect. All three children are always perfectly coiffed, never throw a tantrum, they are all potty trained by 2 and follow mom around and always heed her word. I've never seen anything like it. Comparatively my kid comes off as a monster and they smugly know it. They are very religious, I probably should have known I'd feel horrible next to them when the mom described Tim Tebow/Tebow Mom's anti-abortion superbowl ad as, "tasteful and well-put." That night Bill offered me a drink, I said, "I think I"ll go get X." He said, "Oh no no, let my wife do it, make her feel useful!" What. the. fuck.
Anyways, yes, they're perfect. I can handle that. However, Bill will make these offhanded comments like he's trying to be funny, and usually they revolve around something gender related. Backstory, I'm not all that feminine. In fact, I'm kind of the polar opposite. I realize everyone expresses gender differently no matter what their sexual orientation, but I am often seen as "a lesbian." Bill has made comments about how I only own 2-3 pairs of shoes, compared to his wife's dozens, or how "awesome" it is that my husband doesn't have to pay for an extensive wardrobe because I only wear t-shirts and shorts (hint: He doesn't think it's awesome at all). He will make comments about me doing outside things like mowing or trimming or something, wondering why I'm not making "the man of the house" do it. Once, I was walking by and he asked what my husband was doing that day, and I said he wanted to do X but I thought we needed to get Y done. He bellowed, "Let the man do what the man wants to do!" He always follows up with a tee hee hee! Like making it sound like a joke is suppose to excuse the fact that he just said something horribly offensive for those of us no longer living in the 1950s.
Then comes his go to joke the "who is wearing the pants in the family?" Question. It comes after EVERYTHING. I've gotten the "pants" joke several times. I am usually the recipient because I work and frankly I expect, after my husband travels 75% of the time, some pitching in, even if it's "woman's work." My husband has been denigrated because he chooses to do 100% of the cooking. He loves it, but that definitely causes Bill to joke about having to be barefoot in the kitchen. However, he made the joke last week about another man on the street's wife. The menfolk were all going to go out, but another guy could not. He said, "Oh, my wife said we're doing this that night." Well, out came the "Who wears the pants, man!?" joke. But this time he did it about another stay at home mom who is just as devoted and in just as conservative of a gender role as Bill's own wife.
It just made me realize that one dick apple is kind of spoiling the whole bunch. There's this air of traditional gender roles which permeates this neighborhood, it's like a pressure cooker to be and do everything and not trouble the hard-working menfolk while they do their manly man stuff. I have to admire my husband for not being too caught up in it. I think he does chafe with the fact that he has to chip in more than he would like, that we have two different ideas of what "clean" means (he's cleaner!), he's pretty nice about it, and when I ask him if he wants me to stay at home, he adamantly says no way.
I also realize that I can't really be myself in this neighborhood. I kind of am a know-it-all, but hopefully not in an obnoxious way. I just happen to be a very good memorizer and if someone asks a question that I happen to know the answer to, like who was the first president born when the US was an actual country? I know that. I decided I wasn't going to hold back and play stupid, and that also seems to unnerve Bill and others. I'm then seen as this nerdly figure who likes Star Trek and hasn't grown up into a real person who devotes her life entirely to her children and getting them into the right camp and country/athletic club.
I am just sick of the sexism around here and it's about time someone other than my husband heard about it:). I try to tell myself that the glossy veneer of a perfect family might hide something. There is no way kids are that perfect! Never a cry, never a scream, never a tussle over a toy?! Thanks for listening!
Oh man, you have a lot more patience than I do. I would have told them quite a while ago that they "are not my cup of tea". Or something a heckuva lot worse.
This is why I have so many online friends. The families with kids on my street are either childless couples who hate kids, or retirees who haven't seen their kids in years, or military families with kids but who never leave the house and move after one year (seriously, one family with two sets of twins had two gigantic SUVs that didn't leave their parking spots for 8 months).
Nobody is perfect, including the kids in that family. How often do you see them? For how long? Maybe they're Stepford kids to go along with the Stepford wife? Did buy a house in Stepford without realizing it? ;-) Really, where do you live? It does sound very conservative.
Not sure what to tell you. Obviously, you working full time isn't that weird. While I love working part-time, it's created problems for me in my career path. Many women work full time when they have kids, but you know this. Your neighbors don't? Being outspoken, owning 2 pairs of shoes, casual clothes, liking Star Trek--all normal. Do you have more like-minded people at work? Because if you worked with me (academic research scientist) you'd fit in perfectly. Can you meet other parents through your child's school?
I think I would lose my shit on Bill and I don't think I would be all that nice about it, either. Good luck to you and you have my sympathy.
They're not a perfect family: that guy is a fucking asshole.
It sounds like you've got a couple options: 1) move (not a good option, in my view, because there's dick apples literally everywhere), 2) you and your husband, together, tell him to knock off the jokes or he's not welcome where you are because you find them insulting and not funny, 3) continue to roll your eyes at him and try to connect with other, less tightly wound folks, or 4) start saying things like, "gosh, Bill, it sure seems like you don't feel real secure in your masculinity! Are you compensating for something? tee hee hee!" (that's the option I'd pay good money to see, so let me know if you pick that one and I'll pop some popcorn and book a flight. ;) ).
And just for some commiseration, I feel you. I'm definitely the butcher of the life duet and I, and spend a lot less time at home, am much more confrontational, and am often seen as sort of a pedantic know-it-all in social situations. I often feel like I fit in more with the men we spend time with, but since I've noticed that even with the liberal doods in my city, their wives tend to be quieter, more kid-focused, and more deferential, I've worked to really specifically strike up conversation with them and express interest in the stuff they do. I think in some cases it's really bridged a working mom/SAHM divide that I've found runs fairly strong here.
Oh, bap2, I am sorry you're dealing with this. I agree with this group: I'd have lost my sh*t ages ago. I like kommish's #2 and #4, and would also book a flight to witness #4. You definitely need to stay away from those people, and make it clear why.
I was just thinking about neighbors today. How they are more like family and friends. You don't pick 'em and you are stuck with them a long time. So, I think kind of like family, you have to decide your next course of action. But yes, we agree with you, the guy is a jerk. Probably even the other patriarchal folks do too, although they may tolerate it slightly more.
It does make me sad that you have to deal with this in your lovely city. I like to think that liberal enclaves are liberal on every street (of course, I have recently had to learn that they aren't as well).
Now I wonder if Stepford Wife cries herself to sleep every night, in her curlers.
I love the term "dick apple" almost as much as a want to throttle Bill. Option #4 sounds the best to me--telling him to knock it off will just give him more fodder for the whole "feminist are awful/your husband-master needs to rein you in" theory, but if nothing else, implying that he's compensating for something might at least make him stay away.
I've met some kids who are just naturally...well, I hate to say good, but well-behaved at least. They don't seem to have any desire to run and scream and get dirty. I've met more kids who get punished severely when they act up even the slightest at home, so of course they act like angels when they're out. They're scared, and scared people of any age are easy to control. Does Bill make inane comments about "the whatever of education applied to the seat of knowledge"? He sounds like the type. And for the record, I'm not totally against spanking, but I live in a very conservative area with a lot of people who take things way too far. That's another discussion for another time, but it sure sounds like your neighborhood--at least until the kids go off to college.
I'm glad you're able to work, since that's your desire, and that your husband supports your choice. I've got mad respect for you and other people (men and women) who can work while having young kids and not go insane. And I don't mean that in a degrading, "I have better maternal instincts than you" way. I just couldn't handle the stress of juggling work and home and totally lost it. You're a strong women, a good example to your kid, and maybe even a good example to the other women on your street who might want something different from catering to their husbands' every whim but don't feel they can have it, whether as a job or an unapproved hobby.
I'd volunteer to tomato Bill's house, but since his wife would have to clean it up, I guess that would be mean.
I meant to address the perfect child thing. A friend of mine when I was a child was just such a child. She was only permitted G movies with absolutely no sexual innuendo in them until she was a teenager. There was a room in her house that nobody ever set foot in. Her parents were crazy uptight and it showed. They also upheld strict gender roles. On the outside she and her sister looked like perfect children (I remember my father commenting constantly on how immaculately dressed and well-behaved they were), but her sister got into a lot of trouble with drugs in adolescence and she went on to become this batsh*t crazy control freak who would threaten her boyfriends that she'd kill herself if they broke up with her. It'll all come out in the wash.
And I, too, love "dick apple."
DLBK: Definitely questions to think about. We see them a few times each week. Our houses are close together, close to the street, and I walk the children frequently to avoid going crazy. I guess there are enclaves in this city. Some are super liberal, and we should have looked there, and some are conservative--but we were not warned which were the latter and got stuck in one. It's a nice house though! I do have like minded people at work. I am the only working mom with an infant and a preschooler, but no one gives me grief there. It's a very safe place and I'm sad I leave for the summer.
My son's new preschool should be interesting. We got a nanny for the year, which opened up the available schools he could attend. This school is only part time (9-12) only 4 days a week. She will be the one and only nanny doing drop off. I am the only working parent amongst the kids (there are only 8 kids in his class, and 6 in the 3-4 class). That will be interesting!
I do feel if I say something I will be seen as the debbie downer feminist. I think on some level they know exactly who I am and it scares the SHIT out of them that their daughters might end up this way. Gasp! I forgot to mention that we unload things on them all the time (appliances, etc). So a few weeks ago our dryer gave us the same error that it had given us about 10 times before. My husband was traveling and I was DONE. So I went out and bought a new dryer and hell, a washer to match. The old ones were only 5 years old, but they were so high end (we got them on 90% off super clearance) they couldn't be serviced by regular techs, we had to call laudromat techs. So I made an executive decision. Mr. Handy needed a W/D so I offered him the set for free. He comes over to look at them and says, "Why did you buy new ones, these are fine, does your husband know you spent money?" I didn't want to say, "Actually, my husband and I have separate finances and bank accounts, this was my money that I spent." But I didn't want to go into the reasoning behind it. I need better comebacks in the moment! Auugh. I just said,"...yes."
Rommie: He does not handle, raise, or discipline his children. I've not seen him interact much. He was exceptionally proud after a brood of daughters to have a son, but he does not "babysit."
Kommish described everything perfectly. I feel you! Roomies in the commune!
All of our neighbors believe that I should obey everything my husband tells me or he won't call my secret name and let me onto his space planet when we die. Except he doesn't get a space planet because he is a heathen. He and I and our doomed atheist child will be floating in the far sectors of outer space. With all of you, by the way.
Knowing that almost all of my neighbors think this way means I don't put much stock into what any of them think about me or the gender roles in my relationship. My son also doesn't go to school with their children, because I'm not interested in him being informed he's going to hell. We pay for private school so he can go to school with other godless atheists, Muslims, adopted non-white children, Buddhists, and random folks who also don't fit in here.
Excitingly our new neighbors are much more friendly than our old. Unfortunately this is because all of the other neighbors decided off the bat we were lost causes for conversion and our new neighbors stop by with invitations to free pancake breakfasts and story hours at the church. On Wednesdays (because I don't work?). Where I can meet the other moms in the neighborhood (so they can convert me?).
More friendly, helpful people you will not meet. Sadly, I will remain a godless atheist.
Edited to add: even though both of us bought our house, our local mortgage folks only recorded the title as Spouse First and Last name and Wife. So I'm not on the title of the house records and cannot put utilities in my name. Good times.
I feel sad that the fact that I am viewed as a full, separate adult human being means that I must be living in a "liberal enclave."
It just explains so much, though.