I have been noticing a trend as friends and family are getting married over the recent years. I have observed that it is completely okay for a girlfriend to lack in the cooking, cleaning, and other “womenly” duties department, but once she’s married, she is expected to conform to traditional roles.
What is the difference between a girlfriend and a wife? Why does a man not expect his girlfriend to cook for him, do his laundry, take care of him and/or his family until he has married her? Even if they had lived together before marriage, she is not expected to uphold these responsibilities until after marriage. If he expects his future spouse to be a certain way (heaven forbid), why not inform her so she can run for the hills if she needs to? Why wait until after marriage?
This subject is for the girls to think about as well. Why do you feel the need to all of a sudden, change your habits or conform once you’re married? Familial obligations?
Like most Hmong girls, my mother was grooming me to become the perfect Hmong wife. She didn’t teach me how to cook and clean; she expected me to learn by observing and doing. And she reminded me every single day that I needed to be perfect or no Hmong man would ever marry me. I didn’t do much observing nor practicing. My interest was in school. And I also was very open about my domestic skills. “I am lazy,” I told Mermaid when we were dating. “I can’t cook. I’m a messy person. I’m not wife material.”
And although Mermaid didn’t expect much from me when we got married, he still expected some. And I did try to do it initially, but I got tired of not being genuinely me. We both fell into doing what we thought was expected of us: Him being the “husband” and me being the “wife.” But somehow, these roles didn’t work very well for us. And as we grew together as a couple, we shifted things around so that our household would work… for us.
But why do we feel the need to conform? For me, I did it because I thought I had to. This was what I had been told all my single life. The focus was to be a good Hmong wife—not girlfriend.