A Woman’s Work

Earlier today I read a novel, and the main character in it, Marko, was surprised after helping his mother at the hospital in his town during the Winter War between Russia and his native Finland that his mother’s work was so hard. His mother gently but rather firmly asked him if he expected woman’s work to be easy, although his work as a messenger in wartime was certainly hard enough. In Jane Austen’s Persuasion there is a similar moment of incomprehensibility between a man and a woman, as the quiet but proud Anne Eliot defends for women the privilege of loving longest where hope is gone, no enviable privilege to be sure, but what would have required a concession from the men of her time. Most people, men or women, are often focused on their own work, and may not even be able to define very well what their work means to them, much less explain it to others, and yet they would want their work to be respected and appreciated all the same.

At the risk of being somewhat general, one distinction I have noticed between most of the work that men prefer to do as opposed to the work that women prefer to do is that there is often a sense of accomplishment or finality about a man’s work, while a woman’s work, as has been said often before, is never done. Likewise, as the vast majority of men I know, myself included, tend to attach a great deal of their own dignity and self-respect to work, there is a strong importance of having work that brings some sort of honor or respect from others. For some, that honor is in the size of the paycheck, at least in part, and the need to provide for one’s family appears to be a major aspect of work even where there are other aspects of work that are of equal or greater importance. To be sure, in my travels around the world I have witnessed enough cases where that work which was done by women was not particularly respected, nor even thought of or noticed except if that work had not been done well, and the fact the work was not respected did not mean that women desired the respect any less. Perhaps it was only that they were used to receiving less respect for it.

Throughout my life I have had the odd and uncomfortable experience of being in conversations where I did not belong. To be sure, I have often had this experience in reading books [1] that were not designed for me, but that allowed me to at least have a glimpse of the perspective of others, even if it was about matters of no particular expertise or direct personal interest. Because of my own personal background and the situations that I observe in the course of my life, I am particularly sensitive to the fact that there are often shared experiences and aspects of background between my own harrowing upbringing and that of many people I know. I find the frequency and seriousness of such similarities to often be particularly overwhelming and unpleasant, and ruminate painfully over the fact that such wounds are so widely spread. I would like to think that most people, at least, do not intentionally seek to harm others, but it is hardly less comforting to note that we are so self-absorbed in dealing with our own wounds and our own longing that we often wound a lot of others out of ignorance and selfish disregard for their feelings.

Often, the response of both men and women when dealing with the wounds inflicted by the other is to retreat emotionally and to seek the comfort of others who will understand and share those wounds. All too often women will seek the comfort and encouragement of other women, and men will seek the encouragement and support of other men, and both of them will brood on the wrongs they have suffered at the hand of the other, and will consider themselves to be the blameless and wronged party, and will generally act in ways that will likely only continue the process by which both were wounded by the other in the first place. The only way that we will be able to stop wounding each other is if we are able to communicate the expectations we have of the other that are not being met, to see each other not as enemies in a war, but as people longing for the same sort of love and respect that we are, despite the fact that we may not be particularly well suited by our personal experiences in seeking these things the right way. Although I have often found it painfully awkward to listen to such conversations, particularly as a single male with no particular skill in areas of romance and intimacy, perhaps it was a sign of trust that I would take such matters to heart and treat others with more respect and gentleness than most others would. Perhaps rather than continual challenges or disrespect to my manhood, such glimpses of how the other half lives were a sign of respect in my own ability to listen thoughtfully, and to reflect on such matters, that I would be able to break the cycles of the past that have ensnared so many lives. Only time will tell.

[1] See, for example:





About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Woman’s Work

  1. Pingback: Book Review: The Abolition Of Man | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Life Creative | Edge Induced Cohesion

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