Thursday, June 5, 2008

somebody needs a hobby

Chatting with a buddy of mine a morning or two ago brought to mind a subject that has repeatedly made me crazy. Why is it that women have such a need for contests? Such as the 'nice-house' or 'my-house-is-so-clean-you-could-eat-off-of-the-floor' contest or 'best-behaved/smartest children' contest or 'it-only-took-me-2-hours-to-loose-all-my-pregnancy-weight' contest. Admittedly, I'm not striving to have my home attain a brown cloud surrounding it ala 'Pigpen' from Peanuts, nor raise future serial killers. But some gals seem to lose the balance between caring for their homes/children and going totally freaking nuts about it.

I have a hypothesis - or perhaps rather two hypotheses - but am still working on increasing my sample size to test them. What I REALLY need to do is check out some books on social 'science' from the library to figure out how to design a clever questionnaire that asks the same question 10 times in order to ferret out the TRUE beliefs of the respondent. Until then, here is my untested answer, for which I readily solicit input and comment.

Education and/or some kind of work experience are inversely proportionate to the 'psycho level' of women.

Clarification: By education I mean more of an attitude of learning. Completing a formal degree does not make one 'educated.' Choosing different experiences and making choices in life that take you out of your comfort zone and what you already know and understand DO - to me, anyways.

As I've stated, this is all still just at an observation level. Far from proven. It just seems that the gals that are most concerned about having the 'nice(st)' house or smartest kids or some other such outward measure are those that have not furthered their education or who have never had a job of their own. In mormon land, these are the same gals that rank people by what calling they or their husbands have/had, like being responsible for a particular calling is akin to getting a promotion at work, and is 'proof' that you're climbing the spiritual ladder.

I don't think the need to measure accomplishments against others is a female trait, I think women just measure different things than men do. Very broadly and simplistically, men seem to compare jobs or cars - outward signs of monetary success and thus their ability to provide for their families. Again very generalized, but women seem to measure THEIR success through the achievements of those around them - their kids - or through the THINGS that they have- things purchased through (often) someone else's job. I'm not saying that a woman who chooses to stay at home with her kids doesn't play a role in the success of her husband at his job, but it's still not directly her that's bringing in the stuff.

The gals I know that have worked for some length of time or gone on to higher education (post high school) don't seem to have the same need for marking their progress in life through the accomplishments of others around them. They seem to be confident in their own abilities as individuals in their own right first. Not that they don't still have their own neuroses, nor does education/career prevent someone from falling into the comparison game. I am making a gross stereotype here.

So, just how biased am I? Am I looking at the field of potential offenders through eyes completely colored by my own experience? I am undoubtedly seen as some kind of snotty pants through the eyes of someone with completely different life experiences. Things to think of while it rains YET AGAIN today. Great for the plants, tricky for entertainment purposes around here . . .


Disco Mom said...

We find the need for one-up-man-ship on all levels, and it's definitely as prevalent or moreso in men than women, but like you said, just measured in different ways. I think it's based in insecurity, which, matching your hypothesis, is probably directly proportionate to education level most of the time, at least for women. I know a lot of highly educated men that are so insecure they have to one-up like two-year-olds every chance they get. Too bad we can't give them time-outs. Anyway, educated/experienced women have a foundation and have defined and valued themselves as adult women in areas other than marriage and family. I'm not even saying the problem is marrying young because I know a few women who married very young but continued in formal or self-education and maintain some psychological balance.

I continue to be disappointed in the the quality of people you seem to be stuck hanging out with.

Serena Cherry said...

I am reading this while my daughter is staring mindlessly at the TV and my house is a total disaster. Does this mean I'm educated? Ha! I'm kidding. It is a ridiculous thing to do and you never end up feeling good about yourself in the end. I got married at 25 and only have a Bachelor's degree and plan on returning to school to get a masters as soon as my husband finishes his endless PhD, but I still find myself feeling like I haven't accomplished much if my house is messy and stuff like that. I don't know how to overcome it. And I never compare myself to others in the "wow, I'm glad I am better than that person," but it seems like I always manage to compare myself to the perfect housewives ones. I try not to worry about the money, but we are students so there isn't much we can do about it. Jeez, I am rambling. I'd better stop. I enjoy your insights! You are a beacon!

Mo said...

I've been thinking a LOT about your post since I read it yesterday. It stuck sort of nerve with me. I definitely encounter this phenomenon on a daily basis (particularly at church I regret to add) living as I do in a very conservative area inhabited by many women who largely abandoned their own identity for the sake of family and marriage. (Worthy though these causes may be.) Most of said women don't know what to make of the likes of me (come to think of it I don't either!) and consider my ongoing pursuit of higher education while raising my family tantamount to borderline neglect. But I digress.
I do think you are on to something here for the same reasons touched upon by the wise sage affectionately known as Kari. Truth be told, I can't imagine having your entire sense of self worth and success in this life tied up in other independent, free-thinking human beings. If Eleanor Roosevelt was correct in saying that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent, this situation makes for one h@*# of a permission slip.
I do wonder if one more variable might be added to your equation too. Time. Individuals who must wait and/or fight for that which is most important to them - be it marriage, family, education, career - I find are much less likely to compare and complain. These impulses are pushed aside by sheer gratitude for what one has. Just a thought.

kat said...

kari - totally agree with you on the insecurity factor. and i definitely think that's why completing SOME kind of post-high school education or working and supporting oneself help to ameliorate that tendency.

and just to clarify - the gals that I choose to hang out with are GREAT. i totally scored on the visiting teaching scene. mainly my friend jenn gets me thinking about the lame-os, because that's who SHE seems to be surrounded by.

serena - bachelors is educated. and running the cherry house while your husband plays the science nerd game is also educated - it's a choice you entered into with thought and insight and (some) understanding of what it would entail. i don't see you as saying that YOU are earning a PhD, although you are COMPLETELY instrumental in allowing chris to succeed at that goal of his. you just have to get over the martha stewart complex - remember, she has a phalanx of assistants, and no small children. your house can be immaculate someday - if you really want that - like when your kids are teenagers and hate you. :) i say play while they still want you around!

em - the FIGHT for things is what i think is at the heart of my hypothesis. the FIGHT or struggle to do well on a paper or at a job teaches you that YOU can do it, and that you CAN do it. and i think knowing that makes all the difference in whatever endeavors you take on - marriage, family, whatever. but if you don't get that from SOMETHING, then you (i should be writing this in the passive voice but i'll just mess up tenses, so i'm writing you 'universal you') tend to base your accomplishments on what OTHERS do, because you haven't figured out that YOU can do things, whatever it is that you choose to do.

and i have no doubt that you will finish you degree someday. which is all the more incredible and amazing to me because doing it without kids is a piece of cake. the juggling of kids and family and self and school just blows my mind. jana just graduated with three kids, tina finished last year with 3.5, YOU can do it! conservative 'helpers' or not. we can form a support group if it will help!!! :)

Betty Grace said...

My two cents--I don't think it has anything to do with education. It's just that because you're in an area where most women don't have degrees, much less advanced degrees, so they compare what they've got. I fully believe if you were living in Ive League-ville, you'd have plenty of women comparing educations and who was the smartest. I also don't think it's just women, but women are more petty about it. Men just hit each other or take it out on each other during church ball! :)

Betty Grace said...

p.s. Geez I just reread my post. Note to self, proof read before posting comment. I was just tired and rushed, now I'm too lazy to delete and rewrite it. Everyone should note that my writing skills are AT LEAST as good as anyone else who commented, probably better. (my attempt at humor)

azufelt said...

This is all very interesting... I find that I tend to think, "I'm glad that I don't have to do that" or "I'm glad that we don't have those problems" But I also don't have a need to strive to have a nice house, nice cars, nice, whatevers just to keep up with other people. I make the decisions that I think are best for my family, and self, and yet when I look at other people around me, I wonder how that could be good for their family. Yep, that's the kind of comparing I do.

I don't think it has much to do with any kind of educational training (but just for your hypothesis, I have a BA) I know plenty of girls that DO have an education, and still it seems like the only thing that they can receive a trophy from in life is their mothering or housewife skills. I fall short in that department, and accept that I will never have dinner ready on time, and the laundry will never be folded.

I think it has more to do with jsut being females. And yeah, oddly enough the most judgemental persom about say your mother skills is.. another mother... When it should be another mother of ALL PEOPLE that can understand your child crying in the grocery store, or throwing rocks at a car. Or thinking however you birthed your baby is good/bad/risky/insane, etc. Yet, it should be another mother that should accept you, regardless of those things. Yet something in our make up lets us be overly concerned about the pettiest of all things.

MiaKatia said...

I thought this was an interesting post and have now thought about it on and off for a couple of weeks. I don't have my bachelors degree. When we first moved to TX and I was no longer in school it bothered me, a lot. I felt somewhat less than all of the mothers who did have their degree(s). One reason is that I consider myself a fairly bright individual and I was always competent in my studies and made good grades and not having my degree somehow meant I wasn't bright or capable. But more than that I love to learn and I felt like I had cheated myself by not finishing my degree and that I needed to compensate somehow. It took me some time to get to where I am now, which is... I will go back when I go back and I might never leave once I do! I spent a few of my years lost (not wandering by any means just straight up lost). And I regretted those years until I really did look at all that I accomplished in those years, including becoming manager of a retail store and having a very successful (for my company) go of it. I supported myself financially since the time I was 18. I entered college as a non-traditional student without much support emotional or financial from my family (my parents though I would be "better off" trying to progress in my company rather than go back to school). I had to, as Kat put it, realize my value as an adult in areas outside of marriage and the family. I wish I could say that my current state of relatively good self worth makes me immune to those obnoxious comparisons to other really with it women and mothers we all seem to make but alas, I'm not quite there yet :)