Thursday, September 30, 2010

Marriage is the minority (?)

We’ve already discussed what it like to be Young and Married, but the other day when I saw this article in The Guardian, I wanted to share. It discusses the steady decline of young Americans getting married, not only over the past 30 years but also drastically in the past decade.

The study, conducted in 2009-2010 by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) shows that less than half (44.9 percent) of the population of Americans between the ages of 25 - 34 were married. This is down from the 55.1percent just ten years ago in 2000. For the general population, ages 18 and older, the marriage rate fell from 57 percent to 52 percent from 2000 to 2010.

The authors of the study at PRB attribute the decline in marriage rates to the rising income of women. They no longer rely on a husband to pay the bills, and therefore have the option to wait longer in life to marry. They also explain that the economic decline of the past few years has couples delaying an expensive wedding and the costs associated with a new marriage. Both extremely valid points. Maybe in the future people will actually marry for love?

Also interesting is that Cleveland (our hometown) in particular had a sharp decline of the marriage rate in the past decade. In 2009, less than 20 percent of young adults in Cleveland were married, making them one of the least likely to be married in the country.

Apparently Mr. I and I are much more traditional and "against the grain" for our generation than we thought. Who knew that when we said “I do” we were putting ourselves in a minority category? Not that we would change a thing, and as we’ve discussed there are many reasons we made the decision we did, but it is surprising that find out just how “unique” we are.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rules, Guilt and Mad Men

First, I must apologize for breaking one of the primary rules of blogging: keep up with a consistent posting schedule. Not only has this past summer been packed with weekend travels, twice the amount of family get-togethers and other “real world” activities. And I must admit, we’ve also been busy watching episode after episode of the Golden Globe and Emmy award winning series, Mad Men.

The critical acclaim buzz, our mutual interest in marketing and advertising, and the fact that at a soon-to-close video store in our neighborhood was practically giving away the DVDs, gave this show wide appeal over others. After two episodes we were hooked. After the completion of the first season, I had a realization. We aren’t just breaking the rules of blogging, we are breaking the rules of gender roles of marriage every day.

After a full day of work, Mr. I gets home and prepares a dinner that is typically ready when I walk through the door. He is the one who stops by the grocery store and picks up milk or whatever else we need for the week’s meals. While I am out at the gym working out or staying downtown for drinks with a friend after work, it’s Mr. I who dusts or vacuums around our apartment. And more often than not, he is the one who gets our laundry started.

And you have no idea how guilty this makes me feel (and typing it all out just now makes me feel even more guilty). Do any other wives out there feel guilty when their hubby does housework? I feel like I’m not playing my part as the wife or like I’m letting down our team in the rookie season. Compared to how wives of the 1960’s are portrayed, I am a far cry from what Betty Draper (the wife of the main character in Mad Men) and June Cleaver would consider a suitable wife by any means. Often, I worry Mr. I might feel the same way.

Then, one evening a miracle happened. We watched a scene where Don Draper reprimands his wife for not having enough dinner for himself and his boss, who dropped by unexpectedly. After a second or two of shock, almost simultaneously we BOTH laughed at how ludicrous and unwarranted his anger would be now, acknowledging how much gender roles in marriage have changed in the past 50 years. It was comforting to know not only did I believe the traditional pressures of a housewife were a bit demanding, but so did my modern-day husband.

But still my guilt remains. Am I simply less of a wife then those women of generations past? I refuse to believe I am. Although it seems like I am failing as a wife at times, I have to remind myself of how much the dynamics of relationships have changed since then. Sure, I probably would fail a housekeeping test in the 1960’s, but today it would be a whole different exam.

I have to remind myself of what I DO contribute to the team. I clean the bathroom, do the dishes, send cards and packages to families and friends, decorate our apartment and plan our vacations (and of course, my ever-cheerful, sparkling personality has got to fit in there somewhere). I have to believe that this counts as something.

What I do believe is that men, Mr. I in particular, are more of a husband and equal partner then they have been in previous generation. Mr. I willingly (for the most part) does the chores around the house so that we have time to spend together instead of doing housework. And he is the one who enjoys cooking so he is the one who makes dinner.

Maybe we aren’t actually breaking the rules. We are simply redefining them to fit our relationship, our generation and our life together.