When people ask I tell them I grew up on a traditional family farm. There were roles for the women and roles for the men. I knew the roles existed. I knew the traditional expectation too. So did my mom.
My mom taught me two lessons though. The first, how to fulfill the role of the wife and mother. The second, that we don't always have to.
As a little girl I was taught that if the men are out working it is our job to make sure they have food to eat when they come in for lunch or supper. That our job is to make sure they have everything they need to do their job. Some people would likely view this as sexist, but what it truly was, was every member of the family finding a way to contribute to the end result. To getting the job done. If we aren't needed out in the barn/field/woods/workshop, then we can be of help in the house. I felt like it was unfair at times. Times when I wanted to work on the tractor instead of making sandwiches. Tractor work earns a lot more clout than making sandwiches does. I wanted to be the one who everyone pats on the back for a good work day put in. For earning my keep. Instead, I had to eat my ego and do what was needed of me. A lesson I hope my kids learn.
As much as my mother taught me lesson one, she was sure to show me that just because we are good at making sandwiches doesn't mean we can't run the tractor too. We can do both jobs. I liked this lesson best. A lesson that I'm sure my kids have learned. Not only can I keep a house, but I can also get a pat on the back for a good days work. As a kid, this pleased me to no end. I thought of us girls as the most useful can't-do-without tool in our family toolbox. My brothers noticed this too, and so they learned to cook to try to even the score. Growing up I always challenged "girl jobs" and "boy jobs". So often that my mother was called by the school. (I am sure she was most concerned and likely promised the principal that she would speak to me about my bold stand. At home she just smiled at me.)
I've never thought of myself or my mother as a feminist. I just never liked the term. I'm sure we fit the definition though. We just didn't care. I have experienced inequality. I was even flat out told I wouldn't be hired because I was a girl. But I learned to swallow my ego a long time ago.
I work in a male dominated industry. Farmers, men and even some women, still look at me and say that I can't, that I shouldn't and ask where my husband is. I just smile knowing something they don't and make the sandwiches, then go to work on the tractor. Thanks Mom, for two great lessons.