I’ve bought into this myth that there’s a so-called “good woman” and I am not it.
The good woman is largely a stereotype but it’s one that many people still embrace. The good woman is nurturing, self-sacrificing, willing to set aside her own needs and desires even when she’s not asked. I am none of these things.
I’ll give you an example. Three months ago, my husband and I got a new mattress. He told me to order the “luxury firm” model, but I also knew that he generally prefers softer mattresses. So I ordered the “plush soft,” thinking that his comfort matters more than mine because he has cancer.
It turned out that the plush soft model just doesn’t give me enough support for my hips and I’ve been waking up with hip pain as a result. So I ended up calling the company and ordering an exchange for the luxury firm model after all—the same one he told me to get in the first place. But all this could’ve been avoided if I had done what he originally suggested instead of trying to be self-sacrificing when I chose the model I thought he’d prefer. (And to be clear, he is sleeping comfortably on our current bed and said he thought anything firmer might be too firm. That was a fairly strong mixed message, if you ask me.)
When it comes to being the spouse of a person with cancer, I often feel like I’m failing him there, too. My mind pictures the cancer spouse as long-suffering, spending all their time catering to whatever their spouse needs. I feel more than a little bit of guilt that that’s just not me.
I’m not naturally a very nurturing person and this is a time when having a nurturing personality would really be helpful. I have other strengths, sure: I’m good at providing emotional support and making people feel comfortable enough to share their feelings. But as far as doing stuff directly for the other person, he’s still more likely to do that for me than vice versa.
I’ve talked about all this with him and he had a couple of things to say. He thinks that the idea of being self-sacrificing and nurturing doesn’t come naturally to a lot of women, which results in guilt trips. We’ve seen this in both of our moms.
He thinks that we’ve finally gotten into a rhythm of life that works for us, so he doesn’t see the value of trying to change it. This is certainly true.
But in the back of my mind, there’s still this idea that I’m not a good enough woman. Providing emotional support can be easily disregarded as insignificant. It’s probably just the views of the patriarchical environment I was raised in but I can’t seem to shake them off. I’m too mouthy, too selfish, not nurturing enough. I can’t help but feel that I’m failing at being a woman, even though my husband’s not asking me to do anything differently.