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Chivalry Is Dead: It Collided With My Stroller

I never understood why the women of my mom’s generation had the urge to roar.

There’s something to the old ways, where men and women lived by a set code. Heck, if men would go back to paying for luxuries, opening doors, and fighting for our honor, I could certainly modulate my voice, exude charm, and do a few dishes. It might even be worth wearing a corset.

My mom never roared. She was proud of the fact that she didn’t have to support her husband financially. She didn’t want her own paycheck. She wanted to spend his. Her name was on at least four store credit cards, and his was on the bills. He didn’t seem to mind a bit.

Whose idea was it that we should change this?

It was that class of women who decided to work for eight hours, come home, cook, do housework, and in between drive the kids all over the place, all without a man. And then had the gall to say they were liberated!

Mom felt that she was doing enough. Aside from taking care of a male-dominated household of ten, she taught catechism, counseled unwed mothers, and organized prayer vigils. She never complained about my dad’s enormous garden and the acres of farmland that, besides cultivation, provided hours of canning and freezing work for her. She did not complain because she was doing exactly what she wanted to do.

In the early twentieth century, Laura Ingalls Wilder was asked to add her name to the feminist movement. She declined on the grounds of not being able to relate to it. As a farm wife, she knew the priceless value of her economic contribution.

It was the bonbon eaters who wanted out. They were bored and unfulfilled. But I personally blame the men. Once they caught on that they were being let off the hook, there was no stopping it.

Hank: Lois is sick of watching soaps and eating bonbons all day. She wants a job.

Mel: What are you going to do about it?

Hank: I don’t know. It’d mean more money, and I’d quit cab driving nights. Course, she’d probably expect me to hang out with the kids more and help with the dishes once in a while.

Mel: Tough choice.

Hank and Mel made up the slogan, “You go, girl!” Hank and Mel are revered by feminists everywhere as sensitive folk-singer types.

Now we have come full circle. Larger household incomes have driven prices up, our material wants have become needs, so now an ordinary paycheck no longer covers the cost of living. Women now get heart disease at the same rate as men, and in a few more years we might yet break even on the mortality rates.

And still, the majority of women will tell you we are better off than our grandmothers were. We can now work on highways and mail rooms, and at other jobs that were traditionally hogged by men in the past. We can file for divorce just as easily as men and lose custody of our children at the rate men traditionally used to.

To think that in third-world countries with traditional sexual roles, women are missing out on this! The divorce rate is abominably low and the birth rate dangerously high; virginity is prized, and marriage is thought of as a positive good. We must export liberation to these backward places right away!

Even if you manage to stay stubbornly unliberated here, you can’t fail to reap the benefits of progress.

For instance, in my sheltered world, my husband carries the baby in one hand and opens doors for me with the other. Out there, in the Real World, doors sometimes drop in my face. Real World logic goes: It’s degrading to have someone open a door for a woman as if she can’t open it herself. Never mind if she can’t because she’s pushing a stroller and holding on to a bunch of other kids at the same time. That’s the Catholic Church’s and her husband’s fault for making her have so many children.

Let it be a lesson to all who resist progress!

Still, there is much work to be done. According to some feminists on a talk show I recently saw, the percentage of girls who went to become plumbers is still in the negatives. Girls still obstinately gravitate towards hairdressing. Everyone knows hairdressers are shamefully underpaid compared with the selfish men who earn three times as much just for unclogging toilets. Remember girls, you’re worth it.

Poor mom. She was just too oppressed to know what she was missing.

::Susie Lloyd was born into a large Catholic family that spanned the baby boom through the hippie and preppie decades. She was educated in parochial and public schools and in a parent-run catechetical center. She is a graduate of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. She is the surprised recipient of three Catholic Press Association awards, one for her first book, Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water and two for her columns in Faith and Family Magazine. She is also a long time columnist for The Latin Mass Magazine and contributes to Inside Catholic, The National Catholic Register and Faith and Family Live! She is an enthusiastic member of Sunrise Toastmasters and enjoys connecting with her readers through public speaking. She is also the author of Bless Me Father, For I Have Kids. She and her husband Greg have been married for over twenty years, homeschool, and have seven lively children. She finds time to write in the dark hours before dawn or from the middle bench of her full-size van.You can also find more lively writing by Susie at her personal blog, Susie Lloyd: Unedited, and her next book due out next year with Ave Maria Press::

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This chapter taken from Please Don’t Drink the Holy Water and used with permission by Sophia Institute Press.

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May 8, 2012 - 5:34 am

Val Bianco - Great post, Suzie, but don’t forget the chastity element. Not only do liberated women have to “bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan” (an old commercial) they also have to live in a world where their single contemporaries live the life of prostitutes. At least bad girls in the old days were smart enough to get paid for it.

Satan has simply taken a woman’s tender heart and traded it for the (unacknowledged) hope of “hooking up” with the right one this weekend. For young single women, romance and mystery have left the building.

Here’s the secret, though. There are way more of us than the media would have us realize, and we’re starting to find each other, and they don’t like it.

Chivalry will never die, you require it, you respect it, you deserve it…and you sleep next to it every night.

-A father of ten-

May 8, 2012 - 5:57 am

Denise - I totally agree with you. I would love to be a stay at home mom with a house full of kids running around (I have 3, but mother nature had her own plan). But with a military husband and the way our society and economic has become, that is not an option for me. I am proud of the women who are able to do so. It does not mean they are uneducated or have no desires, it means that they have made the choice to put family first. Thank you for your article.

May 8, 2012 - 9:56 am

Susie - Hi Val,
Your point really strikes a chord with me. I often think of the problem young single girls face in finding a good husband. Dating was hard when I was single in the eighties. Even then, guys expected to be gratified. It was “weird” if a girl didn’t provide it. I think it’s easier for my daughters. We’ve brought them up around so many good men. They have a good example of chivalry in their dad and in the dads of their friends. They have lots of good Catholic guy friends. They meet them at church, through homeschooling, and at good Catholic colleges. Some random date with a non-Catholic is off the table.
BTW: I wrote the above piece back in 2004 as a humor piece.

May 8, 2012 - 11:41 am

Jennifer Fulwiler Dan Savage Youth Ministry Meekness | The Pulpit - [...] Chivalry Is Dead: It Collided With My Stroller – Catholic Sistas [...]

May 8, 2012 - 1:35 pm

Ellen - I love this! You and I are the same wavelenght, Sister! Of course, I had to follow the link to your blog, and now I’m going to have to buy your books, which I know gives you anxiety attacks :-). It’s ok. I’m a Catholic SAHM of 6, 5 still at home, maybe more to come. The only difference is I don’t homeschool. I feel incredibly guilty about it, as, one of the reasons homeschoolers give for homeschooling, that they enjoy having their kids at home all day, is the exact reason I don’t: I like my school-aged kids out of the house for 7 hours! Nevertheless, I love homeschoolers, and I can’t wait to read your books!

May 8, 2012 - 2:12 pm

Trena - I agree!

Although, the women who ate bonbons and got bored? They must not have had children. My sweet ones keep me busy, busy, busy and I don’t have time to eat bonbons!

May 8, 2012 - 3:47 pm

C - I realize your essay is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I feel as though you are confusing chivalry with common courtesy. Obviously, one SHOULD open doors, give up seats, and assist those less able to do so, whether it be because of age, infirmity, or simply that one’s hands are full (of groceries, stroller handles, or whatever). It is also generous to hold a door to keep it from shutting in someone’s face, no matter what their gender. I would not expect an elderly man to give up his seat for me on a bus and would be mortified if one did so.
As for the bonbon issue – I think your example might fit well with families who were more rural in location, but for those of us who come from a long-line of urban life, things are somewhat different. My mother (born in 1942) always worked as a nurse. My grandmother (born in 1911) always worked as a lab technician in a hospital and later as a teacher. My great-grandmother (born in 1911) always worked as one of the first telephone operators in her city and later as a secretary. And my great-great grandmother (born in 1858) always worked too, as an apprentice and then as owner of her own dressmaking and millenary shop. While these women had 28 children between them, none of them ever took more than a few months off at a time until retirement.
Which brings me to my last point. I do not want a chivalrous husband. I want my husband to be exactly what he is. My partner in marriage and in raising our children. Of course he can change a diaper and of course I can open the door for him if he’s holding the baby. Just like I can be the one working full-time while he telecommutes to be here when school is out or how we can both take maternity/paternity leave. I do think it lessens women to pretend that we need to be sheltered or protected from the “real world.” I am encouraging my daughters to be self-sufficient, so that when they do enter into the marriage covenant they do so on equal footing as partners. And I also encourage them to know that their self-worth includes everything about them, and that means demanding respect in physical ways, too.
I understand that this opinion is mine alone, but truly feel that this is what I have learned from the church, my family, and especially our wonderful pre-Cana retreat in the early 1990s; that as Catholics we are called to be partners in a covenant, not content with someone “paying for luxuries, opening doors, and fighting for our honor.”

May 8, 2012 - 4:01 pm

NoeyL - This stay-at-home wife and homeschooling momma of three LOVES this! Oh how I wish I could have had more of a role model growing up that truly showed how fulfilling and how much hard work it is; but well worth it. Yes, I could have gone out and work as hard as any man, but my place is in the home caring for my family. It is not a lesser role by any means but a partnership. It’s hard to live only on my husband Military pay, but bot having to pay for childcare and all those extras is woth it!

May 8, 2012 - 4:17 pm

Martina - Thank you much for this much needed levity. I’ve read both of your books and they are HILARIOUS! :)

May 8, 2012 - 4:21 pm

Susie - C- You were on to something when you noticed the essay was tongue in cheek.
However, I see nothing to contradict in your points about how strong a woman should be. You’re absolutely right. My mom never wanted the type of liberation peddled by feminists because she worked hard and accomplished much and already felt respected.

May 8, 2012 - 8:55 pm

Giselle - Actually, this is one of the most beautiful posts I have read so far and it inspire me a lot.. Thank you for the very timely post!
Giselle recently posted..Is Panic Away A ScamMy Profile

May 9, 2012 - 1:46 pm

Marian - I like how you point out all of the community building your mother did for free. That is something we are sorely lacking today, and if we do want to provide any of those services, we have to pay for it. Those stay-at-home moms provided a sense of connectedness, of unity, of doing for others not for the sake of earning a paycheck, but because they are our brothers and sisters in Christ and we absolutely must help them.

I’m a big fan of Geoffrey Palmer, so last year I watched a few episodes of a British TV show he was in in the late ’70s called “Butterflies.” It was about the dissatisfaction of the stay-at-home wife and mother. While the characters in the show are all severely lacking in good qualities, the wife in particular really bugged me. She had one son, she had a house keeper to help her with chores, and she was always complaining about how bored and unfulfilled she felt. Why did she not just volunteer somewhere to actually help people? Or take up a hobby and form a group of women friends? We’ve made ourselves into slaves to our jobs, and that is not right either. Yes, I feel that women should be able to work outside the home, if they want to. But as you pointed out, we’ve thrown off the economics so much that families really struggle to live off of only one income these days, while others make more money than they could spend in a lifetime and do less than they could for those who are in need. All of this stems from the loss of connectedness when women stopped their community building activities. If I’m caught up in my job, I have no time to get to know or care about my neighbors who are struggling. Plus I worked so hard to make that money, that I want to keep it for myself. It’s a sign of a major shift from “We are a family unit working together” to “Mom and dad each have their own lives at work, and they happen to have children who also do their own thing at school.” Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts about this. :)

May 9, 2012 - 3:18 pm

JT - Great article.

May 9, 2012 - 4:38 pm

Susie - Marian – BUTTERFLIES – my mom and I used to watch that show! It was on late at night after the show we really wanted to watch: The Good Neighbors. We had 2 channels. Anyway, yes, the housewife had an affair, she was so bored. The husband was hilariously dry. And the grown son with the words on his t-shirt always cracked me up. Looking back, I think it was a pretty well done, accurate skewer at people who waste time living only for themselves.

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