When the word “burden” appears three times in an article (with an additional showing in the subtitle) and the word “privilege” is nowhere to be seen, it isn’t hard to detect a bias. That was my first impression after reading Wall Street Journal food columnist, Bee Wilson’s essay entitled, “Feeding a Family Isn’t a Job for Mothers Alone.”
I don’t want to talk about the premise of the article, though I do (surprise, surprise) have some thoughts on it. The subtitle: “In an era of processed foods, wholesome home cooking is more important than ever—and men need to share that burden,” pretty much lays out the author’s views. For my part, I was more struck by a sentiment underlying the whole article that is rather common today. I speak of the sentiment that life should be pleasurable and easy.
I’m a self-inflicted victim of this thinking myself. I generally expect to have a certain amount of time each day for reading, exercising and relaxing. My normal schedule allows me a night’s sleep. I assume that much of my day, including work, will be enjoyable. For this, I should be overflowing with gratitude.
What happens instead, however, is that my expectations increase along with my blessings. If my grandmother almost never ate out in a restaurant, and my mother did so a few times a year, I think it perfectly normal to have food prepared for me a few times a month. If my grandfather was grateful for any job that allowed him to feed and clothe his family, my generation expects that work should be emotionally gratifying. Instead of being overwhelmed with the blessing of having the financial means, safe environment and abundance of food with which to feed a family, we feel the burden of having to cook and prepare meals repeatedly.
I vividly recall the first time I supplemented our eldest child’s feeding with some solid food. I was swamped with a panicky feeling as I realized that, after months of relative ease where my milk could supply all her needs, she was soon going to want to eat numerous times a day. It would be years before she could take care of herself in that regard! I also know well the tired feeling of having no idea what to make for dinner and little energy with which to make it. I am certainly not yearning for a return to the days of working in sweatshops or as sharecroppers. I have no desire to see men and women dying young as years of exhausting labor takes its toll. Nonetheless, Ms. Wilson’s article reminded me of how easy it is to pity ourselves when, in reality, even our problems are those of the blessed and fortunate.