“Sacrifice is a valuable quality of Vietnamese women”. I think we need to change this outdated way of thinking!
If you are a modern woman, have a career, able to be financially independent, busy all day to make money like a man, there is a reason you have to take care of all the housework so that you don’t even have a private moment to … breathe? If you are the type of a previous generation woman who is at home doing housework, the more you need to receive the sharing of responsibilities from your housemate! Because all the work in the world can be completed and after completion, you are allowed to rest. Except for housework.
Around me, some women are used to sacrifice. No matter what roles they play in society, the beauty always honored and making them feel comforted is to sacrifice themselves for the happiness of others. They are always the ones who get out of bed the earliest, the last to sit at the table, who give the good food to others, who are washing the dishes when other members are eating desserts or cleaning the house when everyone else is lying to watch TV, and who always go to bed after everyone.
And rarely are they asked how their day is going. Unlike children, when returning home from school, they are often asked “how was school today?” or her husband, after his hard-working day, was asked to relieve stress “how was the company today?”. The child may tell about the sadness that “the friend who I like didn’t take the candy I gave him”. The husband can talk about the frustration caused by his partners, colleagues, or boss. As for the Vietnamese mothers, wives, and women who are self-sacrificing, where must they put their sorrows apart from putting their unhappy things inside? If asked, they will laugh and then begin to talk about the joys, because it is impossible to pour the burden of anxiety on those they love.
“Sacrifice is a valuable quality of Vietnamese women” is a subjective and selfish way of thinking of men and is accidentally imposed on women by the feudal society, making them forget they also have their own values and have the right to live for themselves. Have you ever asked your mother if she was really happy to sacrifice so much for the family? When my mother was young, she had to work and take care of the family at the same time. Since my father was sick and had to retire and stay at home, he helped my mother with the housework. At that time, my mother rushed to earn money as hard as a bee. Every day, my mother left home very early and didn’t come back home until late at night. The only way my mother knew was the way from our house to the office and the way back. When I was hospitalized, my mother still did not take any day off. Her 4-year-old daughter (me at that time), was crying every Sunday when “My friends’ mother is staying at home with them, why do you leave me all the time?”. Growing up, I knew my awkward sayings used to hurt my mother so much.
When I asked my mother, “After all these years, are you happy?” She did not hesitate to say, “My happiness is to see you happy.” (Oh, that thought has penetrated deeply into my mother since she was at the age of eighteen or twenty. And she no longer had her own concept of happiness.) I asked, “So if you didn’t meet my father, and not give birth to me, you had your own life, what would you do?” She thought for a moment and then said, “I used to wish I could do many things: learn piano, learn to make cookies, learn to swim, learn to dance, learn English, work as a ticket agent at the cinema to watch free movies, take note of some good poems in my notebooks to read occasionally, travel, do not miss any Women newspaper …”. (Yes, my mother also had such naive dreams, and did we take them away from her? What do I have to do to return her all those years of her life to make those dreams happen?)
When I think of my women, sometimes I have to cry because of love, sometimes I think I’m inferior because I am not as generous as them. But I never wanted to be them. Why must sacrifices be the precious quality of Vietnamese women? I have asked myself a hundred thousand times this question. I never wanted to fight for equality. But I want to fight for society to recognize women’s rights – the right to be treated as equal to men in most cases and to be treated with more respect than men in some special cases. Because nature was inherently unequal in creating women as “the weak gender”, we are like fragile petals that need to be cherished.
I was fortunate to meet a man who loves and cherishes me with all his heart. When we first got married, we sometimes quarreled about dividing the housework. However, he was the one who was annoyed because most of the housework was done by him while in other families, it is usually the opposite. Perhaps, initially, I wanted to oppose the notion that “housework is for women!”. But over time, we learned how to share the smallest things. He washes and hangs the clothes, I fold and arrange them after washing. He takes care of the garden, I cook and wash the dishes. We take turns to clean the house. I realized that if I want to regain the rights of women, the woman herself must take the initiative to control her life, not to push responsibilities to others, nor to take all the responsibilities. Whatever we can do, don’t wait for the husband to do. What we can’t do on our own, rely on our husbands! We share the housework so that we don’t have to have to be too busy with it, but we have more time to care and support each other’s dreams.
Different from life in the city, in my husband’s hometown, people still keep the old-fashioned social model – the division of roles between men and women in the family is very clear. The woman is always the “junior” side. Seeing my mother in law doing housework all day, I was so sad! I used to be angry at him for taking his friends home for drinking and leaving a mess, then hanging around with them, while we – the women – had to clean up while dining in the North, as everyone knows, is of a big deal. I bet if allowed to answer honestly, no woman in the world loves to prepare a big table, then to wait for hours for the men to drink and chat, then finally start cleaning until midnight to sleep.
In our own home, I would love to invite friends over. I am not afraid to prepare everything. But together we will prepare, meet our friends, and clean up at the end. When we just got married, every time we went to his hometown, he was afraid of others’ bad opinions, he didn’t help me like he did in the city. I still struggled to do things, because of my mother in law. If I didn’t do it, then my mother in law must do it alone. I was also afraid because my lifestyle was not suitable for the village. But I think if everyone continues to be afraid, when can society change? Knowing that “when in Rome, act as the Romans do” is the best policy, but our society needs to make changes, even small ones. I was persistently “fighting” by whispering to my husband every night. Then it was time for him to put his ego aside. When I arranged the table, he also arranged the table. When I washed the dishes, sometimes he still gave me a hand. And he could say to other people with a proud voice, “I often help my wife to wash dishes!”.
Yes, all the men in the world should be proud to wash dishes for their wives, just like us being proud to have cooked a delicious family meal today, cheering our husbands for trying a new sport, or for newly signing a huge contract with the partner company. Everything in the world, whether big or small, as long as it is not immoral, is equally valid and equally proud-worthy. Women need to be more drastic to balance their personal happiness and family happiness. I am sure that Vietnamese women have many more valuable qualities that need to be mentioned more than sacrifice.
The choice is in everyone’s hands. I dare not impose my personal thoughts on anyone. Because the things I write are not true for everyone. Take the inequality or fight for the right thing? That is your right. But if you want to be like me, to live a free, comfortable, and overwhelmingly happy life, to be able to do anything you like, to respect your loved one and to have your personal wishes be respected by your loved one, and to see the women around you also being incredibly happy, no longer having to suppress the frustration inside or running to their mothers’ homes to wipe away their tears, this article is for you. I want to repeat, you want freedom, you need to actively train yourself to self-control, forget the notion that a woman must always sacrifice, be happy to be yourself, love and live your way, not in accordance with the society’s discipline. After that, you can reform your husband’s thoughts, and spread your happiness to the women around you. And finally, teach your children that girls must learn to love themselves, boys must know how to do housework and respect women. “So no mother should tell herself that: Love our daughter more because she will be lonely tomorrow” (*).
(*) I’d like to borrow the two verses from Trinh Bich Ba’s poem “A woman’s heart” as the closing sentence.