The Chief Picker-Upper & Fetcher of Things

Exploring Patriarchy – Chapter 25

They wanted their stuff. And their ideas. Even if they didn’t work anymore because life and lifestyles had changed so much.

They grew up with scarcity and less. And money was to be saved. This attitude had helped them live simple so they could educate their children. Education brought income levels that could afford some ease. But money was, STILL, to be saved.

Money was to be hoarded. Not spent on expensive shoes that could keep their knees functional as they grew older. On a lovely warm sweater that would do much to alleviate illness during the cold. Or on a meal out once in a way that will give their adult children a break.

Not a break for their sons that much. Because in MM’s family, men helped but didn’t bear the responsibility of keeping the home running. That was a woman’s role. So it was the women who didn’t get a break. And if they did, there was anger. Pushback. Resentment. Silent. Unspoken.

And the silence was harder to bear MM felt. Nouvelle Vague sang on this in ‘In a manner of speaking’ – a song by Winston Tong.

The hoarding extends to things. Stuff not needed but that might be needed sometime. They don’t know when. But it must not be given away or recycled, but stored. Displacing things that have utility. So that blankets and sweaters can’t be found when the weather turns cold. So that things they provide utility and bring real ease are difficult to reach.

There’s a disfunction in daily living even when the hoarding is not visible. And here’s where gender roles rear their ugly head. Hoarding affects the workflow of the home manager directly, closing her life. Tying her down to extended chores and dusting. To picking up and putting things away. To organizing knowing it will be undone quick. And to fetching because no one knows where anything is kept. And to daily time-consuming searching sprees, because no one remembers where they left their stuff.

I say HER, because this is MM’s story and MM was Chief Picker-Upper & Fetcher of Things in her home. Maybe your story is different. MM is sure that there are families where men share the burden of household chores, child-care, and elder-care equally. Families that are comfortable when wives reciprocate by sharing the financial responsibility equally. She doesn’t know any personally, but she is sure they exist.

MM had a part-time career, but she had to work at finding space for it in a way her husband never needed to for his full-time career. Still, as I wrote in Practising Sovereignty – MM had moved on and had skills. Skills earned by effort, introspection, and a willingness to change oneself that is quite unusual I think.

She (MM) had learned to set boundaries that helped her rest when she needed. And bear the pushback from women still deeply invested in their own suffering, or move away from them. Her husband had changed and valued the bonds one builds when one shares the responsibilities of chores, care and making time for family. Bonds that are an anchor and a comfort when life brings struggles. Bonds that bring resilience and help one hold on when life gets too hard.

And since gender roles were so deeply entrenched in the minds of elderly in MM’s family, the elders worried. Not about MM, but about her husband. About how he would cope, because they thought he was helpless and incapable. Because he’d been raised by a society that created men who were that way. A kind of society that they accepted and had perpetuated.

But they didn’t really know him. He had a toughness and a resilience, and had broken away from social conditioning, very much like MM had. They had done this together, and it made their marriage stronger as the years went by.

The elders in MM’s family noticed that silent treatment didn’t work on MM. And they felt sorry for her husband, not really understanding that he was interested in having a wife who rested when she needed the way he did. A wife who was his equal and who he could talk to on the same level. They did not , I think, really understand happiness within a marriage as they’d never truly experienced it.

Instead, they felt sorry for MM’s husband. A man who now bore the brunt of their hoarding and disfunction because his wife couldn’t be molded and shaped into a copy of themselves. So they started to change.


I invite you to read all chapters of Exploring Patriarchy and walk with Microwave Madam as she explores the impact of patriarchy on her life and on society. And looks for solutions.

This chapter, like the previous one, was inspired by the idea of Sovereignty – from Healing the Mother Wound by Bethany Webster.

Published by Anitaelise

Anitaelise teaches piano lessons at Anitaelise Piano Studio and writes poetry and essays at The Relaxed Housekeeper. The blogs - therelaxedhousekeeper.com and anitaelise.com are written and owned by her and published in accordance with the copyright notice at the footer of each blog.

2 thoughts on “The Chief Picker-Upper & Fetcher of Things

  1. This made me think of my mother! She made it abundantly clear that each of us was responsible for our own things. I employed her tactics as well – and it worked! If shoes and clothes or toys were left out, I’d gather them up in a garbage bag (which I kept in a locked room). When they wanted to find something I would charge a quarter to get the item “out of jail”. If things weren’t claimed by trash day they’d be tossed. It only took once for them to realize I was not playing a game. The clutter immediately evaporated… Of course I didn’t throw out necessary items or expensive ones but by the time Christmas or birthdays rolled around they had already made a habit of not leaving stuff around. So I “gifted” them back their lost items!

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    1. Sensible Mom!! Loved reading about her parenting techniques. I think many families could learn from her 😀

      Here, some part of this is a gender role I think, and there are some families where women are expected to serve by picking up and fetching. And where mother’s display love by doing this. And where not doing this would bring pushback from the extended family.

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