In a recent interview I did with a colleague she mentioned something I found fascinating and profound.  She said:

“often times we [women] let our roles define us, not us defining our roles.  We have to identify and understand how we see ourselves and the role and ask ourselves ‘How do I define this role (wife, mother, friend, worker, sister, daughter, volunteer, community member)’ rather than letting external sources define [our roles] for us”

In organizational development consulting work that I’ve done with organizations we often look at job titles and discuss questions such as:

  • What are the responsibilities for this role?
  • What are the tasks that this role requires you to complete?
  • What behaviors are expected for/from this role?

These questions (among others) we call a “Roles Audit” both the role holder and the supervisor or others working closely with the person in a certain role are asked to answer these questions.  What emerges is a clear picture of the role: both the tasks and the behaviors that are expected (both spoken and unspoken.) From that information a new and often times much clearer “position description” is written.  As with most things in life, the clearer the expectations are, the more helpful it is for all involved.

Which got me thinking. . . . .

  • What if, as women,  we took the time to do a “Role Audit” in our life?
  • What would the result be?
  • I wonder if maybe, some of us are trying to live out someone else’s (or society in generals) expectations in some of our roles?
  • What if we defined for ourselves what these roles (wife, mother, sister, daughter, co-worker, volunteer, community member etc.) meant in our own life?
  • What if in defining the expectation, responsibilities, and tasks associated with these roles we took into account our strengths and challenges?

For example:

My husband has this **crazy** expectation that part of my role as wife and “keeper of the home” is that not only will I wash, dry and fold his laundry.  He also thinks I should put it away.  Well, he says, “I wouldn’t mind if you wanted to start putting away my laundry, not just leave it piled here on top of the dresser”

Here’s the thing.  It only takes a cursory glance around our closet to see that we have different expectations for how laundry is to be put away.  I have a rather, shall we saw, “free-form” way of putting away my laundry. . a drawer “loosely” dedicated to t-shirts, a basket mostly dedicated to sock, a hanging rod almost-some-of-the-time-completely-except-not-really, dedicated to pants. . . you get the picture. . . while HE has neat as a pin drawers, with systems for socks, color coded, divided, folded, sorted. . . I know myself.  I just don’t work that way.  I appreciate that method. I wish I could, but I just can’t make myself work in that way.  So I just KNOW that in the end, he will be happier, I will be happier if he just works his system and lets me work my system.  (And he does mostly just have to put away the the clean clothes!) Some “keepers of the home” might put away all the laundry. . . but it’s just not in my role description.  I feel it’s better for everyone this way!

What about you?

  • What roles do you have in your life (wife, mother, sister, daughter, roommate, worker, co-worker, volunteer, church member, etc.)
  • Have you thought about the spoken and unspoken expectations that you and others hold for each of those roles?