As an undergrad, I was a research assistant on a project studying the then-new Carol Gilligan theory of gender differences in development. Mainly what I did was code data and mainly what I remember are the answers to the survey question "When I feel powerful it is because _______." I was 19 or 20 and found it both sad and funny that many of the middle-aged women answering the survey filled in things like: "The house is clean;" "The children are in bed;" or "I have lost weight." O! sad housewives! O! what a limited worldview!
Last night, nearly 30 years later, I was feeling powerful. Yes, I was. I was clean, the sheets were clean. The boys were in bed asleep. And the floor was clean enough that I didn't end up with impromptu crumb slippers. As a younger person I assumed those other women felt powerful because they'd conquered some challenge that had been foisted upon them. Maybe they experienced power because they no longer feared judgement--the house was clean!
Now I know the feeling from the other side. My domain is under my control. I have decorated, cleaned, organized, clothed, and fed. Yes, this is in service of others and yes, Carol Gilligan, it reveals my prioritizing of relationships. I'm okay with that.