I frequently have conversations with women that go something like this:

Me: “So what brings you to _____”

Her: “We’re in dental school…”

Or,

Me: “I don’t think I’ve met you, my name is ______, are you new in the ward?”

Her: “We just moved in…We’re getting a PhD, and then we’ll be moving back to….”

Within a few more sentences it becomes clear that the husband is in fact in dental school or getting a PhD, not the wife. Usually these women are young stay-at-home mothers with small children. Has anyone else ever had conversations like this?

What is going on here? Why are they saying “we”? Does this language reflect the role they feel they play in supporting the spouse and making it possible for him to be in school? Do they wish they were getting a PhD or in dental school themselves? Do they feel what they do everyday isn’t worth telling me about? To me, this language seems to minimize and marginalize the work and contribution these women make in raising children and all the other things they do. Am I reading too much into this use of the word “we”?