Unlike our children, whose spirits and personalities are gifted to us via very little say of our own, we have a great deal of control over who we choose as our spouse. Free will brings couples together, at least in our culture. When I hear repeatedly that I am so ‘lucky’ to have a husband that helps me with my son and supports me in my personal journey, my heart sinks a little. I am blessed with an amazing husband, and I will acknowledge that (even when angry with him), but it wasn’t luck that brought me into a happy, egalitarian marriage.
When I hear the word ‘lucky’ from other women, I can only assume that they think the odds were stacked against me. That because their husbands don’t participate in their lives, mine really shouldn’t either. That it’s the nature of a man not to, and I truly just got lucky. I disagree with this sentiment in it’s entirety and I can’t express this enough: Men are not inherently useless. Men are not automatically checked-out fathers and critical husbands. Those are personality traits that are sub-par for sure, but they aren’t the norm and they definitely shouldn’t be the expectation. Instead we need to recognize the worth of a husband/father and hold them to those roles. I truly believe that most men are (or are fully capable of being) excellent role models for their children and support systems for their partners. We have to be really careful as a woman tribe not to let a few bad apples change our expectations of our men. Telling other women they are lucky is disrespectful to the excellent husbands of the world and it’s uber anti-feminist. Here’s why:
I hand picked my husband. I didn’t just get lucky, I got smart. I lived in London for a stint and Austin as well. I met men from around the world and many walks of life. But ultimately, I chose my husband. He chose me too. We had years of conversations about life, spirituality, priorities, dreams, books, and meaningless chit chat before we became married parents to our son. We discussed having children, how many, and what we wanted that to look like. I made an educated decision to share my life with this man, so when I hear that I just got lucky, I can’t help but feel insulted. I do consider myself blessed, but luck isn’t what brought us to the place we are today. Good decision-making skills and hard work got us here and I am very proud of who we are as a couple.
Women can make good decisions. And strong, educated women can tell the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. Yes, sometimes we get it wrong. But strong, educated women can fix their mistakes; they are never, ever in a dead end situation because they are able to look for and recognize the solutions. (Please not that I am NOT referring to abusive situations. Abusive relationships have a completely different dynamic. Abuse is intolerable and this post is not discussing women/men who stay in/leave abusive relationships.)
So why does it seem that people are surprised by awesome husbands and dads?
Our society places an annoying emphasis on mothers being innately good at parenting and housework. It often goes as far as to assume that we should actually love doing both of those things without reprieve. This, in turn, relieves men of the pressure to get in there and help out. Fortunately, plenty of men are stepping right up to the husband/parent plate (as they should) and rocking it. They are setting a new standard for fatherhood–a necessary shift that is worlds away from what the expectation once was. My husband happens to be one of those men.
When I hear other moms talk about the disappointment they feel due to their husbands lack of parenting or support, I almost always ask if their husband’s father was an involved parent/husband. Because, whether we like it or not, children look to their parents as examples and role models, especially when it comes to matters of parenting and relationships. And this is also why it is crucial that we set a good example for our own children.
Are women better teachers? Do we have a greater influence on our children than their fathers? I doubt it. I think women accepted these family roles with dignity and grace when we weren’t given much of a choice. But our men are stepping up and we have to let them; we have to change our expectations. Let’s stop calling each other lucky and start supporting egalitarian relationships instead.