I Do Feel "Lucky" To Have A Husband Who Helps
You know those Facebook posts going viral right now about how women shouldn't feel "lucky" to have a spouse who helps out? Well, I do feel lucky to have my husband.
I am a stay-at-home mum. It was a decision that I made together with my husband long before I ever got pregnant. Both of us agreed that we would do whatever it took so that one parent would be home with our (at the time imaginary) children until they were old enough to go to school. It was part of the deal and something we were both committed to.
When those imaginary children became a reality, I realized what a huge, world-altering commitment I'd made back in those early years. As a teacher, my salary was less than half of my husband's so financially it wouldn't have made sense for him to quit. When we'd talked about it- so logically back then- that was where the conversation ended.
So, in our world my job was childcare, his was flying a plane and although it was exhausting, it was working for us.
One day we happened to be present for an argument between another couple with a similar set-up to ours. Both, on very little sleep and with a screaming toddler egging them on in the background, were getting into the all-to-common "who's more hard-done-by" conversation. The husband, who works early in the morning and rushes home to tuck the kids in said, "You know, my weekends are your work."
Talk about rage. My blood boiled for her. How dare he.
But the comment stuck with me, and each time my husband came home and immediately relieved me of childcare, it rang in the back of my mind. I thought about how painfully true that statement really is and how applicable it was to my own family's situation.
Don't get me wrong- it's work. Dealing with tears, tantrums, food aversions, snot, poo, mess- it will wear you down to the bone.
But it's also wonderful. I'm tired at the end of the day yes, but tired in a proud, fulfilled kind of way. The way I'd imagine an Ironman finisher feels when they cross the finish line. We'd made the decision that I'd stay home based on our finances, but looking at our set-up now, I'm not sure I'd be able to switch roles if the opportunity presented itself. I love my job more than anything I've ever done in my life.
I thought about that statement quietly each time I read a new article about how I should expect my husband to be an equal participant in our children's upbringing rather than grateful that he chooses to be.
Even though the sentiment of these posts resonates with me, I couldn't align the message to the way I really feel. I'm grateful to my husband for his help and I feel lucky to have him, yet I feel the rage these women are writing about when they joke about men getting a trophy for changing a diaper.
It got me thinking- if were talking about total equality, 50% of my husband's time off would be spent on helping out and 50% on himself. That way I'd have an equal share of 'me-time.' But he spends a lot more than half of his time at home with his daughter and doing the things it takes to keep our house up and running. When you tally it up, there's really very little 'me-time' happening for him because he's choosing to spend it on 'us-time' instead.
I feel so lucky to have a man like that in mine and my daughter's life. I am grateful to have him down here in the trenches with me, because if we did divvy up our time the way that "fair" would dictate- I'd struggle to get by.
For me, the problem isn't that men get too much thanks for their part, but that mums don't get enough. When's the last time a stranger told you what a wonderful job you were doing or someone commented on how lucky your family was to have you? It's more likely that someone criticized you or complained about your child. Being a mum, especially a stay-at-home mum, can be a pretty thankless job, so watching our partners get accolades for the kinds of things we've given up our identity for is a little bit soul destroying.
Maybe the issue isn't that dads are thanked too much, but that mums aren't thanked enough. Imagine how it would feel if someone came up to you after a toddler class and said, "Wow, you're really great with her, you must spend a lot of time together." Or people in the supermarket commented on how attentive/patient/loving/kind you were to your child. I know it certainly wouldn't sting me so much to hear my husband getting that kind of praise if I was getting it myself.
He should get that kind of praise, he deserves it. He's doing an awesome job.
Instead of focusing on how dads are treated, I think we should direct our energy at the mums. The next the time I see a mum going about her day, whether her child is crying or laughing, I'm going to pay her a compliment. I want to let her know that her family is lucky to have her because what we need in this world is more gratitude, not less.