In Sweden, when they started encouraging men to take time off with their infants as part of their family leave act, they found the greatest resistance from the women and the stereotype that men don’t stay home with kids. Once they got past these roadblocks they found the men to be enjoying their time with kids and the women were happier as well*.
In our family, I have the double privilege of staying home full-time with the kids and having a husband who is kind and supportive of me doing so. I have found though, that just like the women in Sweden, sometimes I resist my husband helping me.
Maybe my resistance comes from a good place. Maybe I don’t want him to have more on his plate than he can handle, but regardless of the reason, I am doing my children, my husband and me a great disservice by not allowing him to help.
So, my question today is:
How do I best support my husband and others around me who are trying to help me in my role as a mother?
I spend a lot of time with kids, more than my husband, by about 8-10 hours each weekday. This is my area of expertise, but that doesn’t mean I know everything. I’ve figured out what works best for me, but in many instances there is more than one right way. It can be refreshing to have a new perspective and there are many times when he cuts through our parenting struggles to see precisely what needs to be done. That is usually because he is a bit more removed from it. I undermine this great benefit to me and my children when I insist he do things the way I do them or am constantly questioning decisions that don’t really matter one way or the other. So, the first thing I need to do to support him:
Let him help.
It’s hard for me to be a mother, the long days, late nights and never-ending problems to be worked out are exhausting, but is just as hard for my husband to be a father as it is for me to be a mother.
Peter De Vries has said:
“Who of us is mature enough for offspring before the offspring themselves arrive? The value of marriage is not that adults produce children but that children produce adults.”
Learning often is a bit messy. It often means false starts and do-overs. If someone thinks they know all about parenting they’re probably either lying or grossly unaware of it’s difficulties and complications. But if he is imperfect, but really trying, he’ll figure it out. The second way I could support him?
Be patient and have confidence in him.
I have probably shared this story too much, but it bears repeating.
For five years in our early married life, my husband rode a bike to work, through rain, extreme heat, early mornings and late nights, all so I could have access to a car and not be “stuck” at home, as he put it. The next decade or so has found him driving our beat up college car. At the end of it’s life, 3 of the windows did not reliably roll up or down, the a/c had been out several times, the ceiling was falling in and the car was so loud when you drove on the freeway you had to crank the radio up to ear-shattering volumes to hear it. When it finally gave up the good fight and it was no longer practical to fix, we began to search for a new car. After years of waiting for the car to die and researching cars just in case, I was surprised to hear what he wanted to buy. It wasn’t the truck he really wanted, the scooter he had joked about or even the economy car I figured he’d eventually decide on. It was a new car for me to drive because he wanted to make sure that when I drove our kids to doctor appointments, the library or to the park that we would be safe and comfortable in doing so.
My husband’s great strengths are two-fold and connected. They are that he is an extremely hard worker and that he is so insistent that the money he earns for our family be spent in ways that bring our greatest happiness, comfort and protection. I know he would still be going to work if we weren’t married, but as Dr. Laura has said in The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands
“…not with the same commitment, intent, sacrifice, and depth of passion that he has when he’s doing it for his woman and his children.”
Even though this is very honorable and commendable, it is the kind of thing that could get lost in family life as just something dad does. I’m not sure our kids would recognize it as such, but I have tried harder lately to bring out instances like these that remind me and others of all those good things he’s doing. So, the last and most important way I can support him:
We live in a world that seems determined to draw men and women apart and many media messages that are aimed at making women so strong and successful they don’t need men and men so busy and unqualified that they aren’t needed. The truth is both moms and dads are needed in the raising of children and dads have a hard, but important job, too.
How can you better support those who are trying to help you in your role as a mother?
Write it down in a journal, talk it over with a friend, or leave a comment below or on Facebook.
*To read more about this program and the surprising results check out, The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden (page 244).