Appreciation or a Standing Ovation
This blog may pee people off, but I wholeheartedly believe it needs to be said. I am not the first woman to write a blog like this one and I will not be the last. You have probably read blogs similar, read news articles similar, and to be honest, many of those writers have most likely articulated this point better than I will, but I am going to give it a stab because it is a bug bear of mine and quite frankly, I am surprised it has taken me almost two years of writing this blog to write about this topic! But here is my topic statement:
I think men/dads get way too much applause for partaking in their children’s life.
There it is. Leave now or forever hold your comments. It an opinionated stance, it’s a divisive stance (even though I don’t really think it should be) but I am going to try to explain my thinking around it.
Firstly, I want to stress this point very hard: I totally appreciate everything my guy does for myself and the kids. If you know us personally, you know the stellar person he is and how much he takes care of; he is humble, he’s a doer, he is gentle, he is an overachieving father to our son and daughter, and he is literally always putting us first. He handles every square inch of life administration (apart from gift attaining and wrapping, that’s my domain), he buys the tickets, he does the insurance, he is the one who phones Centrelink, he fills in all the forms (and I mean ALL of them, even the day-care forms) and he is still head chef in our home which is amazing because he puts in so much effort to make everything turn to gold. The running joke with my colleagues is about how little I ‘do’ and that Josh must love me a helluva lot.
He does all the things and wears all the hats and probably vents to me that he is overwhelmed MAYBE twice a year. Like tops. I think he is the best of the best and I saw these qualities in him wayyyyyy back in our dating life. Something in my year 9 self just knew, ‘this guy loves me, and will do anything for me. Not out of duress, because that is how he was raised’ and when every teenage friend asked me how I knew he was the one at 17 it was these qualities that confirmed it for me. I knew I would never be one of those women who panders to him or creates a life around him. He would be the co-creator with me and equally invested in everything we do as a teammate, not a decoration just there for show. He would enter the trenches with me, not shy away from the hard stuff, and not make excuses for not being involved or hands on, because let’s be really clear: there is no excuses.
I am supremely disappointed in many of the men I see in media, but not only that, but extra disappointed in how our sisters are applauding their guys for the most mundane stuff imaginable. I am over seeing women gush when partner is ‘minding THEIR kids’. I am over seeing women getting excited about seeing a man push a pram! I am over seeing women praise their partners for taking the kids to a shopping centre alone. I am over seeing women’s jaw drop when men are involved in the morning breakfast routine. I am over seeing women brand their partner as a ‘real man’ when in actual fact he hasn’t changed a nappy or washed a dish, ever.
Its time we raise the bar for what we expect from men and to differentiate what we wholeheartedly appreciate of our guys, and what we congratulate them for. Women work, and women do all the mum things, so why can’t men? How long are we going to go milking the ‘well I’ve been at work all day blah blah blah’ cow? If your female partner and mother to your kids has also been at work all day, your argument is void anyway. If your female partner and wife has been home with the kids, understand that mothering and housekeeping are actually two different roles. Are you asked her recently if she wants to be doing those roles 7 days a week? Have you asked her if she’s happy? Did you come to that arrangement together, or did you both just fall into that pattern without making a conscious choice? I could go on, but I’ll get to my point, which is if we would not praise and applaud a woman for something we are about to applaud a guy for, it is not applaudable behaviour. I have complied a list of stuff I think we should stop applauding men for as:
1. Supervising their own children.
2. Partaking in any activity which shows childcare for their own children (feeding, bathing, settling, playing, managing).
3. Housework. Especially if he points it out to you or isn’t a regular occurrence.
4. Arranging work schedules to suit the family, which could look like boundary setting on start and finish times, taking mid-week days off to take care of the children, you know, all the stuff that us women do!
5. Look after the kids while the mother works, does housework, has a shower (!), spends time with her friends, or does something she enjoys (if you are a clever and respectful couple of cookies, you both will give each other time week to week to partake in self care activities. This should just be standard though, not applaudable behaviour IMO).
6. Take children to medical appointments.
7. Take time off work to look after sick children (!) because God forbid a guy take carers leave, but totally second nature behaviour of a mum. Also stepping away from work to pick up a sick child from school or day-care.
8. Reading to their children.
9. Buying new clothes for their children.
10. Attending kids’ birthday parties and engaging with others.
Now again, let me be clear. I appreciate all the things on that list that Josh does, however I know that he absolutely and equally appreciates me doing the things on the list too. Neither of us gush when the other person does these things on this list, because we deem these as the baseline parental things. These should be standard! We are both parents. We both live in the house. We both have serious careers which require all of us sometimes. Just because you are a man does not make your career better/more valuable/more ‘serious’ or the priority.
I thought I might make a list of things our guys could do that deserve a medal, applause, a shoutout, perhaps even Australian of the Year award nomination. The list is not exhaustive, but these are some starting points:
1. Daily coffee in bed. This one is a sinch and such an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy way to ensure your gal is relaxed and ready to start her working day (whether it be at her actual workplace or her day with the kids) peacefully. I may be biased as an Acts of Service type of woman, but I honestly don’t thank Josh enough for this. It is a selfless and kind thing to do in amongst him handling the breakfast routine for every other household member.
2. Book your gal a night away somewhere so she can rest and rejuvenate BY HERSELF! You handle the kids, the dinner, the bedtime routine, and she will be livin la vida loca in a fancy hotel at least 45km away in a bathrobe and her novel, most likely asleep by 8pm.
3. You could even book her a mystery flight or overseas trip. Like, really handle things for a little while. This is Australian of the Year flex.
4. Ask her what she will be doing for herself this week. Not, ‘would you like some time for yourself this week?’ because she will most likely say ‘nah it’s okay, I have xyz to do around here or at the office,’ but get her to name things she will be solely doing, by herself, or with her friends. If she has no ideas, give her a multiple choice, and get her to choose.
5. Are you picking up that I haven’t even gotten to much kiddy stuff yet? Hmmmmmmmmm
6. Plan what is for dinner, indefinitely. I’m pretty sure this would earn big appreciation and maybe even a clap.
7. Continue to date your gal, in amongst the kids, the work, the home, the global panini. I think we can appreciate when our partners tell us they love us in passing, or in a quiet moment in the car, but I know I really feel it when we are on a date. Arrange the dates, make the bookings, make her feel a million bucks. Small acts that call on initiative add up to medal behaviour.
8. In the way of kids, the one thing I think earns a trophy, or a shoutout is going above and beyond patriarchy daily and challenging it in front of our kids. Model washing up and teach the kids why it important that we all help each other. Model loading the washing machine and teach the kids why it important that we all help each other. Model helping your gal sew her button back on her dress and teach the kids why it important that we all help each other. Talk about equity in the home. Talk about how amazing/strong/courageous women are. Talk about how if women are empowered, they can empower others. Talk about female leadership. Take charge by putting your family first, not by dragging your family behind you. Make true sacrifices that honours your wife’s best interests. Be interested in your children, and they will be interested in what you have to teach them. Dads should hold more than monetary value.
9. Maybe Dubai? Send her somewhere that is just luxury at every turn.
10. Be the dad that steps up and steps in, every minute, of every single day.
So the long and short of it is this: if you are a guy, and you do a thing on the first list and are looking around for your gal or anyone to notice so you can be applauded or pat on the back, just don’t. What you’re doing is the work of women who have done adaptions of these tasks for thousands of years. You’re not doing anything particularly special, no offence. You are partaking. When you start to ignite second list energy, then you know you’re cooking with gas and might get a pat on the back. Or maybe a selfie from Dubai from your wife saying that she loves you lots, and she hopes the breakfast, lunch and bedtime routine – that is second nature to her – goes well for the next 7 to 10 days.