Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Another Wednesday with Warner

That's right, friends.  It's time for another installment of Wednesdays with [Judith] Warner.  (Click here for last week's look at the balancing act between our pre-motherhood and post-motherhood selves.)  This week's topic?  Wonderful husbands.

This Thanksgiving week, the theme of gratitude is everywhere - we're grateful to have a bountiful meal to set before our families tomorrow; we're grateful for those families; we're grateful for new connections and a growing community of friends.  Nevertheless,  we spend a lot of time complaining - if only someone else would cook the meal this year; if only our children behaved better; if only our relationships with our "real" friends felt so authentic.  And yes.   We complain about our husbands.   We bemoan their work schedules, their lack of lactating breasts, their apparent inability to follow our systems of household management.

And Judith, wise, wise Judith, writes about this tendency of mine ours in Perfect Madness:
If you talk to women these days, and the conversation turns to marriage, a great many will tell you how lucky they are.  How blessed.  How grateful.  Because (and this seems always to be the phrase) they have "wonderful husbands"...But keep the talk going (change the subject, shift gears) and the conversation inevitably will turn.  Someone will say, "'I have a wonderful husband, but..."...and then things will go south very fast.
But then she continues and starts to spin things in a new way:
The way we define motherhood today permits women who are unhappy in their careers, or stuck in dead-end jobs, or simply not all that inspired or successful to opt out of their working lives for the greater "calling" of child-rearing.  Men do not generally feel that they have that option...Many men, forced into provider roles they never hoped for, must end up feeling ripped-off.  There isn't much of their financial compensation left over once the household expenses are paid.  They don't get much by way of wifely compensation either: their wives are too busy nursing their own resentments to be able to give much in the way of the "consoling and commiserating" that...was traditionally considered a world-weary husband's due.
Ouch.  So even while we're feeling out-of-balance and unfulfilled, our partners are cruising down a one-way road without exit ramps and with only no-frills rest stops.  (Think vending machines that dispense stale coffee instead of Starbucks or even Cinnabon.)

I know that I am one of the lucky ones.  Husband actually is a "wonderful husband."  He is the prototype.  To borrow an expression from Becca, he brings home the bacon.  (He doesn't cook it, but that's okay; we're vegetarians.)  He takes paternity leave.  He spends time with our sons.  More time, in fact, than any other father I know.  He throws them in the air, reads to them about Impressionist painters, constructs elaborate tunnels out of cardboard boxes.  He feeds them at night.  (Or at least he did; thank goodness we are past that stage.)  He does not back away from a diaper blowout.  He teaches Big Boy to say "Mommy is the prettiest."  He listens to them.  He listens to me.  He spends most of his time doing things that make my life easier.  That make my life better.

I know that he would do anything for me, for our family.  He has.  Including putting himself on hold to help keep us moving forward.  And what does he get in return?  A wife whose dissatisfaction with her own life more often than not (less, at least, since I've started writing) manifests itself in frustration toward him.  He deserves better.  Really he does.

Maybe this motherhood thing isn't so easy on me.  But it's not so easy on him either.  And I get that now.

 We  I spend a lot of time complaining.  Maybe  we  I should be more grateful.  Grateful to Judith for opening my eyes once again.  Grateful for my "wonderful husband."

Who modeled good fathering for you?  Do you have an equal partner on this voyage through parenthood?


  1. Michael Lewis's "home game" has a very funny take on this - from the dad's point of view. I often think that with all of the career-or-baby angst comes a measure of flexibility that men don't get / leeway they are not afforded. I think I'd take angst & options over the other package. And I'm trying to be a lot more grateful for that. Thank you for this reminder.

  2. I saw Michael Lewis talking about _Home Game_ on the Daily Show. I think I'll have to check that one out.

    Thanks for reminding me about it, Lindsey.

    And I like how you put it: "angst & options." A nice way of looking at it.

  3. I don't even realize I'm doing it, but I bitchbitchbitch a lot. A. Lot.

    Hubs is a great father when it comes to the fun stuff. He's silly, playful, loving, spontaneous. The hard, the ugly or the messy stuff? Less Good. But still a damn good daddy.

  4. I'm guilty of the bitchbitchbitching as well. This section of Warner's book made me slightly less eager to target said bitchbitchbitching at Husband.

  5. This is an eye-opening post, and one that should let many women see things in a new light.

    As for me - no good parenting role models.
    As for my sons - a father who has them 5% of the time, though entitled to far more; a model of intelligence, but not of character, responsibility, or other qualities that make for a decent human being.
    As for a partner - none. But a team - myself and my boys. For so many years.

    You can learn parenting lessons from what you have lived and don't want to replicate. And by simply paying attention. Being conscious. Looking. Adjusting.

    My sons have been my privilege, and still are.

    As for your wonderful husband, I suspect he has a wonderful wife. And that helps, too.

  6. BigLittleWolf, I appreciate not only your kind words, but also the important reminder that sometimes the best lessons come not from the good examples, but from the bad ones.

  7. So glad you have the wonderful husband you do. Everyone should be so blessed. My husband is pretty wonderful, too - at least, way better than many of the other examples I see out there. And certainly a better father than either he OR I had. And that's the goal, right? Do learn from our parents and try to do better.

  8. I totally agree: learn from and try to improve on our examples.

    It's funny; I think I benefited from having two parents who both had bad dads. It was as though they were bound and determined to right the "sins of the fathers."

  9. First of all, thanks for the little call- out on my bacon bit! I am the first to admit that I take my huaband for granted more often than I should. I complain and birch and vent and cry to him. And I do it to him when he gets home from a long day, in the middle of his long day or before he even starts his day. And he sticks by me. I guess it's why I do it to him, because I can tryst he'll stick by me. But I do needthe wake up call to show him I appreciate it! So thank you for the wake up call... I better go give him a hug!

  10. Just catching up on some of your posts and I'm so glad I read this one. That quote "their wives are too busy nursing their own resentments to be able to give much..." - ouch is right. And the bit about men feeling 'ripped off'. Important to remember that men too had lives and identities before wives and kids, that they also make major personal sacrifices to make things work. To keep the ship afloat.

    Thanks for making me think tonight. Must read Judith Warner.



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