We hear it everywhere – women need to know they can do the same things as men. Well I think that notion is quite tired, don’t you? It couldn’t be more apparent that women can do what men do – it even pains me to write that because it’s certainly no revelation.
Instead of this, we should be putting our efforts into empowering men, helping them to do the same things as women. If you know anything about me, you know I’m a feminist (and unless you don’t like humans, you are too!), so this statement of men empowerment may seem strange to you – just hear me out – and please don’t miss the flippant tone.
We don’t give men enough credit
I didn’t really realize this until I was married and it definitely escalated when I had kids, but I came to the realization that we don’t give men enough credit.
This is how I came to that conclusion – my husband does it all.
Why We Need to Empower Men
He’s not only the primary cook, but he’s an incredible chef, making new, delicious creations every week. He works; he leaves for work every morning by 7:30, often earlier, and is an extremely hard, ambitious worker. He’s completely hands on with the kids; he gets up in the night with the baby, changes diapers, gives baths, plays with the girls, and gets up with them on the weekends so I can sleep in. Right now as I’m working, he just go back from the park with my toddler, has the baby on his lap, and is singing and doing the motions to If You’re Happy and You Know It.
When men and women hear of his responsibilities, there’s always a resounding reply – disbelief, shock, confusion followed by this: “You’re so lucky.”
While I am beyond appreciative for my husband’s role in our family, I wouldn’t say I’m lucky. I would say I’m thankful but not lucky. Luck, defined as “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions” isn’t the right term; that implies it’s by chance that my husband does all of these things, but it’s not luck. It’s his choice – not even actually, I would venture to say he doesn’t even consider it a choice, it’s just how it is – there was never any other way to do it.
We have failed men
By everyone’s shock, disbelief (or even horror), I can tell that we don’t give men enough credit. Why can’t men do all the things women traditionally take care of?
Because society has failed them – that’s right, society and all of us men and women have FAILED men, making them believe they are less than women, that there is no way in a million years they could cook, clean, change a diaper, feed a child, take care of a child without being left instructions or supervision, and work. (Are you catching the facetiousness here?)
Just recently, we had neighbors over for dinner who just about fainted when they saw my husband wipe off the stove. “He cleans stoves, too?!?!?!” Now, I could see getting all worked up about, say, a monkey doing this – or even my 3-month-old baby, but not a strong, smart, capable man.
I’ve heard and seen it first-hand, and I’ve so wanted to jump in to empower the man in these real scenarios:
1. Woman works 12 hour shift and asks man, working from home, to cut vegetables before she gets home so she can cook dinner faster. How do I know what knife to use? Use the small, sharp one in the drawer. How do I know what size to cut them? Bite-size pieces would be perfect. How do I know what’s bite size? Your bite-size might be different from mine. Okay, I’ll do it when I get home.
2. Woman leaves her two kids at home for an hour with her husband for an appointment. Is it just going to be the kids and me? Yes…who else would be here? Oh, okay. What should I do with them? Whatever they want – read, games, play outside, whatever. *An hour later, woman comes home to two children in soiled diapers, noodles all over the kitchen floor, every toy out, thrown all over the house.* The response on social media? Laughter at the hilarity of a mom thinking she could leave the dad home with kids and not expect a total disaster. Silly, woman, now go clean up that mess.
3. Woman asks man to help her unload the dishwasher after work; man doesn’t know where anything goes. Woman stops with every item to show him. He’s not catching on. Woman does it herself (for the next 25 years).
Men, you are capable
Men, you are completely capable, and I’m sorry your parents, teachers, friends, and social influences have failed to encourage you to live up to your fullest potential as women have done for decades.
Men, you are SMART. And yes, I realize many of you are thinking you’re actually smarter because of course you can do these chores, but you act like you can’t. You know you can but you just rather not – you worked a long day and deserve a break, right?
Well, whether in the home or out of the home, women work too, and if women stay at home to run the family and house, they live at their job. Can you imagine? Their work is never-ending, truly a 24/7 job that is inescapable.
Men, women have been doing what you can do for decades, and it’s high time for us to empower you to do the same, because you’re smart, strong, and completely capable.
It’s time to raise the bar
Nothing will change if we don’t expect roles to change. We talk so much about the traditional gender roles, but it’s always in the light of women in the workplace, not men in the homes. As long as there are multiple parties living in the same home, responsibilities need to be expected to be shared, and I realize this is a huge thing to ask of many families, so I’d ask that you take baby steps. Maybe don’t, out of nowhere, expect and demand a change, but talk about why things have to change and divvy up responsibilities.
Just like, as a teacher, I need to have high expectations for all level learners in my classroom, we need to expect the most from our male counterparts. Why – because we don’t like all the work? Because we can’t handle it on our own? No, if women have proved anything it’s that we can and often do DO it all.
It’s because we shouldn’t be failing men. As a teacher, if I had a student who didn’t want to work, was told he wasn’t capable of work, or just failed to show up, would I let it slide? Of course not! I would work harder to get him up to the level as the rest of his peers. Same rules apply.
Men and women, we need to raise the bar together.
“You’re so lucky he…”
I want to circle back to this concept that everyone tells me I’m so lucky my husband does XYZ. I can’t remember the last time someone told my husband he was lucky.
I can’t remember anyone saying, “You’re so lucky your wife works multiple jobs, completing much of her work with a nursing baby on her lap and eager toddler using her body as a jungle gym; you’re so lucky your wife refuses to leave the house without ensuring the house is tidy; you’re so lucky you have a wife who tremendously suffered 80+ weeks of pregnancy to grow your family; you’re so lucky your wife can’t take a shower without dusting down the baseboards and wiping down the toilet.”
I mean, how preposterous would it be if someone told my husband that “you’re so lucky your wife changes diapers, feeds your kids, cleans up spit up, and entertains your children while you’re at work”? That would be outrageous. Of course I would do all of these things. I don’t need, want, nor expect this kind of recognition because it’s just life.
That’s why I find it equally ludicrous when someone is baffled by my husband’s responsibilities in our family because of COURSE he would do all of these things,too.
Not lucky, but thankful
It’s not that we need to recognize all the incredible, unnoticed things women do for the family, it’s that we need to empower men to do the same. Women aren’t naturally predisposed to enjoying scrubbing toilets, cleaning grease off the stove, and picking up toys – they have been empowered that they can DO IT ALL, right? We all know the iconic WE CAN DO IT campaign, a possibly unnecessary beacon in this day in age when women are, of course, doing anything men are doing.
Something my husband and I do every night, no matter how tired we are after a long day of work and being with our two girls, is thank each other. We lay in bed, talking about how we can’t believe this is our life, truly recognizing all of our blessings, and thank each other for whatever – working hard, for one of us putting the tantrum-y toddler for bed, for cooking a delicious meal, for cleaning – and this kind of genuine recognition that stems from appreciation, not out of luck or obligation, keeps us both empowered to naturally do our share.
Professional photos credited Ruchi Sharma Photography