I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without my husband.
There, I said it.
This exhausting juggle, the delicate balance of being the mother I want to be, having the career I want to have and smooshing in some intentional living and the occasional yoga class in there – I simply wouldn’t be able to do it without him.
This is not just about chores – though this man of mine does more than his share. It’s about the way he sees our partnership, our family. He’s not helping me out, he’s not babysitting the kids; he’s parenting just like me. We’re running this show together. And somehow it’s simply obvious to him that it should be that way.
I say somehow, but I have a pretty good idea of why. Unlike most men of his generation, my husband grew up in a household where both parents worked, where both parents had interesting, often demanding careers. The running of the household fell evenly on both parents, depending on who was doing what at the time. And it seems to me that this reality was the starting point for his views on fatherhood, and the way he naturally slipped into the role.
Ironically, sharing the gig is harder for me. While for my husband the idea that we share pick up and drop off 50/50 since we’re both working full-time is a no-brainer, to me it still feels like a favor, like something I have to say “thank you” for. Something to feel guilty about. And without pointing fingers, I’m sure this is connected to the far more traditional way the running of our household was split between my mother and my father.
So I’m pushing through those uncomfortable feelings in the hope that it will become second nature for me one day, too. And perhaps even more importantly, so that our children will grow up in a household where this is the norm. Where both mum and dad can be present in the family, solid role models, and follow their own paths at the same time.
Maybe this isn’t everyone’s feminism. Maybe it’s just where I am on the journey. But this is how I feel. Like I believe in equal rights in my head already, but not yet in my gut. And perhaps ironically, my guide to that next stage has a penis.
Zooming out of my little house, though, I know it’s not just me. And it’s about something far bigger than equal parenting.
I’ve been listening to this fantastic podcast recently, The Guilty Feminist, and one of the comedians on the show said something that really stuck with me. She pointed out that the improvement in the status of black people in the US didn’t happen because black people changed – but white people did. Black people could have done all the lobbying and marching and protesting they wanted, but ultimately white people needed to change for society to change.
The same must be true for men and feminism. We need men to help change attitudes towards women in the workplace if we’re ever going to be truly equal. We need men to hire women, mentor women and promote women. We need men across the board, in all industries and levels and positions of power, to take sick leave when their children are home from school, to take any paternity leave offered – even if they get funny looks for doing it. We need men to speak out against rape culture, to say “don’t be a dick” when their friends say something gross, to really listen to the dialogue around women’s rights that’s going on right now. To look inside themselves and bring change from within.
It seems to me that this is the only way things will change.
My husband is this sort of feminist, though he probably wouldn’t call himself one. He’s the man who brings his baby with him to meetings – because neither of us could miss work that day and she wasn’t feeling well. He’s an expert in breastmilk handling and storage. He leaves work at 3pm twice a week to be with the kids, and when I get home from work at 9pm the kids are clean and fed and sleeping, the house is in order and sometimes there’s even food on the stove. And to be clear – his job is not cushy at all, and on the days that I’m with the kids he’s also at the office late catching up. He encourages me and makes space for me to follow my path – whether that means saying yes to an exciting-but-demanding work opportunity, staying out late to see a friend, or taking a nap on the weekend.
Perhaps he’s not more of a feminist than me, maybe it’s equal just like everything else.
Either way, I couldn’t do any of this without him.