My husband has a lot of female fans.
Our daughters, of course, his mother (that’s a given), my mother (luckily), and most definitely my 17-year-old self when he rescued me by lifting up the squat bar, one-handed, after I collapsed under it in the weight room of our high school (embarrassingly).
But perhaps his biggest fan is his grandmother, who reminds me every time I see her, almost sternly, what a good man I married. I feel a little sheepish thinking of how she raised six kids and men back then weren’t expected to change diapers and she never even owned a dishwasher.
We all love my husband for good reason, of course.
Quite simply, he’s one of the best human beings I’ve ever met. He’s genuinely kind and caring, he can fix anything that happens to be broken, he cuts down trees out of the forest with his bare hands and then builds me beautiful furniture. And to top it off, he’s an incredible cook and a totally hands-on father. (Side note: I’m starting to feel a little guilty for forgetting to make his lunch yesterday.)
But despite all of my husband’s wonderful qualities, I have to admit that it’s always made me slightly uncomfortable when anyone has told me how “lucky” I am to have the type of husband that I do — the kind that thinks of nothing of getting up with our kids at night, the kind that happily makes dinner, the kind that I would never doubt could handle all four of our offspring on his own if I happened to have an overnight business trip. (Hey, a girl can dream, right?)
I never could exactly put my finger on why the term “lucky” made me so uncomfortable, because of course I am grateful for all that my husband does and the wonderful life we have been able to build together. I am lucky with my lot in life, I realize that. I do count myself as lucky to have all that I have, but I’ve realized that when people say I’m “lucky” to have a husband who is a totally equal partner, it sends the message that women — and mothers — are to expect the worst from the men in their lives.
If I’m “lucky” to have a husband who is fully capable of taking care of our kids, doesn’t that imply that most men are not?
If I’m “lucky” to have a husband who will change diapers, isn’t that a tad insulting to presume that most men would think so little of their own offspring to eschew such a basic task?
If I’m “lucky” to have a husband who doesn’t expect praise for taking the kids grocery shopping, where does that leave our daughters who will be searching for their own partners in life someday?
I’ve realized that the term “lucky” made me uncomfortable because it implies that: 1) All men and fathers are scum, and 2) I had no choice in the lot I ended up with.
I’m lucky that my mother-in-law raised such an awesome man, I’m lucky that we were born in this particular time and age where men are seen as capable parents and women are more than wombs, and I’m certainly lucky that I was a weakling back in 2003 and collapsed under that squat bar in order to meet my future husband.
But I don’t count myself as a lucky woman to have married the man that I did.
Because it wasn’t exactly an accident, you know?
I knew he would be all of those things that he is; I knew he would be a fully committed, equal partner; I knew he would want to build a life together, not apart; I knew he respected and admired the goal-driven person that I am and would support me in my own career goals; I knew he would be an amazing father.
These are not qualities that suddenly materialized after we walked down the aisle, like little surprises I was blindsided by, left swooning and thanking my lucky stars he turned out to be a good one after all. I mean, c’mon. It wasn’t an arranged marriage. I did happen to be pregnant (another story for another day), so the type of parent and partner my future husband would be was something I was forced to consider very early on, and of course that factored into my decision to marry him.
It was a package deal — I fell in love with him for the man that he was and the partner that he would be, and I wanted to build a life with him, not in spite of him.
Ami Burns recently covered the topic of wives who are “lucky” to have good husbands and I couldn’t agree with her more. She listed five reasons she isn’t “lucky” to have her husband, pointing out that (shocker) the kids they have together happen to be both of theirs, not just hers. “He is a father, not my incompetent parental sidekick,” she writes.
Amen, Ami, Amen.
I think men deserve better than to be seen as best supporting actor, and I think women deserve better than to expect to thank their lucky stars if they happen to land a man who changes diapers.
I think that my daughters deserve to grow up believing that they should expect a man like their father. And that instead of being lucky to find him, they can just be lucky to find their way to each other.