My husband: My child AND my knight in shining armor?

In her recent piece “What Men Want,” Suzanne Venker once again rallies for us (women, that is) to embrace male-female stereotypes, particularly in a marriage. Or as parents. Or as women married to men we’re apparently supposed to take care of like they’re our children.

Drawing on a 2012 Today Show poll of 1500 dads that showed 2/3 of them would love to be acknowledged by their wives, Venker uses that fairly universal complaint as ammunition to berate women for not “taking care of” their husbands.

In the past, taking care of a husband was something women did with pride. Today, it’s done—if it’s done at all—with resentment. The implication seems to be, “My husband is a grown man! He can take care of himself!” If that is how you feel, then what you’re saying is that a marriage should take care of itself.

She goes on to say that her own research has shown that working mothers are more stressed, and that they cite their husbands as a major source of their stress, quoting the women’s general refrain as, “We can’t be expected to raise children, bring home the bacon, and take care of our husbands!”

It seems, here, that Venker is equating the acknowledgment of a partner’s relationship/household contribution to “taking care of” the partner, but everything I’ve read about the stress mothers are under has to do with not wanting to come home after work to wash the kids’ clothes, make the kids’ dinner, help with the kids’ homework, and find the kids’ socks – and then have to do it all over again for their grown-up husbands.

That would be damn stressful, with or without kids, because husbands ARE grown men. They CAN take care of themselves. They know how to operate a washing machine, clean a dish, make a dinner, find a sock, etc. These are not reasonable “taking care of husband” duties. Reasonable “taking care of husband” duties are largely the same as his “taking care of wife duties”: listen, be supportive, have his back, and remind him he’s not just a “Father” and “Husband” but the same guy you fell in love with X number of years ago.

I’m sure there are additional “taking care of” responsibilities from one unique household to the next, but those still typically fall under “Treat each other like friends, like you care about each other,” and not under “Treat one (the one with the penis) like a child who can’t tie his own shoes without your help and who will definitely need dinners made and frozen in case, heaven forbid, he’s left alone with the kids overnight.”

I mean, how do you treat your husband like a child and then have sex with him all in the same day? G-ross.

Venker then shifts gears slightly and implies women these days are sabotaging relationships in general by not being needy:

This gender dynamic is lost on modern women, who pride themselves on being strong and independent. But those qualities can undermine love. As Steve Harvey wrote in “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” “If you’ve got your own money, your own car, your own house, a Brinks alarm system, a pistol, and a guard dog, and you’re practically shouting from the rooftops that you don’t need a man to provide for you or protect you, then we will see no need to keep coming around. What in the world do you need us for if you have all of that?”

Harvey forgot to mention the vibrator. That would be one thing we’d need men for if we didn’t already have a vibrator.

That said, if a man isn’t content to be loved and wanted, if he must be needed – that is, if he must feel he is essential to our very survival – he’s lacking the confidence of the kind of man who would make an independent woman happy, anyway, so the relationship would already be doomed. Not because of her, but because if he only feels compelled to “come around” when he’s needed to barricade the doors or stand at the window with a shotgun, how is she supposed to feel like a loved partner instead of like a prized baseball signed by Hank Aaron?

Venker writes,

Women must be cognizant of how they use their newfound ambition. If a woman’s desire for independence is used to suggest, either verbally or non-verbally, that men are superfluous—or that a husband is just one more child to take care of—love will remain elusive. No one wants to feel like a nuisance.

She is brazenly electing to avoid discussing exactly what it is about their husbands that annoys working mothers, what makes the poor husbands feel like nuisances. I mean, it’s right there in the survey (quoted here from the  Daily Mail), but she conveniently ignores it:

Three-quarters of those surveyed said they do most of the day-to-day parenting and household duties, a fact that has undoubtedly taken a toll.

Indeed, one-in-five admitted that not receiving more help around the house from their other halves is a major source of their stress.

It would be nice if Venker had instead paid attention to the source of the stress and done women a solid by saying to the complaining husbands, “Don’t want to feel like a nuisance? Easy: Don’t inject yourself as a nuisance into the relationship. Be a partner, not a dependent. The only one who should be looking to anyone to cook, clean, and wash their dishes are the children. And they’re looking to both of you. (Also, seriously – the minute you act like the child instead of the husband is the minute you start hearing about splitting headaches when you want sexy-times.) Love, Suzanne.”

UPDATE:
Suzanne replied to this post on her Facebook page with the following, included here in the interest of fairness:

Sylvia: You’re extracting all kinds of meanings from my article. Re this statement you made: “Everything I’ve read about the stress mothers are under has to do with not wanting to come home after work to wash the kids’ clothes, make the kids’ dinner, help with the kids’ homework, and find the kids’ socks – and then have to do it all over again for their grown-up husbands. That would be damn stressful, with or without kids, because husbands ARE grown men. They CAN take care of themselves. They know how to operate a washing machine, clean a dish, make a dinner, find a socks, etc. These are not reasonable “taking care of husband” duties.” The point isn’t that you do these things bc your husband or guy isn’t capable of doing them himself. You do them bc they need to get done. If there really is one partner doing all the work and the other putting his (or her) feet up, that’s one thing. But to suggest that’s the norm (women do everything; men do nothing) is simply inaccurate. A study in the Journal of Economic Literature reports that while women perform roughly 17 more hours of work inside the home, men perform roughly 22 more hours outside the home. When comparing the total amount of work men and women each do inside and outside the home, women average 56 hours and men average 61 hours. The reality is that the two-income family changed everything—there’s only so much time in the day. How both parents can get the work done while also get their own needs met is always going to be an issue. The trick is not to have an attitude that says, “You can fold your own socks bc you’re perfectly capable” but to just fold the damn socks and move on with your day.

And I’m sorry—I usually don’t bring people’s personal situations in on these discussions—but those who have no children can’t possibly understand the complexities of this issue. The ongoing debate is about married couples with children, not married couples. Being married and employed with no kids is a cakewalk.

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12 thoughts on “My husband: My child AND my knight in shining armor?

  1. SallyAnne

    Love it. Fantastic rebuttal. It bugs me to see a woman that seems so intent on undermining women’s independence. And to do so in such obvious denial of the facts… Well, I’m so glad to see your well-thought-out response to this!

    1. Bad Puppy!

      The thing is… there is the TINIEST kernel of truth to what she’s saying, but she’s assuming so many things and getting so many things wrong that the few things she’s getting right are pretty much pointless. i.e. like Sylvia said, a lot of men DO now feel underappreciated. But they might feel more appreciated if they pitched in some with house and kids OR if they’d stopped to consider how kids would change their lives and if they didn’t like the changes and added responsibilities, just thought for themselves and said NO.

  2. Bad Puppy!

    This might not matter to her, but treating your husband like your child is a DEFINITE way to kill your sex life. I mean… how can you or he feel sexy in such a dynamic? You BOTH need to be the adults.

    And I can only speak for me, but my relationship got WAY better when I started making money. I find it ironic though, that this same group of whiners who goes on about women being independent boo hiss, are ALSO upset by women wanting a man to make good money to “provide for them”.

    And part of why I said “no children!” was that, as much as I love my husband and as good of a guy as he is… when he gets home from his job (which is very stressful) he wants to RELAX. He’s too tired to cook and definitely too tired to do parenting things. I don’t mind doing the majority of the house work because I do not have a full time outside-the-house job. So it is a fair division of labor, even if the “somewhat traditional nature of it” (on the surface, because the way he “treats me” is far from the way men typically treated their wives. i.e. he RESPECTS me) it’s fair because it is a DIVISION of labor. If we had kids, and I had a full time job, he would have to do more house stuff and kid stuff. And even if I stayed home, he’d have to do some kid stuff because his job does NOT last 24 hours a day. I just refused to take on this work and stress. It’s too stupid and pointless, especially when there seems to be no large benefit from having kids now to begin with… either for the parents or for the kids.

    When he realized having kids wasn’t going to be a bunch of Kodak moments but was going to be a lot more stress, a huge loss of freedom, and a lot more work, he realized he didn’t want kids enough. If I had caved, I can almost guarantee we would be divorced right now, and I’d be a single parent.

  3. JT Devine

    Having men “come around” only when they’re needed for sex & procreation works well for a plethora of species in the animal kingdom. I’ve never met a man who minded being little more than a booty call. Having said that, I’d also like to add that love is never “undermined” by the power, strength, and independence of a woman as this Venker says – but lifted by it. I’d bet dollars to donuts that the husband Venker is so busy “taking care of” is banging his secretary.

  4. Holy cow – the last sentence of Venker’s Facebook post : “Being married and employed with no kids is a cakewalk.”

    Really? Good gosh.

    I know quite a few married folks who would disagree with that notion. Just because you choose not to bring children into the equation doesn’t mean that a marriage isn’t still a partnership that requires a lot of work.

    And who is baking all the cakes for this “cakewalk” anyway?

    1. Bad Puppy!

      One wonders why, if she thinks being married and employed with no kids is a cakewalk, she didn’t choose such a life for herself. Bitter, much? I never deny any of this stuff. When people tell me my life is so much easier because I have no kids, I say “yeah, that’s why I picked this”.

      1. I totally agree! “You’re so lucky you get to _____, I never get to do that because of the kids!”

        Luck has nothing to do with it! It’s a choice!

    2. I’ll one up you and say, Holy Crap balls! Really, it’s a cakewalk? I’m sorry but that is just plain ignorant, short sighted and narrow minded. Was that redundant? ANY relationship, ANY is going to have it’s share of stresses and work… if it’s going to be a thriving one. Okay, I’m done now.

    3. DMV

      Excuse me? Ok I know this is an old post, but I’m new to this forum, and I can’t resist commenting. I completely agree with you, CJ. Honestly, that post not only sounded very narrow-minded, but it sounded judgmental and downright hateful toward those of us who chose the DINK lifestyle. Just because we chose not to procreate does not mean that us CF couples don’t have our own issues in our marriages. Is being CF easier? Well, yeah! Why the hell do you think some of us chose not to have kids? But those of us who are CF also choose to be CF for other personal reasons. Some don’t have kids because of medical issues or worries of passing on a mental illness or disease. She obviously is ignorant to that fact if she sits here and compartmentalizes all of us CFers like that!

      My husband and I don’t have kids but we deal with other issues. For example: my husband does not do “woman’s work.” He does not make beds, do dishes, help with vacation planning, grocery shop, cooking…none of that. I literally do all of it. I could not imagine doing all that PLUS working PLUS taking care of a kid. He and I also have stressful jobs and kids would only compound that stress, especially for him.

      What a bitter idiot….

  5. 1Life

    I don’t have a problem with women who want to serve their husbands and children on their hands/knees. Some women and men enjoy that, thats how they express their love and that is how they enjoy spending their time. However where do these said people get off telling everyone else how they should treat their husband? Following this advice a sure way to lose a man who is introverted, has autism, est. Following this advice is a sure way to lose a man who doesn’t want a mommy or a nanny, but a wife/partner. Some people NEED personal space and NEED to be self sufficient. I believe some men and women could refer to this advice as “smothering”.

    I don’t like when stepford type wives get on their soap boxes about the “real” way to treat a man. Because every man isn’t the same, and its sexist to assume that they are because of their gender. Some men don’t even believe in monogamous relationships. Would this Servitude type relationship dynamic work for a couple that had an open, swinging, or poly relationship dynamic? I highly doubt it.

    I also highly doubt that Venker would appreciate getting any relationship advice on how to keep a man happy from a dominatrix or a swinging couple. I’ve seen some of the oddest relationships and those people were happier than people who did things the “traditional” way.

    The Key to a happy relationship is to be honest and not lie to your self or settle about what you want in a relationship. If you’re a submissive person who is into BDSM don’t get romantically involved with a conservative person who isn’t sexually available to that. If you’re a conservative person who is christian and wants children, then don’t get romantically involved with a Satanist who doesn’t want children.

    IF anything your partner requires or expects of you, makes you unhappy or uncomfortable, its more than likely a relationship you shouldn’t be in. Your relationship dynamic shouldn’t be about the sacrifice of your personality, comfortability, or happiness. It should be a partnership that compliments you, your beliefs, and your desires. Regardless of what they are.

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