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?
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.”
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.