This evening I made my one year old a two egg omelette with cashel blue cheese and sliced up a half of a nearly gone off avocado and served it all up with some cherry tomatoes and a smile. It was all I had the energy and ingredients for. He rightly told me “more” while pointing and staring longingly into the kitchen to where his Daddy would normally have rustled up something much more tasty from the left over rations from the weekend. Parenting fail. I am sure he went to bed hungry.
It got me thinking, my husband is great. Our household wouldn’t function if it wasn’t for my husband. But not in the ways you might think. I handle all of the finances. Every penny we both earn goes to an account that he doesn’t even know the codes to. He trusts me to manage the money of the house (more fool him) because I’m good at that. He handles most, if not all, of the shopping and cooking. He preps Toby’s lunches and he looks after the kitchen. He is the hot head, often emotionally charged one and I am more laid back, rational one that talks him down (if you could believe that). I am much more likely to be found heading to the pub for a pint with friends while he stays in with Toby than visa versa. But please, please don’t applaud him.
In light of the #menaretrash and #metoo movements I’ve had chats with a number of women about the different aspects of these global conversations and one comment took me completely by surprise when discussing my thoughts on the above. She proclaimed “sure your husband cooks and everything for you. And helps you with the baby, what do you care? You don’t know how lucky you are!” Here’s why I care. I don’t need to be the victim of a sexual assault to not want women to be sexually assaulted. I don’t need to be smacked on the ass by my boss in the boardroom to be able to relate to a colleague or a counterpart who has gone through the same. And just because my husband cooks our family meals and carries out his role as a father doesn’t mean that I should be obliged to feel grateful to him. Or maybe she was right? Am I lucky to have a man in my life who respects me on an equal level? Who understands my role in forming our child’s little mind is just as influential as his role? Who cooks and cleans (sometimes) and who even babysits his own child!? Sure I should be kissing his feet shouldn’t I*?
*just as I type this he’s brought me in a surprise plate of cheese and chutney and crackers and wine cause I’ve had a long day…
We need to start holding men to a higher standard. Men should not be applauded for carrying out standard household tasks. They shouldn’t get a pat on the back for doing some dishes or changing a nappy. They should not be praised for being loving husbands, as that is kinda the bare minimum you would expect. It is great that I have found myself in a relationship that is equal, with somebody who tests me and challenges me every day to be a better person. But I am not blinded to the fact that this is not a reflection of many relationships. It’s not reflective of the society we live in and it’s utterly terrifying for me as a mother raising a son that the world hasn’t woken up to this yet; Men haven’t woken up yet and even some women haven’t woken up yet.
My son, without his knowledge, has been born into a position of power and privilege. He will statistically be less likely to be sexually abused, discriminated against based on his gender and will likely earn much more money than any future sister he might have. It is important that we open an honest and sensible dialogue with our boys from a young age about feminism, inequality and women’s rights in the hope that they too become feminists. Without male bashing or inflicting the guilt of the actions of those men who have passed before them; We need to be frank with our boys about their responsibility in this world. Because the ironic reality is that we won’t see real change for women in our society until we see real change in our men.